The cranberry

Another belated Friday’s seeds would have been unacceptable, so a plant portrait instead (seeds included ;) about the cranberry – Vaccinium macrocarpon, American cranberry.

The Cranberry is a North American symbol. Recently I’ve seen it growing in the wild and asked myself how many people actually know how the plant looks like?

Vaccinium macrocarpon fruit

It is very surprising to see that the large fruits are formed on a small trailing vine, which has thin, graceful branches. Is this indeed The cranberry?

Vaccinium macrocarpon

Yes, it is; after all ‘macrocarpon’ means ‘large fruit’.
Another species, Vaccinium oxycoccos, the small cranberry, is very similar and distinguishable by its pointed leaves (and few other details). The cranberries are specific wetlands species: they grow on swamps, fens, and occasionally on glacial deposits in kettle holes on shorelines (like shown in the picture). Usually will form mats on Sphagnum moss; leaves are shiny green/glaucous beneath and turn bright red in the fall.

The American cranberry can be found from Manitoba to Newfoundland, and south into the mid-western and eastern U.S. Probably in some areas fruits are still collected in the wild but most came from commercial operations. It was one of the first medicinal plant crop to be grown commercially in the U.S.; maybe in Canada as well.

Traditionally, Native people have gathered and consumed the fresh fruits for their vitamin C content and also used them dried and mixed with fat/dried meat and fish.
To note only few of the modern utilizations: they are used mainly for juice and pie making, jams, dried fruits, and for naturopathic preparations (bladder and kidney infections).

Have a bog/wet, acidic area in the garden? – do not hesitate to grow this lovely North American shrub!

 

3 replies
    • diversifolius
      diversifolius says:

      Yes, extremely pretty. The area where it grows must be wet as well, at least temporarily.
      In the same place I took the pictures a bit further from the shoreline was Arctostaphylos uva-ursi – sandy, acid but dry.

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