American Cranberry


(vaccinium macrocarpon)

American cranberry fruit
Kristine Paulus, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
American cranberry leaves
jillllybean, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

American cranberry is a low growing, trailing, evergreen shrub native to the temperate zones of eastern North America. As a woody perennial vine, it spreads by rhizomes one to six feet in length, forming a thick mat. It's found in wet bogs with acidic soil, tolerates wet feet, but should normally be well drained during the growing season. Because the plant thrives on a special recipe of soils made in wetlands, it requires unique soil and growing techniques when grown comercially as a food crop.

Glossy, leathery, ovate leaves densely cover branches; undersides are whitish. This perennial keeps its leaves in the winter turning copper to purple an is considered a broadleaf evergreen. Short, leaf bearing vertical branches protrude from low runners. These hold, flowers and fruit usually near their tips. Fuchsia pink blooms occur from May to June, are self pollinating, and attract pollinators. Red to dark purple half inch diameter berries follow and mature from August to November. The fruit is eaten by birds and and sometimes small animals; leaves are food for the bog copper butterfly.

Transplanting is difficult and the shrub is susceptible to a number of pests and diseases. It does best in best in full sun, tolerates part shade, and is not tolerant of heat and drought. For these reasons, along with the special water and soil requirements, American cranberry considered a somewhat high maintenance plant to grow.


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