Vaccinium oxycoccos (Small Cranberry)
|Also known as:||Bog Cranberry|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; sphagnum bogs, fens|
|Plant height:||3 to 5 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.
1 to 4 nodding flowers on long stalks, arising singly from axils of leaf-like bracts at the base of new shoots, the shoots rarely elongating. Flowers are ¼ to 3/8 inch long, white to pinkish with 4 narrowly lance shaped petals that tightly curl back, like a lily. Projecting from the center is a tight cluster of long, slender reddish stamens and a single, slender style that is longer than the stamens. The stalks are minutely hairy, often reddish with two opposite, tiny scale-like bracts that are typically at or below the middle of the stalk.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are simple and alternate, leathery and evergreen, toothless and hairless, ¼ to 1/3 inch long, 1/10 to 2/10 inch wide, oblong-elliptic, the base rounded and tips tapering to a point, and a very short stalk. The upper surface is dark green, smooth and shiny, the sides and edges typically strongly rolled under with the leaf tip reflexed upward; the lower surface is pale green and smooth with a white, waxy coating.
Branches are slender and wiry, new branches erect to ascending, 4 to 5 inches long, brownish and minutely hairy or smooth. Older branches become dark reddish brown and smooth, spreading horizontally 1 to 2 feet, rooting at the nodes. Stems are often hidden under the moss.
Small Cranberry, also known by synonyms Oxycoccus oxycoccos and Oxycoccus quadripetalus, is a circumboreal species that is both common and widespread throughout the subarctic region. It is the more common of Minnesota's two native cranberry species and while it's not cultivated here in North America like its more temperate cousin, Large Cranberry (O. macrocarpon), it does have a long history of cultivation in parts of Europe. Its flowers are nearly indistinguishable from Large Cranberry, which can be differentiated by its larger leaves that are flatter and have rounder tips, as well as floral bracts typically above the middle of the flower stalk. It is also somewhat similar in growth habit to Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula) that may share its habitat, but Snowberry's leaves are rounder, the stems hairy and it has stiff brown hairs on the undersides of leaves.
Please visit our sponsors
Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin, Anoka and Lake counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?