Vaccinium macrocarpon (Large Cranberry)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Vaccinium
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:native
Habitat:sun; bogs, sphagnum swamps, floating mats
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:4 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals

[photo of flowers] 2 to 6 nodding flowers on long stalks, arising singly from axils of leaf-like bracts at the base of new shoots, the shoots eventually elongating well above the flowers. 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 well above the middle of the stalk.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, erect to ascending, leathery and evergreen, 1/3 to 2/3 inch long, 1/8 to ¼ inch wide, oblong-elliptic with both base and tip bluntly rounded, toothless, hairless except for sparse hairs around the edge, and short stalked to nearly stalkless. Upper surface is dark green, smooth and shiny with smooth edges that are slightly rolled under; lower surface is pale green, smooth, often with waxy coating.

[photo of horizontal stem and shoots] Branches are slender and wiry, new branches erect to ascending, 4 to 5 inches long, greenish brown to brown, hairy or smooth. Older branches become dark reddish brown and smooth, spreading horizontally 3 to 4 feet, often rooting at nodes.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] The fruit is a round berry, 1/3 to 2/3 inch diameter maturing to shiny, dark red, and often persisting through winter.

Notes:

Large Cranberry, also known by synonym Oxycoccus macrocarpus, is the most temperate of our native Vacciniums, common in forested sphagnum swamps throughout central Minnesota, eastward through the Great Lakes, up into New England and the southern maritime provinces of Canada, It is the cranberry of Thanksgiving dinners with central Wisconsin just to our east, the world's top producer. Cultivated berries having been selected over time are typically much larger than what is typically encountered in the wild, but both are equally tart and tasty. While very similar to the more common and more northern Small Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus), they are best distinguished by Large Cranberry's larger leaves that are typically flatter with more rounded tips, and the pair of floral bracts midway or lower on the flower stalk.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin and Isanti counties, and at a cranberry farm in Wisconsin.

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