Wild Cranberries

Just the thought of these tart red berries makes my mouth water. These are fruits of small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos) and not to be confused with the ones in the grocery stores, which are cultivars of large cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon). Both species grow in wet habitats with deep peat soils. Vaccinium macrocarpon is only native to North America, but Vaccinium oxycoccos has a circumboreal distribution. Outside of North America, Vaccinium oxycoccos is cultivated to some extent.

I’ve found small cranberry in intermediate fens, poor fens, and raised bogs. They seem to fruit best in full sun. Sometimes they will make a few berries under the shade of tamaracks and black spruce. This group is growing in an open poor fen with lots of peat moss and cottongrass and no trees. There were thousands of berries to pick, but they were a little past their prime after a recent hard frost. I don’t know what wild animals and birds might feed on them. Perhaps ruffed grouse or bears do. I saw bear tracks in the fen and ruffed grouse along its edge in the low-growing shrubs, but no sign that the berries had been eaten.