biodiversity homepage
click for contacts  

Photo by Kathy Groves



Wild Small Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos)in the snow.

Next to the turkey and the pumpkin pie, cranberries are probably the most recognized of our native fruits. The photo above shows Vaccinium oxycoccos, one of 2 species found in north America. It is commonly called Small Cranberry, Bog Cranberry, Wild Cranberry, Swamp Cranberry. The other species V. macrcarpon has larger berries and is the species that is used in cultivation. Another way to differentiate the 2 species is by the leaves, which are rolled under in V. oxycoccos.

Wild cranberries are members of the heath family and are closely related to blueberries. Cranberries grow in acidic wet sphagnum bogs and fens. It is believed that Mycorrhizal fungi that grow attached to the roots increase the ability of the plants to acquire nutrients and increase growth in the acidic soil. The plants usually have a substantial underground rizome system, that provides protection against wild fires. The plants are intolerant of shade and are usually only found in areas kept open by fire or other disturbance.

The name cranberry is a simplification of the name crane berry and refers to the bird-like pink flowers that appear in July. Cranberries are generally pollinated by solitary bees in the wild, but in cultivation large numbers of honey bees are often imported in order to get sufficient fruit set. Cranberries are grown commercially in artificially created wetland "cranberry bogs". Wisconsin is their largest exported fruit and responsible for around 200 million dollars of revenue each year.

© 2001-2004 The Cofrin Center for Biodiversity and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, All Rights Reserved
Last updated on May 9, 2014