Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Vaccinium oxycoccus L.
ERICACEAE (Heath Family)
EtymologyVaccinium, the ancient Latin name for bilberry; oxycoccus means acidic, round berry, from the Greek: oxys = sharp or pungent and kokkos = a round berry.
Synonyms (Common Name)Northern Cranberry, Marsh Whortleberry
DescriptionA low, trailing, evergreen shrub, Small Cranberry is more slender and diminutive than American Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon). In both species, the flowers resemble the head and neck of a crane; hence, the name cranberry comes from "crane's berry."
Wetland indicator statusOBL
Plant Heightto 12 inches
LeavesEvergreen, alternate, simple, entire, less than 1/4" long, ovate to ovate-oblong to triangular with pointed tip; leathery, shiny, dark green above; underside is white; margins deeply inrolled; maroon-brown in winter.
Flower/InflorescencePale pink, small (1/2"); long orange stamens and red style protrude "beak-like" from the center of four recurved petals; in 2's or 4's on slender stalks that are terminal -- at the tips of the short, upright branches.
Flowering PeriodMay-July
FruitBright red berry, less than 1/2" wide; round to pear-shaped, tart.
Fruiting PeriodAugust-October
HabitatBogs and acidic peatlands.
RangeLabrador to Alaska; south to Oregon, Wisconsin, Michigan, W. Virginia, New Jersey.
Black Spruce (Picea mariana)
Larch (Larix laricina)
Bog Laurel (Kalmia polifolia)
Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia var. glaucophylla)
Labrador Tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum)
Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata)
Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense)
Sheep Laurel (Kalmia angustifolia)
Herbs/Groundcovers: Sphagnum mosses
Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)
Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea)
Round-Leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)
Similar Species
American Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) grows in more minerotrophic habitats, although sometimes the two cranberries are found side by side. American Cranberry has larger leaves with rounded tips and pale undersides.; the leaf margins do not curl. The leaves of Small Cranberry have pointed tips, white undersides, and noticeably inrolled margins. One good diagnostic is location of the flower/fruit stalks: on American Cranberry, the stalks arise from mid-branch; on Small Cranberry, flower stalks are terminal, borne at the tip of an upright branch.
Creeping snowberry Gaultheria hispidula) has white berries and white, bell-shaped flowers; its short-stalked leaves smell like wintergreen when crushed.
Seasonal Diagnostics
Spring: Pale pink flowers in June and July.
Summer: Pale green unripe berries.
Fall: Ripe, bright or dark red berries that persist into winter.
Winter: Evergreen leaves turn maroon-brown.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett