Vaccinium macrocarpon Aiton
Cranberry, Large Cranberry
Ericaceae (Heath Family)
Synonym(s): Oxycoccus macrocarpus
USDA Symbol: VAMA
Low, prostrate mat. Small, glossy, leathery leaves, bronzy in spring and dark-green in summer, turn a variety of colors in fall. The ascending branches of this evergreen, trailing shrub have nodding, pinkish-white flowers with 4 backward pointing petals in clusters arising in the leaf axils, followed by dark red fruit.
Cultivated cranberry varieties developed from this native species are grown extensively on Cape Cod and in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Small Cranberry (V. oxycoccus), a native of North America and Eurasia that occurs in mainland Canada and across the northern United States, has smaller leaves that are whiter beneath and have rolled edges. These two species were originally known as craneberries because of the resemblance of their petals and beaked anther to the head of those wading birds; they are sometimes placed in their own genus, Oxycoceus. Wild cranberries often form low dense masses over peaty, boggy areas. The berries are ready for picking in the fall.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Fruit Type: Berry
Size Notes: Up to about 6 inches tall.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Red to pink.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Pink
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul
DistributionUSA: CA , CT , DE , IL , IN , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OR , PA , RI , TN , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Nf. to Man., s. to VA, OH, n. IL & mts. to NC & TN; escaped elsewhere
Native Habitat: Coastal areas; cool bogs & swamps
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Wet to moist, peaty soils.
Conditions Comments: Extensive creeping rhizomes. Difficult to transplant. Susceptible to chlorosis due to alkalinity. It is important to keep the roots cold and moist.
BenefitUse Wildlife: Low
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Native Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
PropagationDescription: Most commonly propagated by softwood cuttings taken in spring. Vaccinium will also root from hardwood cuttings of unbranched shoots of previous season. Seeds may need to be stratified and should be sown on a slightly acid soil mix.
Seed Treatment: Stratify for 60-90 days at 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes
National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Vaccinium macrocarpon in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Vaccinium macrocarpon in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Vaccinium macrocarpon
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-03-01
Research By: TWC Staff