Exploring my little piece of the planet

Lingonberry

Vaccinium vitas-idaea also called Bog-Cranberry and Lowbush Cranberry

Tiny and delightful treasures on the forest floor

Lingonberries, especially when not in bloom, can easily be confused with the Common Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), historically known as Kinnikinnik. Around here, the lingonberries are a denser plant, while the bearberry seems to grow more openly, but I am never sure of my identification until the flowers bloom. A magnifying glass helps, as the lingonberry has bristle-like glands on the lower side of the leaf.

Lingonberry flowers stand out in the sunshine against a shaded forest ravine

Once in bloom, the flowers are, although similar, are distinguishable on close inspection. The bell of the bearberry’s flowers is ‘tucked-in’ or more urn-shaped.

Lingonberries growing among bunchberries in a little forest glade

Vaccinium have been used traditionally in North America for the cranberry sauces commonly served with turkey dinners at Christmas and Thanksgiving, although this northern species is only lately being tried as a commercial plant.

In early June the dark pink buds of Lingonberry are conspicuous above the forest floor mosses

Northern native people, however, have always known of and used lingonberries as food. In fact it was one of the most important berries for them and used almost exclusively in pemmican. The plant was also used medicinally, for jewelry, as a dye for porcupine quills and a tobacco-stretcher. (Source)

Lingonberry leaves are evergreen, helping to melt the snow above them in spring

In this Mi’kmaw legend, the cranberry (presumably lingonberry or a close relative) warded off bad magic. And who knows what cranberry sauce had to do with strawberries.

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6 responses

  1. I thought ligonberries only grew in Scandinavia – thanks for this new information (they are delicious)

    March 5, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    • You are quite welcome, Lynn. This year I hope to add a photo of the berries themselves. Have you preserved them, or simply eaten them plain? Thank you for stopping in.

      March 5, 2011 at 7:03 pm

  2. Pingback: Twinflower « The Nature of the Hills

  3. Pingback: Low Bush-Cranberry « The Nature of the Hills

  4. Here they are called mostly partridge berries and this Christmas I was delighted to get several jars of preserves made from ones picked in Newfoundland from my son and his girlfriend.

    I appreciate the photos of the blooms. I was able to photograph some berries last fall but found them too late in the season to get to them before the wild creatures did.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:24 am

    • I didn’t realize they were the same berries as partridge berries. That’s good to know. I haven’t tried picking them (preserves are one of those skills I’m saving for retirement). 🙂 But I can imagine what an effort that would be. They are so tiny! I’m wondering if by the time I get around to learning how to make preserves, I’ll even be able to see them. The little blossoms are soooo sweet. Thanks for stopping by Amy-Lynn. It looks like this catalog might be being saved for retirement, but not intentionally.

      February 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm

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