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 Vaccinium subsp. var.  Cranberry
Cranberry bog.jpg
Habit: shrub
Height: to
Width: to
5cm20cm 2m
Height: 5 cm to 20 cm
Width: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to 2 m
Lifespan: perennial
Origin: NE US, adjacent Canada
Exposure: sun
Water: wet, moist, moderate
Features: edible, fruit
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: 3 to 7
Sunset Zones: 4-6, 32, 34, 36-45
Flower features:
Ericaceae > Vaccinium var. ,

Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines in the genus Vaccinium subgenus Oxycoccos, or in some treatments, in the distinct genus Oxycoccos. They are found in acidic bogs throughout the cooler parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs or vines up to 2 m long and 5 to 20 cm in height;[1] they have slender, wiry stems that are not thickly woody and have small evergreen leaves. The flowers are dark pink, with very distinct reflexed petals, leaving the style and stamens fully exposed and pointing forward. They are pollinated by domestic honey bees. The fruit is an epigynous berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant; it is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. It is edible, with an acidic taste that can overwhelm its sweetness.

More information about this species can be found on the genus page.


Cranberries need regular water during growing season. Flooding is done by commercial growers only during harvest, or winter (to protect from cold). Thin layers of sand spread over cranberry beds every 3-5 years helps to reduce pests and to rejuvenate the vines.


Plants are propagated by moving established plant to a sand bed, and stems (vines) Are pushed into the sand every so often with something to keep them underground at that spot for roots to be established. Plants need frequent watering during this phase of rooting, until the roots form and new shoots sprout. Light applications of nitrogen fertilizer through the first growing season are common.

Pests and diseases

Susceptible to false blossom. Plants can be flooded to help control pests.


Vaccinium oxycoccus flowers
Three to four species of cranberry exist, and are classified in two sections:
Subgenus Oxycoccus, sect. Oxycoccus
  • Vaccinium oxycoccus or Oxycoccus palustris (Common Cranberry or Northern Cranberry) is spread widely throughout the cool parts of the temperate Northern Hemisphere (all 3 continents). Small leaves are 5-10 mm. Flowers dark pink, on a central purple spike, come on stems which are finely hairy. The small pale pink fruit (berry), has a refreshing acidic taste.
  • Vaccinium microcarpum or Oxycoccus microcarpus (Small Cranberry) is from N Europe and N Asia, and has more triangular leaves than V. oxycoccus, plus hairless flower stems. Some botanists include it within V. oxycoccus.
  • Vaccinium macrocarpon or Oxycoccus macrocarpus (American Cranberry, Bearberry) native to northeastern N America (E Canada, and E United States, south to North Carolina at high altitudes). Differs from V. oxycoccus by its larger, 10-20 mm long leaves, and remotely apple-like flavor.
Subgenus Oxycoccus, sect. Oxycoccoides

Some plants of the completely unrelated genus Viburnum are sometimes inaccurately called "highbush cranberries".


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Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Cranberry. A name applied to trailing species of the genus Vaccinium (Ericaceae) ; much grown in North America for the fruit.

Of the true cranberries, there are two species in North America, the small (Vaccinium Oxycoccus), and the large (V. macrocarpon). The large cranberry, V. macrocarpon (Fig. 1087), is now cultivated on thousands of acres in the United States and this cranberry culture is one of the most special and interesting of all pomological pursuits. This cranberry grows wild only in North America, where it is native to acid swamps in the cooler parts of the United States and in Canada. Here it trails its slender stems and small oval evergreen leaves over the sphagnum and boggy turf, and the firm red berries which ripen during September and October often persist on the vines till the following spring or even longer. The curve of the slender pedicel in connection with the bud just before the blossom opens, with its resemblance to the head and neck of a crane, is said to have suggested the name craneberry which is now shortened to cranberry.

The low-bush cranberry, or wolfberry (V. Vitis Idaea), is much used in Nova Scotia and other parts, and is gathered and snipped in large quantities to Boston; but it is not cultivated. This berry is also common in Europe, where it is much prized. The quantities of this fruit imported into the United States from various sources is considerable.

The ideal bog for cranberry- culture should have the following qualifications: (1) Capability of being drained of all surface water, so that free water does not stand higher than 1 foot below the surface in the growing season. (2) Soil that retains moisture through the summer, for cranberries suffer greatly in drought. (3) Sufficient water-supply to enable it to be flooded. (4) A fairly level or even surface, so that the flooding will be of approximately uniform depth over the entire area. (5) Not over liability to frosts.

The water of the streams and pools in the acid swamps or bogs, which are the natural habitat of the cranberry, is usually, but not invariably, of a brownish or amber color, and some of the most common associate plants are the swamp huckleberry or blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), the Cassandra or leather-leaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), the red maple (Acer rubrum) and the swamp cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides).

There are three centers for the production of cranberries in the United States: Massachusetts, where cranberry-culture began and from which come the most berries; New Jersey second; and Wisconsin third. While the culture is in most respects similar in these three centers, each has its own characteristic methods of preparation and care of the bogs. There is also an important and growing cranberry industry in Nova Scotia.

The cranberry bog.

To insure success in cranberry-culture, a prime requisite is to locate the bog on soil on which wild cranberries or some of their common associate plants flourish. This is usually a black peaty formation from a few inches to 7 or 8 feet in depth, overlying sand which in turn is frequently underlaid by a "hardpan" that is nearly impervious to water and the presence of which had much to do with the formation of the peat. Another requisite is to make sure of an ample supply of water, preferably of the brownish color, for winter flooding and for protection from frost in spring and fall. Flooding at special times is also the safest and surest weapon against many kinds of insects. Without an ample supply of water, cranberry-culture is so hazardous as hardly to be worth undertaking. The building of the dams is the first step necessary for the improvement of a bog. A foundation for these should be made by digging a trench entirely through the peat, even if it should be 8 feet or more thick, to the clean sand, and this trench should be filled with sand free from all foreign material; above this foundation, embankments are built of clean sand and faced up with sods of live turf to prevent their being washed by the waves of the lake formed. The dams should be sufficiently high to flood the higher parts of the bog a foot deep, which will frequently make the water in the deeper parts 3 to 6 feet or more in depth. Gates or flumes must be constructed at the lowest point in these dams to provide for drawing the water off the bog and provision made for surface drainage. The latter is generally accomplished by opening the natural stream, if there should be one, or by digging an open ditch through the natural drainage center of the piece of land being improved. Side ditches should be dug leading into the stream, or main ditch, in sufficient number to drain off all surface water; they may be made from 1 to 3 feet deep, according to the character of the land to be drained. A reservoir built above the bog is very desirable in facilitating control of the water. In frosty Wisconsin it is considered almost necessary to have three times the area of the bog in reservoir to insure the crops. If a bog is situated on a stream subject to high water, provision must be made for keeping the flood water from the bog, as the crop would be destroyed if it were flooded during blooming time or seriously injured by flooding at any time during the active growing season. Winter flooding of cranberry bogs is to prevent heaving and winter-killing. The water is put on about the first of December or after the vines have become thoroughly reddened by cold weather.

Cranberry bogs, being always lower than the surrounding land, are peculiarly liable to damage by frost, serious loss frequently occurring when an ordinary farmer would not dream of danger, and a good supply of water is the only preventive that has been found efficient. The time of starting growth in the spring may be controlled by the time the water is drained on, and the earlier spring frosts may so be avoided while an ample supply of water permits reflooding when a later severe frost threatens. Reflooding about the first of June, provided the water has not been withdrawn earlier than May 5 to 10, will also furnish protection from a number of damaging insects and will not injure the crop, provided care is taken that the water does not stand on any part of the bog more than forty- eight hours. If a bog should become seriously infested with insects later in the season, it is occasionally profitable to sacrifice what remains of the year's crop and clear the bog of insects by flooding. This sometimes results in a greatly increased yield the following year. Damage from a light frost in the fall, before the berries are picked, may be prevented by raising the water in the ditches and about the roots of the vines. Protection from a heavy frost requires covering the plants with water, but this will cause immature berries to rot and should be done with great caution or the damage from water may be greater than it would have been from frost. During summer the irrigation of the crop is accomplished by holding the water low or high in the ditches, as the varying season may demand.

Preparation and tillage.

Before cranberries are planted, the land must be cleared of all its natural growth, the stumps and roots removed and the ground leveled to a greater or less extent. The more nearly level a bog is made, so that proper drainage is provided for, the more economical it is in the use of water and the easier it is to provide the optimum amount of irrigation during the summer. The first cost of such perfect leveling, however, may be prohibitive or it may require the removal of all the good peaty soil over a considerable area, leaving nothing but pure sand in which the cranberries will not grow well. In many places, the removal of the natural growth may best be accomplished by cutting off the tops of the bushes and trees so that they will not extend above the surface of the water and flooding for two years, thus killing all vegetation. While this flooding entails loss of time, it is much easier and cheaper to clear away the dead roots and stumps than five ones, and when no sand is applied to the surface, as is the rule in New Jersey, it greatly lessens the expense of keeping the bog free from weeds for there are no live roots in the ground to send up suckers. In some places, as in most of Wisconsin, this method of drowning out is impracticable, because the surface soil, in which are the roots of all the living plants, will separate from the more perfectly decomposed peat below and rise to the surface of the water in floating islands making death to vegetation by drowning impossible. In such situations the ground must be turfed and all roots and stumps grubbed out. In either case the roots and stumps are best disposed of by piling in heaps and burning. In Massachusetts, it is the custom to cover the cleared and leveled bog with 3 to 5 inches of sand, which makes it still easier to keep the bogs free from weeds and acts as a moisture-retaining mulch for the underlying peat. Where sanding is practised, it is the custom to apply a fresh coat of sand an inch or less in depth every two or three years; this keeps the vines short and close. Cuttings for planting are secured by mowing vigorous vines from an old bog with a scythe. These cuttings, preferably not more than 8 or 10 inches long, are thrust diagonally into the surface of the bog from 12 to 14 inches apart. Not more than 3 or 4 inches of the top should be exposed, and if the bog is sanded, care should be taken that the cutting extends well into the muck below. As the vines grow they send out runners in all directions, netting the ground completely over. These sometimes grow as much as 6 feet in length and root in the soil at frequent intervals. From the runners grow upright stems which, in time, cover the bog with a solid mat of vegetation. The uprights are preferably not more than 6 inches high but under some soil conditions grow to a foot or more when the fruit is likely to be scanty. From the time of planting, three to five years must pass before the ground is matted over and a crop may De expected.

The character of the growth of cranberry vines precludes any cultivation in the ordinary sense of the word. The care of the bogs consists in keeping them free from other plants, which is accomplished almost entirely by hand-pulling; the regulation of the irrigation water, and preventive and curative measures for the many diseases and insect enemies to which they are subject. Fertilizing of cranberries has met with considerable success in increased crops, various brands of commercial fertilizer having been employed. The subject is not well understood, however, and is attracting the attention of many thoughtful growers and their scientific helpers in the state experiment stations.

The pretty little pinkish white flowers of the cranberry open during June, when the bogs are not flooded, but the holding of the winter water till May throws the fullest bloom into the early part of July.

Diseases and insects.

Spraying with bordeaux mixture is very generally practised to prevent "scald," a fungous disease which has been especially injurious to the growers of New Jersey and which was so named because it was long thought to be caused by the scalding effect of the hot sun shining on berries wet with dew. As it is seldom possible to run heavy spraying machinery over the bogs, spraying involves the use of very long lines of hose or laying of pipe lines, or both, the spraying of each property being a separate engineering problem.

Insects of many kinds attack the roots, the leaves, the blossoms and the fruit of the cranberry. Knowledge of the life history of each of these is necessary for successful warfare against it, and detailed information is best secured from the various bulletins of the United States Department of Agriculture and the agricultural experiment stations of New Jersey, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. More varieties of insects may be successfully combated with water than with any other one thing, as already explained. Arsenical poisons are expensive to apply, of indifferent success in destroying insects on the bogs, and they are suspected of being an actual poison to the vines.


There are now many varieties of cranberries in cultivation, all of them having been selected from wild vines or vines that appeared naturally in cultivated These varieties vary in shape, color, size, productiveness, time of ripening and adaptation to different soils. Some of the forms are shown in Figs. 1091-1093. The most generally cultivated are the Early Blacks and the Howes, both of which originated in the Cape Cod district and which together make about 50 per cent of the berries marketed from all three of the cranberry states.

The Early Blacks are ready to harvest about the first of September both in Massachusetts and New Jersey, and the last of the Howes are seldom picked before the middle of October. As the pickers advance over a cranberry bog, they pick clean as they go and do not go back for successive relays of ripening berries as with most other small fruits.

Picking and grading.

In Massachusetts most of the picking is done by a scoop, by which the berries are raked from the vines. When the vines are short, the uprights not tangled, and the picker is experienced, berries can be harvested in this way very rapidly and with very little damage to either fruit or vines. The bogs are kept in good condition for "scooping" by pruning every three or four years with a rake the teeth of which are knives placed about 6 inches apart. The scoop (Fig. 1094) is also used to a considerable extent in New Jersey and Wisconsin but in these states a great many berries are still picked by hand.

Some of the berries, especially in Massachusetts, are cleaned and packed on the bog as they are picked, and sent directly to market, but this immediate packing tends to poor keeping. Most cranberries, after picking, are put in boxes which are packed in well - ventilated storehouses. Here they are kept from a few days to several months and the cleaning and packing for market is done immediately before they are shipped.

The machine which has been the standard for cleaning cranberries for many years is provided with a fan to blow away all grass, pieces of vine, dried-up berries or anything of like nature that may have gotten in the bernes while being picked. The berries are then allowed to roll down a series of steps; those that are sound are elastic and will bounce like little rubber balls. There are bands of cloth stretched above the steps in such a way that when a berry bounces in the right direction it is received on the cloth and slides down into the box placed for the good berries without more bouncing. The rotten berries having lost their elasticity are not able to bounce over the cloth partition that separates the good from the bad. With berries that are nearly spherical and not too juicy this machine works very well, provided there are no frozen berries to be taken out. Berries damaged by frost are even more elastic than sound ones and will all go into the box for good fruit. Neither will the bounce machines work well with long or oval berries; when these strike on their pointed ends they fail to bounce and there is always a considerable percentage of sound fruit found in the refuse box. As there may be anywhere from ten to thirty or more steps, it is easily understood that berries going over these machines are not in the best possible condition for long keeping after they are put on the market. Some varieties of Berries which are very juicy and tender cannot be put through these machines at all as the steps get so sticky with the juice that the berries will not bounce.

In 1903, a machine was patented by Joseph J. White, which avoids the defects of the bounce machines. This has since been put on the market and its use is spreading among the more careful packers of * ii"' . * ««.*' ' ew Jersey, but the more compli- 1 -.! greater cost have prevented ita . yers. This machine is provided .» . si. iich the cranberries are emptied th:-": . ' "'hi ' i-h removes the coarser grass and \>- i: !ii- r the berries are fed, single file,r1- i1 .1. which they are held by trough like guards. These guards do not quite touch the screw, leaving a crack through which the remaining bite of grass, vines and dried berries are dropped into a box placed below to receive them.

The screw conveyor passes the berries over a series of selecting plates made of some resilient material, the best found so far being the selected spruce wood prepared for piano sounding-boards. These plates are tapped by small hammers placed beneath, the strength of the blow being regulated by a thumb-screw. The sound berries respond to this gentle tapping by jumping off the screw conveyor and falling on an endless belt a few inches below, which delivers all the sound fruit at one end of the machine. The rotten berries do not respond to the tapping of the selecting plates and are carried to the ends of the screw conveyors where they drop in the same box under the machine that receives the fine grass and the like. Frozen berries are removed by this machine nearly as well as rotten ones and the shape of the berries is of no importance, while the berries only drop twice, a few inches each time, and are in much better condition for long keeping than those that go over the bounce machines. After the berries have been cleaned by machine it is customary to place them on tables where women remove any defective berries that may have been shaped cranberry. (x M) missed by the machines.

Marketing; yield.

Most cranberries are marketed in barrels holding- about 100 quarts; a few are marketed in crates three of which fill a barrel. Some dealers prefer to buy cranberries "in the chaff," that is, just as they come from the bogs without having been run through any machine. Berries sold in this way are always packed in crates and are cleaned by the dealer, a few crates at a time, as his trade calls for them; they keep better than those that have been cleaned before being shipped. Evaporated cranberries have been on the market for a number of years and are excellent, there being less difference between the sauce made from them and from fresh fruit than is the case with most kinds of fruit.

From the cranberry centers, the fruit is shipped in carload lots to the large cities of the United States, and from these distributed to the surrounding towns. There is also a small but steadily growing export trade.

A bog in good bearing should yield fifty barrels to the acre, but as many as 200 barrels have been secured.

In 1895 cooperative selling of cranberries was inaugurated by some of the New Jersey growers, who organized the Growers' Cranberry Co., with Joseph J. White as president and Theodore Budd as vice-president. This company was joined by a number of large New England growers and, though handling only 25 per cent of the crop, prospered greatly. Later, A. U. Chaney organized another cooperative selling company. These two companies consolidated in 1910, forming the American Cranberry Exchange, with George W. Briggs, of Massachusetts, as president. The Exchange controls about 50 per cent of the crop of the country and has been remarkably successful in securing good prices for its members while keeping the retail price as low as during the years of fiercest competition.


Cranberry-culture began about a century ago in Massachusetts on the Cape Cod Peninsula. William Kenrick, writing in 1832 in the "Orchardist," says that "Capt. Henry Hall, of Barnstable, has cultivated the cranberry twenty years;" "Mr. F. A. Hayden, of Lincoln, Massachusetts, is stated to have gathered from his farm in 1830, 400 bushels of cranberries, which brought him in Boston market $600." In the second and subsequent editions, Kenrick makes the figure $400. It is not said whether Hayden's berries were wild or cultivated. At the present day, with all the increase in production, prices are higher than those received by Hay- den. In the third (1841) and subsequent editions, it is said that "an acre of cranberries in full bearing will produce over 200 bushels; and the fruit generally sells, in the markets of Boston, for $1.50 per bushel, and much higher than in former years." It was as late as 1850, however, that cranberry-culture gained much prominence. It was in 1856 that the first treatise appeared: B. Eastwood's "Complete Manual for the Cultivation of the Cranberry." About 1845, cranberry-culture began to establish itself in New Jersey.

The culture of cranberries began in Nova Scotia about thirty years ago. The first attempt consisted in improving some of the patches of wild berries found growing around the central district of the Annapolis Valley. Gradually the idea was entertained of planting new areas, and as this proved successful the new industry was soon fairly established. Farmers in the vicinity of Auburn soon took up the industry, and in the fall of 1892 the first carload of cranberries was shipped to Montreal. Since then, Nova Scotia cranberries have met with a ready sale throughout Canada.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Vaccinium macrocarpon, Ait. (Oxycoccus macrocarpus, Pers.). Larger American Cranberry. Sts. slender, creeping, elongated, 1-4 ft. long, somewhat coarser and stouter than in the last, the fl.-branches ascending: lvs. oblong or oval, obtuse or retuse, 1/3 – 1/2 in. long, in texture and coloration similar to the last, margin less revolute: pedicels several, axillary and lateral: fls. larger; filaments shorter than in the last: berry red, larger, 1/3-1 in. long. N. N. Amer. See Cranberry.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.


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