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Vaccinium vitis-idaea - L.                
Common Name Cowberry, Lingonberry, Northern mountain cranberry, Cranberry
Family Ericaceae
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Sunny mountain meadows, peat moors and pine woods[7, 17], on acid soils[9].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Iceland south and east to the Pyrenees, Macedonia, N. Asia to Japan
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Late spring. Form: Rounded.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of shrub
Vaccinium vitis-idaea is an evergreen Shrub growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, self.The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.

USDA hardiness zone : 3-8

Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

Vaccinium vitis-idaea Cowberry, Lingonberry,  Northern mountain cranberry, Cranberry

Vaccinium vitis-idaea Cowberry, Lingonberry,  Northern mountain cranberry, Cranberry
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Ground Cover;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses: Tea.

Fruit - raw or cooked[2, 3, 5, 9, 21, 257]. Quite pleasant to eat[7]. An acid flavour, they are used like cranberries in preserves and are considered by many people to be superior to cranberries[183]. The taste is better after a frost[62, 115, 172]. Occasionally the plants bear 2 crops in a year[13]. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter[200]. A tea is made from the leaves[177, 183]. This should not be drunk on a regular basis because it contains the toxin 'arbutin'[9].
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antirheumatic;  Antiseptic;  Astringent;  Diuretic;  Refrigerant;  VD.

The leaves are antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, refrigerant[7, 21]. They are used in the treatment of gonorrhoea[218], arthritis, rheumatism, diabetes and diarrhoea[9]. The leaves are gathered in early summer and dried for later use[7]. The mature fruits are eaten fresh or dried as a remedy for diarrhoea[9] and as a treatment for sore throats, coughs and colds[257]. The juice has been gargled as a treatment for sore throats[257].
Other Uses

A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves and stems[172]. A purple dye is obtained from the fruit[207]. Can be grown as a ground cover plant[11], spreading by underground runners[188]. It needs weeding for the first year or so[197]. Plants are best spaced about 30cm apart each way[208].
Cultivation details                                         
Landscape Uses:Border, Massing, Seashore. Requires a moist but freely-draining lime free soil, preferring one that is rich in peat or a light loamy soil with added leaf-mould[11, 200]. Prefers a very acid soil with a pH in the range of 4.5 to 6, plants soon become chlorotic when lime is present. Succeeds in full sun or light shade though it fruits better in a sunny position[200]. Requires shelter from strong winds[200]. Dislikes root disturbance, plants are best grown in pots until being planted out in their permanent positions[200]. Sometimes cultivated for its edible fruit, there are some named varieties[183]. 'Koralle' has large and conspicuous berries[182]. The fruit hangs on the plant all winter if it is not picked[183]. The flowers produce a great deal of nectar and are very attractive to bees[7]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Special Features:North American native, Edible, Wetlands plant, Attractive flowers or blooms.
Seed - sow late winter in a greenhouse in a lime-free potting mix and only just cover the seed[78]. Stored seed might require a period of up to 3 months cold stratification[113]. Another report says that it is best to sow the seed in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe[200]. Once they are about 5cm tall, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, August in a frame[78]. Slow and difficult. Layering in late summer or early autumn[78]. Another report says that spring is the best time to layer[200]. Takes 18 months[78]. Division of suckers in spring or early autumn[113].
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

[2]Hedrick. U. P. Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World.
Lots of entries, quite a lot of information in most entries and references.
[3]Simmons. A. E. Growing Unusual Fruit.
A very readable book with information on about 100 species that can be grown in Britain (some in greenhouses) and details on how to grow and use them.
[5]Mabey. R. Food for Free.
Edible wild plants found in Britain. Fairly comprehensive, very few pictures and rather optimistic on the desirability of some of the plants.
[7]Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.
[9]Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants.
Covers plants in Europe. a drawing of each plant, quite a bit of interesting information.
[11]Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement.
A classic with a wealth of information on the plants, but poor on pictures.
[13]Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants.
Very interesting reading, giving some details of plant uses and quite a lot of folk-lore.
[17]Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles.
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
[21]Lust. J. The Herb Book.
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.
[62]Elias. T. and Dykeman. P. A Field Guide to N. American Edible Wild Plants.
Very readable.
[78]Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers.
A bit dated but a good book on propagation techniques with specific details for a wide range of plants.
[113]Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation.
A very detailed book on propagating trees. Not for the casual reader.
[115]Johnson. C. P. The Useful Plants of Great Britain.
Written about a hundred years ago, but still a very good guide to the useful plants of Britain.
[172]Schofield. J. J. Discovering Wild Plants - Alaska, W. Canada and the Northwest.
A nice guide to some useful plants in that area.
[177]Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption.
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
[182]Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos.
Contains a wide range of plants with a brief description, mainly of their ornamental value but also usually of cultivation details and varieties.
[183]Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants.
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.
[188]Brickell. C. The RHS Gardener's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers
Excellent range of photographs, some cultivation details but very little information on plant uses.
[197]Royal Horticultural Society. Ground Cover Plants.
A handy little booklet from the R.H.S.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[207]Coffey. T. The History and Folklore of North American Wild Flowers.
A nice read, lots of information on plant uses.
[208]Thomas. G. S. Plants for Ground Cover
An excellent detailled book on the subject, very comprehensive.
[218]Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
[257]Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Laurie Locke Wed Mar 3 10:19:56 2004
In Newfoundland the Lingonberry is known as the Partridgeberry-presumably because it resembles that fruit from the English West Country which would have been familiar to the English settlers who were almost exclusively from that region. It is very popular in NFLD and can be found throughout the Island and in Labrador. It is used in preserves and baking and in recent years has been comercially exploited to make wine.
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Subject : Vaccinium vitis-idaea  

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