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Edible Shrubs provides detailed information, attractively presented, on over 70 shrub species. They have been selected to provide a mix of different plant sizes and growing conditions. Most provide delicious and nutritious fruit, but many also have edible leaves, seeds, flowers, stems or roots, or they yield edible or useful oil.

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Vaccinium vitis-idaea - L.

Common Name Cowberry, Lingonberry, Northern mountain cranberry, Cranberry
Family Ericaceae
USDA hardiness 3-8
Known Hazards Tea should not be drunk on a regular basis because it contains the toxin 'arbutin'
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    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Vaccinium vitis-idaea Cowberry, Lingonberry,  Northern mountain cranberry, Cranberry

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


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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 all year, in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from August to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees. The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
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.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



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.

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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].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Airelle rouge, Alpine cranberry, Arandano rojo, Bagole rosse, Brushnitsa, Brusnica, Brusnika, Chervena borovinka, Cowberry, Foxberry, Hong dou yue ju, Kronsbeere, Lingon, Mirtillo rosso, Mountain cranberry, Palonka, Pohl, Poolgas, Preiselbeere, Rock cranberry,

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Alaska, Albania, Arctic, Armenia, Asia, Australia, Austria, Balkans, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Britain, Bulgaria, Canada, Caucasus, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Europe, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Netherlands, North America, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scandinavia, Siberia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tasmania, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA, Yugoslavia,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Vaccinium alaskaenseAlaska Blueberry20
Vaccinium amoenumLarge-Cluster Blueberry20
Vaccinium angustifoliumLow Sweet Blueberry, Lowbush blueberry31
Vaccinium angustifolium laevifoliumLow Sweet Blueberry30
Vaccinium arboreumFarkleberry21
Vaccinium arbusculaDwarf bilberry10
Vaccinium arctostaphylosCaucasian Whortleberry30
Vaccinium asheiRabbiteye Blueberry20
Vaccinium bracteatumSea Bilberry11
Vaccinium brittonii 10
Vaccinium caesarienseNew Jersey blueberry20
Vaccinium caespitosumDwarf Bilberry31
Vaccinium ciliatum 10
Vaccinium constablaeiHillside Blueberry30
Vaccinium corymbosumHigh-Bush Blueberry, American Blueberry, Swamp Blueberry, Blueberry41
Vaccinium crassifoliumCreeping Blueberry20
Vaccinium cylindraceum 20
Vaccinium darrowiiDarrow's blueberry10
Vaccinium deliciosumAlpine Blueberry, Cascade bilberry30
Vaccinium duclouxii 30
Vaccinium elliottiiElliott's blueberry10
Vaccinium erythrocarpumSouthern Mountain Cranberry30
Vaccinium formosumSwamp Highbush Blueberry, Southern blueberry30
Vaccinium fuscatumBlack Highbush Blueberry30
Vaccinium hirsutumHairy Huckleberry30
Vaccinium hirtum 10
Vaccinium japonicum 20
Vaccinium koreanum 10
Vaccinium leucanthum 10
Vaccinium macrocarponAmerican Cranberry, Cranberry31


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Readers comment

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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