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Plant Description


Vaccinium oxycoccos L.

En: small cranberry, bog cranberry, mashberry (NL)
Fr: canneberge commune, petite canneberge, atocas à petits fruits, airelle canneberge, petit atoca
Oj: mashkiiigiminagaawanzh, zagkegbwe.

Ericaceae (Blueberry Family)

Click on thumbnail to see larger image.
Vaccinium oxycoccosflpl Vaccinium oxycoccosfrt


General: An evergreen dwarf shrub; stems slender, creeping, to 50 cm long, often rooting at the nodes; flowering stems ascending, to 20 cm tall. The specific epithet “oxycoccus” refers to the sour-tasting berry.

Leaves: Alternate, simple, coriaceous and evergreen, short-petioled, widely spaced along the stem; leaf blade ovate to triangular, 3–15 mm long and 1–8 mm wide, underside glaucous; leaf base rounded to obtuse, apex acute, margins revolute. Flowers: Bisexual, solitary to few, each borne on a slender terminal red pedicel, nodding. Two tiny red bracts, 1–2.5 mm long, are borne near the middle of the pedicel. The pale to rosy-pink corolla is deeply divided into 4 narrow reflexed lobes, 5–8 mm long; sepals inconspicuous; stamens 8, connivent around the superior ovary and style. Anthers are twice as long as the filaments of the stamens and each anther terminates in a pair of long slender tubes through which pollen is shed. Flowering occurs from June to July.

Fruit: A red berry, 5–10 mm in diameter, bearing many small seeds; ripening in August to September.

Habitat and Range: Sphagnum bogs and fens, as well as other wet acidic habitats. Vaccinium oxycoccus is circumboreal and occurs throughout northern Ontario.

Internet Images: This image of Vaccinium oxycoccus from A Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador clearly shows the position of the bracts on the pedicel and the tubular extensions of the anthers.

Similar Species: the large cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, can be easily distinguished from the small cranberry by its larger oval leaves and the position of the flowers, which are borne laterally along a leafy shoot. The flowers of both species are similar, but in V. macrocarpon, the small bracts of the pedicels are borne well above the middle and the anthers are about 3 times as long as the filaments. Vaccinium macrocarpon also has a more southerly distribution than V. oxycoccus, extending only as far north as the north shore of Lake Superior (Scoggan 1978). Compare the image of Vaccinium macrocarpon from A Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador to the small cranberry images above.

– written by Derek Goertz & Susan J. Meades

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