[NAFEX] Highbush cranberries

Douglas Woodard dwoodard at becon.org
Tue Nov 16 23:37:13 EST 2010

Some members were wondering a few weeks ago about variation in fruit 
quality in this species.

The entry in "Shrubs of Ontario" (James H. Soper and Margaret L. 
Heimburger, Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 1982) states:


Highbush cranberry
Viburnum trilobum
also known as
Viburnum opulus variety americanum

A coarse upright shrub growing to a height of 3 or 4 metres. Branchlets 
smooth and gray to brownish-gray.

Leaves...petioles [leaf stem] 1-4 cm long, conspicuously grooved, with a 
pair of slender thick-tipped stipules at the base and *several small 
club-shaped glands* near the junction with the [leaf] blade...

...Fruit a round or ellipsoid, orange to red, juicy, berrylike drupe; in 
open clusters; Aug. and Sept.

In damp soil around swamps and bogs and along streams of in low cool 
open woods and thickets.

Note: The fruit can be used to make a delicious jelly, especially tasty 
with meat.

V. opulus is the European guelder-rose, a species often planted as an 
ornamental in southern Ontario and occasionally found as an escape along 
roadsides and in woods. It resembles V. trilobum very closely but 
differs in having bristle-tipped stipules and the glands at the junction 
of the petiole and blade are *concave with saucerlike discs*. The fruits 
of V. opulus often remain on the bush all winter, and although they look 
as if they should be attractive to birds, they are apparently scorned 
until all other food is gone, and even then they are eaten reluctantly.

Some botanists consider the differences between the European and the 
American high-bush cranberry to be worthy of recognition only at the 
varietal level, as in the synonym given.


Stipule: a leaflike or scaly appendage, one at each side at the bas eof 
thew petiole of a leaf.


The glands on the leaf stem are just visible to the naked eye.

My limited experience is that the fruit of the European highbush 
cranberry eaten raw tastes foul.

Observation and reading says that the European species is quite common 
in Ontario and I suspect elsewhere, including nursery sales.

I don't know anything about variation in the fruit quality of the native 
species but that possibility should not be excluded. Don't be too quick 
to write off the native species: try a cultivar or plants from a line 
known to produce good-tasting fruit.

Doug Woodard
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

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