High-bush Cranberry, formerly called Viburnum edule, is a bush or small tree that often grows to a height of 3 m. Actually not a “cranberry”, it formerly belonged in the family Caprifoliaceae but has now been placed in the family Adoxaceae. It is closely related to the European V. opulus and has been regarded by some botanists as V. opulus var. americanum or V. opulus subsp. trilobum.
The leaves are ovate and deeply 3-lobed as the former specific name “trilobum” implies.
The flowers are white and occur in wide, flat-topped clusters or cymes in which the marginal flowers are showy but sterile while the numerous central flowers are fertile.
The fruits turn from orange to red as they mature. They are 1-seeded drupes, that are juicy and have a flat stone on the inside. Avoid eating them when immature or without cooking as they might cause stomach discomfort and cramps. Pick them after the leaves start to fall which usually occurs after the first frost. The cooked fruits can be made into pies or desserts which are unique in their sweet and sour flavor. Highbush Cranberry jelly is excellent with turkey or wild goose.
In Alberta, High-bush Cranberries are characteristically found in wet woods and riverine forest in the Aspen Parkland and Boreal Forest.
To read more about High-bush Cranberries go to the following:
Moss, E.H. (2nd. ed., revised by John Packer). 1983. Flora of Alberta. Univ. Toronto Press. 687 pp.
Johnson, D. et. al. 1995. Plants of the Western Boreal Forest & Aspen Parkland. Lone Pine. 392 pp.
This is yet another of the wonders that you can discover with a hike in some of our natural areas.