Vaccinium macrocarpon (Large Cranberry)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:sun; bogs, sphagnum swamps, floating mats
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:4 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals

[photo of flowers] 2 to 6 nodding flowers on long stalks, arising singly from axils of leaf-like bracts at the base of new shoots, the shoots eventually elongating well above the flowers. Flowers are ¼ to 3/8 inch long, white to pinkish with 4 narrowly lance shaped petals that tightly curl back, like a lily. Projecting from the center is a tight cluster of long, slender reddish stamens and a single, slender style that is longer than the stamens. The stalks are minutely hairy, often reddish with two opposite, tiny scale-like bracts that are typically well above the middle of the stalk.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, erect to ascending, leathery and evergreen, 1/3 to 2/3 inch long, 1/8 to ¼ inch wide, oblong-elliptic with both base and tip bluntly rounded, toothless, hairless except for sparse hairs around the edge, and short stalked to nearly stalkless. Upper surface is dark green, smooth and shiny with smooth edges that are slightly rolled under; lower surface is pale green, smooth, often with waxy coating.

[photo of horizontal stem and shoots] Branches are slender and wiry, new branches erect to ascending, 4 to 5 inches long, greenish brown to brown, hairy or smooth. Older branches become dark reddish brown and smooth, spreading horizontally 3 to 4 feet, often rooting at nodes.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] The fruit is a round berry, 1/3 to 2/3 inch diameter maturing to shiny, dark red, and often persisting through winter.


Large Cranberry, also known by synonym Oxycoccus macrocarpus, is the most temperate of our native Vacciniums, common in forested sphagnum swamps throughout central Minnesota, eastward through the Great Lakes, up into New England and the southern maritime provinces of Canada, It is the cranberry of Thanksgiving dinners with central Wisconsin just to our east, the world's top producer. Cultivated berries having been selected over time are typically much larger than what is typically encountered in the wild, but both are equally tart and tasty. While very similar to the more common and more northern Small Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus), they are best distinguished by Large Cranberry's larger leaves that are typically flatter with more rounded tips, and the pair of floral bracts midway or lower on the flower stalk.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Landscape Alternatives
  • ReWild Native Gardens
  • Out Back Nursery
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at!

More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin and Isanti counties, and at a cranberry farm in Wisconsin.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: michael boyd - embarrass, St. Louis county, 13 miles ne virgina.
on: 2019-01-05 14:01:26

is it possible to grow this native cranberry here? we have 12 acres deer fenced and a small apple orchard inside, but there are a few acres in what used to be years ago a tamarack&black spruce area.i LIKE the idea of native plants, that is what we strive for here. we are zone 3.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-01-05 16:47:40

Michael, you can see from the distribution map this Viburnum is native to your area so there is no reason why it wouldn't grow, providing you have the right habitat, but I don't know where you might obtain starter seed or plants. Just don't take from the wild, please.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.