Vaccinium oxycoccos (Small Cranberry)

Plant Info
Also known as: Bog Cranberry
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; sphagnum bogs, fens
Bloom season:June
Plant height:3 to 5 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

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 4-petals

[photo of flower] 1 to 4 nodding flowers on long stalks, arising singly from axils of leaf-like bracts at the base of new shoots, the shoots rarely elongating. 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 at or below the middle of the stalk.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, leathery and evergreen, toothless and hairless, ¼ to 1/3 inch long, 1/10 to 2/10 inch wide, oblong-elliptic, the base rounded and tips tapering to a point, and a very short stalk. The upper surface is dark green, smooth and shiny, the sides and edges typically strongly rolled under with the leaf tip reflexed upward; the lower surface is pale green and smooth with a white, waxy coating.

[photo of spreading stems] Branches are slender and wiry, new branches erect to ascending, 4 to 5 inches long, brownish and minutely hairy or smooth. Older branches become dark reddish brown and smooth, spreading horizontally 1 to 2 feet, rooting at the nodes. Stems are often hidden under the moss.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] The fruit is a round berry, ¼ to ½ inch diameter, maturing to shiny dark red, and often persisting through winter.


Small Cranberry, also known by synonyms Oxycoccus oxycoccos and Oxycoccus quadripetalus, is a circumboreal species that is both common and widespread throughout the subarctic region. It is the more common of Minnesota's two native cranberry species and while it's not cultivated here in North America like its more temperate cousin, Large Cranberry (O. macrocarpon), it does have a long history of cultivation in parts of Europe. Its flowers are nearly indistinguishable from Large Cranberry, which can be differentiated by its larger leaves that are flatter and have rounder tips, as well as floral bracts typically above the middle of the flower stalk. It is also somewhat similar in growth habit to Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula) that may share its habitat, but Snowberry's leaves are rounder, the stems hairy and it has stiff brown hairs on the undersides of leaves.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin, Anoka and Lake counties.


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

Posted by: Karen - Marcell, MN
on: 2015-06-15 11:33:52

Pretty little flowers! Saw this flowering in the peatland area of Marcell, MN

Posted by: Joe Lindgren - BWCA, Papoose creek and other areas
on: 2018-06-28 17:09:19

Such tiny, beautiful flowers, spreading far and wide across the floating bogs along the creek, so small that it is hard to notice until you get in close.

Posted by: Chris Tolman - Bemidji
on: 2021-09-27 15:57:19

This cranberry grows in the bog at Lake Bemidji State Park and can be seen from the bog walk. It is often labeled to make it easier to find.

Posted by: gary - Corona Township in Carlton County
on: 2022-11-06 11:23:58

Thousands of ripe berries in an open poor fen.

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