Vaccinium macrocarpon Aiton
Oxycoccus macrocarpus (Aiton) Pursh
American Cranberry, Cranberry, Large Cranberry
Cranberries are low, creeping shrubs with a fondness for acidic bogs.
Identification: Cranberries are vine-like, creeping up to 6' (1.8 m) horizontally, but less than 8" (20 cm) high. If you aren’t standing or floating in a bog, you probably aren’t looking at cranberries. Flowers are pale pink or white, about ½" (1.3 cm) long, with four petals that curve strongly backward. Berries are ½-1" (1.3-2.5 cm) in diameter and quite hard, like tiny apples. Leaves are about ½" (1.3 cm) long, oval, shiny on top. See also the small cranberry.
This Vaccinium comparison chart also includes a couple of similar-appearing species that are not Vaccinium.
Edibility: Cranberries are too tart to eat fresh, but they have long been made into jams, cakes, muffins, and juice.
Medical: Several medical studies have explored the folk belief that regular consumption of cranberry juice reduces the rate of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women. Results were mixed.
Vaccinium macrocarpon on Carolina Nature, from Will Cook
Vaccinium macrocarpon on the Connecticut Botanical Society's Connecticut wildflowers site
Vaccinium macrocarpon at the University of Wisconsin's Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
Vaccinium macrocarpon at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Vaccinium macrocarpon at the New England Wild Flower Society
Vaccinium macrocarpon at the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
Vaccinium macrocarpon on www.umass.edu (PDF)
Vaccinium macrocarpon on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Vaccinium macrocarpon at the Steven Foster Group
Vaccinium macrocarpon description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 15 Oct 2013.