September 19, 2017

Tundra Tough

Vaccinium vitis-idaea - Lingonberry

Vaccinium vitis-idaea – Lingonberry | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

With a liking for cold temperatures and high elevations, Vaccinium vitis-idaea is a tough little native plant. Known as lingonberry, cowberry and mountain cranberry, this relative of the blueberry is a member of the heath family, a low-growing evergreen shrub native to boreal forests and Arctic tundra that has long been a staple in the Scandinavian countries where it grows wild like blueberries do here. The berry produced on this plant is smaller than a pea and is fairly sour until fully ripe, when the flavor is still tart like another relative – the cranberry – but much tastier raw. Lingonberries are a brilliant, glossy red when ripe, putting on quite a show against the leaves, which keep their rich green right through winter.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.

In 2012, Glen began working to catalog the plants of Baxter State Park, which you can read about here and find out how to sponsor a plant of your own. Courtesy of a poll taken in 2012, Garden Maine is sponsoring this lovely plant.