Friday, September 21, 2012

High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)

I like to explore the native plants growing in my area.  The high bush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) is a shrub native to much of Canada.  I talked to a lot of people last year that would like to know how to pick it and use it.  Its popularity is growing again with an increased interest in native fruits and picking from the wild in general.  I have dried them and also juice them fresh and frozen the juice for winter use.  Many people use them to make jelly and jam.

I snapped the photo below last summer of high bush cranberry in the process of ripening.  Blue skies and summer days!

The photo below shows part of an afternoon pick when my daughter and I were out on the bicycles - a basket of high bush cranberry on the left, staghorn sumac on the right of the bars.  Where I live wild fruit is very abundant and you can pick a lot very quickly.

I shot the photo below of High bush cranberry in bloom and full splendor early June at Chapman's Landing, Nipissing.

The Native people used many parts of high bush cranberry for both food and medicine and we can imagine that they shared this wisdom with the white settlers.

Settlers used the berries mainly for jelly and juice, and these continue to be the main uses of the fruit today. The berries can also be used in pies, sauces, liqueurs, and wine. Each berry has a large, heart shaped seed in the centre, making it more suited for use as a processed fruit rather than fresh (1). I have dried the berries in my dehydrator with good success.  I add them to hot teas or just snack on them dried.  The berries are high in vitamin C and were eaten fresh or made into pemmican. The bright red fruit was also used for ink and a dye for clothing.

"Medicinally, preparations of the fruit have been used as an astringent to treat swollen glands. The bark and leaves, which contain a bitter tasting chemical called viburnine, were boiled into teas and used as sedatives and pain relievers." (1)

"The plants are tolerant of a wide variety of soil types, but do best where the soil is consistently moist and well-drained; they may grow best in soil that is slightly acidic (pH 6.0-6.5). Because the fibrous roots of this shrub lie near the soil surface, cultivation for weeds should be shallow, and the use of mulch will be beneficial. Low to medium-high soil fertility levels are acceptable. A yearly application of compost or well-rotted manure will maintain growth and fruit yields. Heavy applications of nitrogen fertilizers will encourage soft sucker growth and fewer flowers. The plants tolerate shade, but flowering, fruiting and foliage colour will be more striking on those plants exposed to full sunshine."(2).

Small shrubs in front of the Nipissing Museum.

A cluster of ripe berries photographed on my back porch (complete with dog hair! ).

Participants in my "Fun with Vinegar" class out picking high bush cranberries and choke cherries.

Research for this blog was prepared by Rachelle Abatte, then a dietetic intern at the Northern School of Medicine.


1. St. Pierre, R. (1995, January 1). The Highbush Cranberry – A multipurpose shrub. Retrieved June 18th, 2010, Retrieved from

2. Evergreen. (1991, April 1). Native Plant Database. Viburnum Trilobum. Retrieved June 18th, 2010, from:

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