categoryZUnderShrubs UnderShrubs List 
categoryZEvergreen Evergreen List 
categoryZBrooadleaf Broadleaf List 

COWBERRY

RED WHORTLEBERRY, LINGONBERRY

Vaccinium vitis-idaea

Heather Family [Ericaceae]  

Flowers:
month8may month8jun month8june

Berries: berryZpossible        berryZgreen berryZred  (edible, but sour)
berry8Jul berry8July berry8Aug berry8Sep berry8Sept berry8Oct

category
category8UnderShrubs
 
category
category8Evergreen
 
category
category8Broadleaf
 
status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8pink flower8red
 
inner
inner8white
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ1 petalsZ5
(4)
type
typeZbell
 

22nd May 2012, Doxey Pool, The Roaches, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
Proliferating in this area in pockets, especially on an old wall bank.


22nd May 2012, Doxey Pool, The Roaches, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
Mid-green leaves.


22nd May 2012, Doxey Pool, The Roaches, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
Flowers in huddled groups, drooping groundwards.


22nd May 2012, Doxey Pool, The Roaches, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
The stems are branched and round rather than fluted as in Bilberry.


24th May 2009, Scotland. Photo: © Brent Clarkson
Young leaves are brownish red and bolt upright. It is also possible that they are instead infected with the fungal infection called Cowberry Redleaf, where the upper surface is red and the lower covered in a white powder bearing spores (although this isn't evident in the photos), and which also infects a number of other members of the Heather Family.


24th May 2009, Scotland. Photo: © Brent Clarkson
Established leaves dark green, with few herringbone-pattern veins. Leaves curled backwards, margins slightly in-rolled. Flowers in bunches drooping downwards, un-opened ones reddish with white patches, opened ones the reverse.


8th June 2009, Cairngorms, Scotland. Photo: © Derek Mayes
Flowers have four petals which open wider than do those of Bilberry.


24th May 2009, Scotland. Photo: © Brent Clarkson
Flowers tubular to bell-shaped with four short slits and petals out-curled. A single style protruding only slightly.


22nd May 2012, Doxey Pool, The Roaches, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
Un-opened flowers have four rounded lobes reminiscent of a Philips screwdriver head.


7th June 2018, Burbage Moor, Hathersage, Dark Peaks, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
A leaf turning orange, presumably before turning red.


7th June 2018, Burbage Moor, Hathersage, Dark Peaks, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
The sepal cups are short and green. They have 4 short sepal teeth which are red near their tips.


7th June 2018, Burbage Moor, Hathersage, Dark Peaks, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
Open wide. Say 'aaaahhh'. There are a lot of anthers within the flower which are much shorter than the long single central styles which are longer than the petals.


7th June 2018, Burbage Moor, Hathersage, Dark Peaks, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
The long pale style with white stigma atop with many much shorter fawn-brown anthers gathered around its base. The anthers seem to be in pairs in a ring around the style.


7th June 2018, Burbage Moor, Hathersage, Dark Peaks, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
Fairly long red bracts (on the flower petioles), longer than the 4 sepal teeth.


7th June 2018, Burbage Moor, Hathersage, Dark Peaks, Derbys. Photo: © RWD


7th June 2018, Burbage Moor, Hathersage, Dark Peaks, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
Green sepal cups, red bracts and the 4 red sepal teeth.


22nd May 2012, Doxey Pool, The Roaches, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
Flowers have several longish (red in this instance) bracts near their base and four short triangular sepals.


22nd May 2012, Doxey Pool, The Roaches, Staffordshire. Photo: © RWD
Long bract (top right) and sepals (centre)


7th June 2018, Burbage Moor, Hathersage, Dark Peaks, Derbys. Photo: © RWD
The petals have dropped off, as have the anthers, leaving the sepal cup with its 4 sepal teeth and the lime-green developing fruit within which will become the red berry. Some styles still remain.


21st July 2012, Hathersage Moor, Hathersage, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Beneath, the leaves are a non-shiny pale-green. Leaves haphazardly arranged on the stem, not in pairs. Developing fruit green at first, progressing to red.


18th July 2017, Burbage Edge, Dark Peaks, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
Fruit very unripe here.


21st July 2012, Hathersage Moor, Hathersage, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD


30th July 2009, Cairngorms, Scotland. Photo: © Derek Mayes
The central green ovary has expanded to become the red fruit or berry.


27th Aug 2009, Tarn Crag, Grassmere, Cumbria. Photo: © Judith Hind
Ripe berries red and spherical with a puncture at the far end consisting of four triangular-lips, which were the sepal teeth.


Easily confused with : Bearberry

Hybridizes with : Bilberry, the hybrid being called Hybrid Billbery or (Vaccinium × intermedium). The hybrid has darker leaves and is evergreen, whereas Bilberry is deciduous and Cowberry evergreen. It is very rare and seems to now only grow in the Grindleford, Derbyshire area.

No relation to : Cow Parsnip, Cowbane, Cowslip, Cow-wheat or Cow Parsley [plants with similar names]

The leaves of Cowberry often suffer from a common parasitic fungus: Cowberry Redleaf, which as its name implies, makes the leaves turn a crimson red colour. This fungal infection is often associated with both Cowberry and with other members of the same Ericaceae Family. The fungus does not produce a fruiting body.

Cowberry is a low and short creeping evergreen undershrub of moors, heaths, and open woods. The fruit is edible, but sour (some say sweet, so sweet and sour). They are used like Cranberries in preserves, considered by many to be superior to Cranberry.

The leaves, on the other hand, are poisonous, and have antiseptic properties. They are astringent and act as a diuretic and used in Chinese medicines for the treatment of sore throats, coughs and colds and as a refrigerant to cool the body. The ripe fruits are used to remedy diarrhoea.


  Vaccinium vitis-idaea  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Ericaceae  

Distribution
 family8Heather family8Ericaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Vaccinium
Vaccinium
(Bilberries)

COWBERRY

RED WHORTLEBERRY

Vaccinium vitis-idaea

Heather Family [Ericaceae]  

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