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Cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), illustration

Cowberry ( Vaccinium vitis-idaea ), illustration

Nuclear eudicotyledons
Order : Heather-like (Ericales)
Family : Heather family (Ericaceae)
Genre : Blueberries ( vaccinium )
Type : cranberry
Scientific name
Vaccinium vitis-idaea
Wild lingonberries at the end of August on the north coast of Åland

The lingonberry ( Vaccinium vitis-idaea ) is a species of blueberry ( Vaccinium ). It is widespread in Eurasia and North America .

The so-called "cultivated lingonberry" is not a lingonberry, but the large-fruited cranberry ( Vaccinium macrocarpon ), also called cranberry , with a different growth habit that creeps on the ground and a distinctly different taste. However, real cranberries are also cultivated and horticultural.


The name cranberry (as a variant also: cranberry, prussian berry, prassberry) probably comes from a Slavic language, it is derived from brusina, brusnice: brown-red, after the color of the berries. The expression cranberry, which is widespread in north-west Germany, is interpreted as crane berry, others derive it from crown, after the crown-shaped calyx tips that remain on the ripe berry. The name reef berry (also in Swiss riffli) refers to the earlier common harvest using coarse metal or wooden combs with which the berries were stripped from the bush, but it is also used for other berry-bearing shrubs of the heather family such as blueberries or cranberries. Griffelbeere, also in Grisons Griffle or Gryfeln, in Valais Grefle, probably has the same derivation. There are numerous other regional names, a selection: Braunschnitzer (Thuringia), Graslitzbeer (Egerland and Erzgebirge), Granten (also Grandlbeer, Granken, Kranklbeer) (Bavaria and Austria), Klusterbeere (Wesertal), Fuchsbeeri (Switzerland), Kreuzbeer (Tyrol ), Dröppelkes (Westphalia) and numerous others.


Appearance and foliage leaf

The lingonberry grows as an evergreen, compact, upright to creeping dwarf shrub and reaches heights of between 10 and 40 centimeters. The above-ground parts of the plant are hairy downy. It is rooted up to a meter deep.

The alternate and two lines are arranged on the branches leaves are divided into petiole and leaf blade. The downy hairy petiole is about one millimeter long. The simple, leathery leaf blade is with a length of 0.7 to 2 cm and a width of four to eight millimeters elliptical or obovate with a wedge-shaped base. The glossy, dark green upper surface of the leaves is glabrous or hairy on the main nerve. The underside of the leaf is pressed down with glandular hairs. The five or six pairs of lateral nerves are fine and inconspicuous on both sides of the leaf. The wavy, notched edge of the leaf is bent back.

Inflorescence with four-fold flowers.

Inflorescence and flower

Two to eight flowers stand together in terminal, 1 to 1.5 cm long, downy hairy, racemose inflorescences . The fast transient, fluffy hairy bracts are broadly ovate with a length of about one millimeter and there are bracts present.

From the end of May to the beginning of August, the initially dark red flower buds open. The flower cup (hypanthium) is bare. The flowers are four-fold, with most other Vaccinium species five-fold. The hermaphrodite, radial symmetry flowers have a double flower envelope . The four sepals are triangular with a length of about one millimeter. The four white, occasionally slightly reddish, about five millimeters long petals are fused bell-shaped. The straight corolla lobes are triangular-ovoid with a length of 2 to 2.5 mm. The downy hairy stamens are about 0.5 mm long and the anthers are about 1.5 mm long.


Five to six weeks after fertilization , the initially white and later bright red berries ripen from late August to early September . Cultivated varieties also ripen a second time in September and October under good conditions. Under favorable climatic conditions (Netherlands), ripe lingonberries can be found from the end of June. The four-chambered berries have a diameter of five to ten millimeters and a sour or slightly bitter taste.

Chromosome number

The chromosome set is 2 n = 24, less often 36.


The first publication of Vaccinium vitis-idaea was carried out in 1753 by Linnaeus in Species Plantarum , 1, p 351. Vaccinium vitis-idaea belongs to the section Vitis-Idaea in the genus Vaccinium and forms whose only.

Two subspecies are often distinguished:

  • Vaccinium vitis-idaea subsp. vitis-idaea L. Everywhere in the range of the species, but more in the southern parts, with a focus on Eurasia.
  • Vaccinium vitis-idaea subsp. minus (Lodd) Hultén. predominantly distributed in the arctic, in North America, on Iceland, in western Greenland, in northern Scandinavia. Differs in its shorter shoot (only up to 8 centimeters), smaller leaves with indistinct side veins, fewer flowers, but more intense pink. The stylus does not or only slightly protrudes from the flower tube. Where both subspecies occur side by side, as in the mountains of Norway, they form hybrids.

Much confusion has arisen from the fact that the American large-fruited cranberry ( Vaccinium macrocarpon , English cranberry ) was launched on the market under the name " cultivated lingonberry ". This name comes from the language of marketing and has nothing to do with botanical conditions. They are of two completely different types.


The lingonberry is widespread in Eurasia and North America . It is a Piceetalia order character in Central Europe ( i.e. it grows in coniferous forests dominated by spruce on acidic sites), but also occurs in societies of the Genisto-Quercenion roboris-petraeae sub -association (i.e. in oak forests on acidic sites), in the Vaccinio-Callunetum of the Genistion association (i.e. in dwarf shrub heaths in acidic sites) or in societies of the Erico-Pinion Association (i.e. in pine forests in dry sites on limestone ).

In the Allgäu Alps , it rises on the Kreuzeck ridge in Bavaria up to 2350 m above sea level.


Plant in winter

The evergreen lingonberry is sensitive to frost. Frost damage occurs from low winter temperatures of −22 ° C. Nevertheless, it does not only occur worldwide in the northern temperate zone, but its area extends into the arctic-circumpolar area (71 ° N, in Greenland also beyond), i.e. areas with winter low temperatures down to −50 ° C. This penetration into continental, arctic and alpine climatic areas (Alps up to 2310 m) is only possible in the protection of an insulating snow cover. The height of the snow cover limits the possible growth height. This form of life is called Chamaephyte in botany .

It has the ecological characteristics typical of (almost) all species of the heather family (Ericaceae): the compelling symbiosis with root fungi ( mycorrhiza ) and the hostility to lime. It grows preferentially on acidic and base-poor soils (sandy soils, sandy-stony loam soils, acidic peat soils) with an acidic raw humus cover , in which it can take root up to a meter deep and spread with its creeping shoots . In limestone areas it is limited to special locations free of limestone. In Central Europe it prefers sunny locations in moors, mountain heaths and in alpine dwarf shrubbery, but can also thrive as a semi-shade plant in acidic spruce and pine forests. It grows on soils whose water balance is fresh to moderately dry (alternately fresh).

It depends on insects (bumblebees, bees) to pollinate the flowers. The seeds are spread by birds that eat the red berries ( ornithochory ). In addition to the widespread distribution and generative reproduction by seeds, vegetative reproduction by creeping shoots takes place in the immediate vicinity. Although the lingonberry often grows in close proximity to the blueberry , hybrids between the two species, which are known as hybrid blueberries ( Vaccinium  × intermedium ), rarely occur .

Diseases and pests

Exobasidium splendidum on lingonberries on the Präbichl

Several types of nude basidia can attack the lingonberry. In Central Europe these are Exobasidium vaccinii , Exobasidium splendidum and Exobasidium juelianum . The former type leads to gall growths with a red upper side on the leaves. Exobasidium splendidum attacks the annual shoots and the affected leaves are bright red. Exobasidium juelianum affects the entire plant (systemic). The leaves are thin, soft and also bright red. The lingonberry is also attacked by the rust fungi Naohidemyces vaccinii with Uredien and Telien and by Thekopsora goeppertiana with Telien.

Cranberry jam on a plate with a cordon bleu
Bud shoots
Wild lingonberries
Ripe fruits on the plant
Cranberries of different degrees of ripeness


Lingonberries have been collected in the wild since prehistoric times. The history of use has been poorly researched. In the old Icelandic code of Grágás from the 12th century, there is the rule that one may only harvest as many cranberries on unfamiliar land as one can eat on the spot. The use in Scandinavia was regulated in the lease contracts of the farms, some of them were subject to tax to the landlord. As usual with wild herbs and wild berries, however, their use is poorly documented. The berries were picked by hand or stripped with rake-like tools; this was partly forbidden as harmful to the plant, but is said to be harmless according to an opinion of the Swedish Academy of Sciences from 1918. The berries were important for supplying vitamins and nutrients in winter, mainly because they have the longest shelf life of all comparable berries; they can be stored dry without added sugar until the following year. Wild cranberries are still of economic importance to this day. In Newfoundland and Labrador , Canada, an average of 96,500 kilograms of wild lingonberries (the subspecies Vacinium vitis-idea subsp. Minus ) are harvested annually , making the region the largest growing area in North America. Most of them are frozen and exported.

The cultivation began with a few hectares in Scandinavia, in Sweden in the early 1960s, for the production of cranberry jam. Further cultivation focuses were in the former Soviet Union, in Belarus and in the Baltic States. Breeding attempts in Germany began in 1973 at the University of Weihenstephan. There the varieties 'Erntedank', 'Erntekrone' and 'Erntesegen' were bred from wild lines and the Dutch 'coral' was further refined, methods of vegetative propagation were perfected and a harvesting machine was developed. Attempts to create hybrids with cranberries did not bring any resounding success. The German cultivation area was around 35 hectares at the end of the 1980s. At the beginning of the 1990s, almost 50 hectares of lingonberries were grown, only about a tenth of the area with cultivated blueberries .

The economic importance of the lingonberry in the production of the north-west German and Dutch tree nurseries is declining, as it is increasingly being displaced in fruit production by the American cranberry. Nowadays, it is only rarely reproduced generatively by seeds. Cultivated varieties and Auslese are dependent on vegetative reproduction by cuttings. Since this method requires the use of growth substances and spray mist systems for the cranberries, it is carried out in highly specialized companies. For small numbers and the home garden, propagation by division is common.

The cultivation of the lingonberry can only be carried out in areas where its ecological location requirements, especially with regard to the soil, can be met. Acid sand, sandy loam and peat soils in mild winter humid climates are ideal (northwest Germany, Holland). Allotment gardening in limestone areas can only be achieved through soil exchange (raised bog peat, so-called bog bed plant).

The lingonberry is a widely appreciated and popular fruit in the kitchen, especially as an accompaniment to game dishes and Wiener Schnitzel . Because of its acidic taste, which is due to the high proportion of fruit acids ( e.g. benzoic , ascorbic and salicylic acid ), it is rarely eaten raw, but mostly as a preparation in the form of compotes and jams . Due to the content of ascorbic acid ( vitamin C ), benzoic and salicylic acid, which have a preservative effect on food, products made from lingonberries usually have a good shelf life. Ascorbic and benzoic acid are used as preservatives in food production, but the use of salicylic acid as a food additive is prohibited. It is one of the pharmacologically active ingredients of the lingonberry.

In addition to vitamin C, the fruits also contain vitamins B1, B2, B3 and beta-carotene (provitamin A), with minerals mainly potassium , calcium , magnesium and phosphate . Their anthocyanin content suggests that consuming the berries or the juice protects against kidney and urinary bladder infections, as they may prevent the bacteria from implanting in the mucous membrane . The plant may also be useful for lowering cholesterol and treating rheumatic diseases. Current research examines these relationships.

The dried leaves (= leaf drug ) are Pharmacopoeia listed and are known as Vitis Idaeae folium (lat. Folium = "leaf"), respectively. Among other things, they are used as a substitute drug for the leaves of the bearberry ( Uvae-Ursi Folium ).


100 g cranberries contain:
Calorific value water fat potassium Calcium magnesium vitamin C
148–162 kJ (35–39 kcal ) 88 g 0.5 g 72 mg 14 mg 6 mg 12 mg
Daily requirement of an adult at 100 g:
energy potassium Calcium magnesium vitamin C
2% 3% 2% 2% 16%

The fruits also contain anthocyanosides and volatile compounds, including aliphatic alcohols and aldehydes , flavonoids such as quercetin , triterpenes and organic acids such as benzoic and syringic acid .


In the Kalevala , the virgin Marjatta becomes pregnant by eating a lingonberry and then gives birth to a son who is wise from birth and even more powerful than the great Väinämöinen .


Web links

Wiktionary: Cranberry  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Cowberry  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. ^ German dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. 16 volumes, in 32 sub-volumes. Leipzig 1854–1961. List of sources Leipzig 1971. digital edition Vol. 13, sp2093: 1998–2018 Competence center for electronic cataloging and publication procedures in the humanities at the University of Trier online
  2. Η. Η. Bielfeldt (1971): German lingonberry "Vaccinium vitis-idaea", its origin and word history. Journal for Slavic Studies 16 (1): 704–716.
  3. ^ German dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. 16 volumes, in 32 sub-volumes. Leipzig 1854–1961. List of sources Leipzig 1971. digital edition Vol. 11, sp2319: 1998–2018 Competence center for electronic cataloging and publication processes in the humanities at the University of Trier online
  4. Rudi Beiser: Our edible wild plants: Determine, collect, prepare. Kosmos-Verlag Stuttgart 2018. ISBN 978-3-440-15963-7 , section cranberry, cranberry.
  5. ^ Gustav Hegi, Karl Suessenguth, Karl Heinz Rechinger, Friedrich Markgraf: Hegi Illustrierte Flora von Mittel-Europa, Volume 5, Part 3. Paul Parey Verlag, 1965, on page 1669.
  6. According to Elke Firth, Erich Lück: Großwörterbuch of the food system , Behr's, 1997, p 279 "Riffel Berry" a term for which is ordinary cranberry or Vaccinium macrocarpon (Engl. Cranberry ).
  7. ^ After Franz Dornseiff: The German vocabulary according to subject groups. Walter de Gruyter Verlag 2011. ISBN 978-3-11-171211-6 , on page 65.
  8. a b c Erich Oberdorfer : Plant-sociological excursion flora for Germany and neighboring areas . With the collaboration of Angelika Schwabe and Theo Müller. 8th, heavily revised and expanded edition. Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart (Hohenheim) 2001, ISBN 3-8001-3131-5 , pp.  733 .
  9. ^ Entry at GRIN - Germplasm Resources Information Network .
  10. ^ TN Popova: Vaccinium. In TG Tutin, VH Heywood, NA Burges, DM Moore, DH Valentine, SM Walters, DA Webb (editors): Flora Europaea, Vol.3 Diapensiaceae to Myoporaceae. Cambridge University Press 1972. ISBN 0-521-08489-X .
  11. a b c Inger Hjalmarsson & Rodomiro Ortiz: Lingonberry: Botany and Horticulture. Chapter 3 in Jules Janick (editor) Horticultural Reviews Vol. 29. John Wiley & Sons, 2002. ISBN 978-0-471-21700-8 . Pages 79 to 123.
  12. Erhard Dörr, Wolfgang Lippert : Flora of the Allgäu and its surroundings. Volume 2, IHW, Eching 2004, ISBN 3-930167-61-1 , pp. 307-308.
  13. Sven Gunnar Ryman, Ingmar Holmåsen: mushrooms. Bernhard Thalacker Verlag, Braunschweig 1992, ISBN 3-87815-043-1 , p. 72.
  14. Peter Zwetko: The rust mushrooms Austria. (PDF; 1.8 MB) Supplement and host-parasite directory for the 2nd edition of the Catalogus Florae Austriae, III. Part, Book 1, Uredinales .
  15. ^ BG Penney, CA Gallagher, PA Hendrickson, RA Churchill, E. Butt (1989): The Wild Partridgeberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L. var. Minus lodd) Industry in Newfoundland and Labrador and the Potential for Expansion Utilizing European Cultivars. Acta Horticulturae 241: 139-142. (IV. International Symposium on Vaccinium Culture).
  16. D. Bläsing (1989): A review of Vaccinium research and the Vaccinium industry of the Federal Republic of Germany. Acta Horticulturae 241: 101-109. (IV. International Symposium on Vaccinium Culture).
  17. Nukolai Kuhnert: One Hundred Years of Aspirin. In: Chemie in our time , vol. 33 (1999), issue 4, pp. 213-220, ISSN  0009-2851 .
  18. EU Nutritional Labeling Directive (EU NWKRL 90/496 / EEC) & Rewe nutrition table
  19. EU Nutrition Labeling Directive (EU NWKRL 90/496 / EEC)
  20. Max Wichtl (Ed.), Franz-Christian Czygan: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka: A manual for practice on a scientific basis . 4th edition. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-8047-1854-X .