Friday, January 13, 2012

HIGHBUSH CRANBERRY: Tart Treat or Gag & Spit?

Highbush Cranberry,  January 6  2012
Holly State Recreation Area - Oakland County, Michigan
photo by Jonathan Schechter

Winter drifted back into southern Michigan early this morning leaving our woodlands in
shades of brown and  white exclusive of the green of evergreens.  But if you hike near a
  marshy area you may encounter  bright splashes of dangling red. 
Highbush Cranberries are easy to spot.
They are not so easy to eat.

Almost every field guide lists them as edible and boasts they are good in jams and jellies but
often add words like tart, or acidic in flavor. They got that right. Squish them and
smell your fingers and you might even think old kitty litter box! And perhaps that is a reason
that the berries persist well into winter. My guess, with not a shred of scientific evidence, is
that this member of the Viburnum family (with no connection to the cranberries we all know) is
 not a favorite  treat of mammals and bird. But I have seen deer tracks in winter that seem to
 indicate they are consumed and have seen birds pecking about when little else is to be
 had.  Regardless of palatability and flavor this plant bears another name going back to its
traditional history, "Crampbark". A quick literaure search indicates it may have
strong antispasmodic properties.

I like this plant when I hike the woods for it warns me that when snow is deep the hidden earth
 underneath my be as much water as land, a good thing to know when off the beaten trail.
And the road or trail less travelled is my way!


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