Harvesting wild cranberries and, of course, moss

Vaccininium macrocarpon, or large cranberry, is found in bogs throughout New England and is a true native American fruit. You’ve probably driven by a cranberry bog, not realizing that a thick mat of berries is growing just a few steps from the roadside. Little did you know you could be harvesting your own wild cranberries!

cranberry bog

Cranberries DO like their feet wet, so prepared wear bog boots unless you want your feet wet, too! This entire area was covered with the low, scrubby bushes of Vaccinium macrocarpon, and most of the cranberries were found right along the water’s edge.

Harvesting wild cranberries, foraging for cranberries, Vaccinium macrocarpon, craneberry

This time of year the berries can be a little hard to find, hidden beneath the leaves that have changed from bright green to, well, an almost cranberry color. High in antioxidants, wild cranberries have long been used as a food source. Native Americans mixed the crushed berries into their pemmican (dried venison and rendered fat), for an energy-rich food that would keep for long hunting trips or well into a cold winter. You’ll actually find pemmican recipes on a couple of hard core Paleo websites these days!

Personally, I’m ok with a Clif bar.

Harvesting wild cranberries, cranberry bog, foraging

The fruits ripen in the fall and can be *really* tart when harvested at that time. Certainly great for making cranberry sauce or preserves, but eating them right of the bush can cause quite the pucker! After a winter’s freeze, however, these little berries are bright and sweet, popping in your mouth with just a touch of that cranberry sourness that makes them so delicious.

We didn’t have enough time to gather more than a couple of cups of berries, so rather than make a few mouthfuls of chutney, I think I’ll pull an Andrea Meyers and make a cranberry liquor…

Trailing arbutus, Epigaea repens, mayflower evergreen leaves

Of course, we saw more than just cranberries this weekend! We took a walk at the Bill Rae Conservation Area in Wolfeboro, NH, new-to-us conservation land off of Sargents Pond Road. A nice wide, flat trail leads past a few vernal pools (maybe a possibility for Big Night?), a good sized beaver pond, and down to a boat launch on Sargents Pond. Epigaea repens, also known as trailing arbutus or mayflower, lines the path. These leaves are evergreen, and the tiny white flowers that bloom underneath are some of the first blooms we see each year. We’ve seen a few buds starting to pop out in sunny spots, but no blooms quite yet!

Turkey tail mushroom, Trametes versicolor

Trametes versicolor, or turkey tail mushrooms, is another common sight along the path. You can see where it gets it’s ‘versicolor’ species name! Turkey tail has long been touted for it’s medicinal purposes, and is often used in teas and tinctures.
bog in new hampshireAnnnnnnnd, of course, we hit up a swamp. No weekend would be complete without one! We saw a few of last year’s Corallorhiza trifida, so this area is certainly worth another look later in the year for other orchids.

Climacium dendroides, tree moss, palm tree mossI thought I had found Climacium dendroides last week, but that moss was later ID’d as Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, or pleated shaggy moss.  THIS time I hope I got it! The branches do not go all they way down the stem, giving it a bit of a palm tree look. When identifying any moss, it is important to pull out a full stem to see the growth form and, if you have your hand lens with you, the shape of the leaves.

Pallavicinia sp liverwort, smooth liverwortThis liverwort was new to us, and I’m thinking it’s some sort of Pallavicinia species? Suggestions are welcome! There is now some living in Keith’s terrarium , and we’d like it to have a name 🙂


(1) http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131127-cranberries-thanksgiving-native-americans-indians-food-history/



the dirty girl at dirty botany
Head dirty girl at dirtybotany.com!
Bug worshiper.
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Macrophotographer in training.

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2 thoughts on “Harvesting wild cranberries and, of course, moss

  1. Pingback: Six Cranberry Bogs Throughout New England - New England Historical Society

  2. Iya Kazakevich Reply

    Good morning Michelle, can you please share the location of cranberry bog you wrote in this post? Thank you very much in advance.

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