Flowers - Large or American Cranberry
( Originally Published 1916 )
(Oxycoccus macrocarpus) Huckleberry family
(Vactinium macrocarpon of Gray)
Flowers—Light pink, about 1/2 in. across, nodding on slender pedicels from sides and tips of erect branches. Calyx round, 4-or 5-parted ; corolla a long cone in bud, its four or five nearly separate, narrow petals turned far backward later ; 8 or 10 stamens, the anthers united into a protruding cone, its hollow tubes shedding pollen by a pore at tip. Stem : Creeping or trailing, slender, woody, 1 to 3 ft. long, its leafy branches 8 in. high or less. Leaves : Small, alternate, oblong, evergreen,
pale beneath, the edges rolled backward. Fruit: An oblong or ovoid, many seeded, juicy red berry (Oxycoccus = sour berry).
Preferred Habitat—Bogs ; sandy, swampy meadows.
Distribution—North Carolina, Michigan, and Minnesota north-ward and westward.
A hundred thousand people are interested in the berry of this pretty vine to one who has ever seen its flowers. Yet if the blossom were less attractive, to insects at least, and took less pains to shake out its pollen upon them as they cling to the cone to sip its nectar, few berries would accompany the festive Thanksgiving turkey. Cultivators of the cranberry know how important it is to have the flooded bogs well drained before the flowering season. Water (or ice) may cover the plants to the depth of a foot or more all winter and until the loth of May ; and during the late summer it is often advisable to overflow the bogs to prevent injury of the fine, delicate roots from drought, and to destroy the worm that is the plant's worst enemy ; but until the flowers have wooed the bees, flies, and other winged benefactors, and fruit is well formed, every cultivator knows enough not to submerge his bog. With flowers under water there are no insect visitors, consequently no berries. Dense mats of the wiry vines should yield about one hundred and fifty bushels of berries to the acre, under skilful cultivation—a most profitable industry, since the cranberry costs less to cultivate, gather, and market than the strawberry or any of the small perishable fruits. Planted in muck and sand in the garden, the vines yield surprisingly good results. The Cape Cod Bell is the best known market berry. One of the interesting sights to the city loiterer about the New England coast in early autumn is the berry-picking that is conducted on an immense scale. Men, women, and children drop all other work ; whole villages are nearly depopulated while daylight lasts ; temporary buildings set up on the edges of the bogs contain throngs of busy people sorting, measuring, and packing fruit ; and lonely railroad stations, piled high with crates, give the branch line its heaviest freight business of the year.