Appearance and Habitat: Dry woods in South=eastern N. America – Virginia to Georgia and Florida west to Alabama. A deciduous shrub growing to 0.3 m (1ft). It is hardy to zone 6.
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. A poor taste and texture. The fruit is about 6 – 8mm in diameter.
Medicinal Uses: None.
Appearance and Habitat: Heaths, moors and woods on acid soils to 1250 meters. Europe, including Britain, form Iceland south and east to Spain, Macedonia, the Caucasus and N. Asia. A deciduous shrub growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 0.3 m (1ft). It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower from Apr to June, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. (Not native to just N. America and will be covered by Michael Moore.)Warnings: High tannin content may cause digestive disorders – avoid prolonged use or high doses. Avoid in pregnacy. Aviod if on anticoagulant therapy.
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. Sweet and very tasty, they make an excellent preserve, their small seeds making them suitable for jam. A slightly acid flavour when eaten raw. The fruit can be dried and used like currants. The fruit is up to 10mm in diameter. A tea is made from the leaves.
Medicinal Uses: The dried leaves of bilberries are used in the treatment of a variety of complaints. These leaves should be harvested in early autumn, only green leaves being selected, and then dried in gentle heat. The leaves should not be used medicinally for more than 3 weeks at a time. A tea made from the dried leaves is strongly astringent, diuretic, tonic and an antiseptic for the urinary tract. It is also a remedy for diabetes if taken for a prolonged period. Another report says that the leaves can be helpful in pre-diabetic states but that they are not an alternative to conventional treatment. The leaves contain glucoquinones, which reduce the levels of sugar in the blood. A decoction of the leaves or bark is applied locally in the treatment of ulcers and in ulceration of the mouth and throat. A distilled water made from the leaves is an excellent eyewash for soothing inflamed or sore eyes. Whilst the fresh fruit has a slightly laxative effect upon the body, when dried it is astringent and is commonly used in the treatment of diarrhoea etc. The dried fruit is also antibacterial and a decoction is useful for treating diarrhoea in children. The skin of the fruits contains anthocyanin and is specific in the treatment of hemeralopia (day-blindness). The fruit is a rich source of anthocyanosides, which have been shown experimentally to dilate the blood vessels, this makes it a potentially valuable treatment for varicose veins, haemorrhoids and capillary fragility.
Appearance and Habitat: Bloom color is red from Jun to July. (1) Usually found at high elevations in Western N. America – British Columbia and Alberta, south to Colorado and S. Dakota. A deciduous shrub growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in). It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower in May. (2)
Warnings: None. (3)
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked and used in pies, jellies, jams, breads, muffins etc. The dried fruits can be used to flavour other foods or to thicken soups. The fruit is about 4 – 6mm in diameter. The fresh or dried leaves can be used to make a kind of tea. (4)
Medicinal Uses: Antiseptic, astringent, carminative, hypoglycaemic. An infusion of the dried, pulverized leaves has been used in the treatment of nausea and to increase the appetite. The dried and powdered fruits have been given to children to improve their appetite. (5)
Appearance and Habitat: Low, prostrate mat, usually less than 1 ft. Small, glossy, leathery leaves, bronzy in spring and dark-green in summer, turn a variety of colors in fall. White to pink, tube-shaped flowers in nodding clusters and followed by a dark red, edible fruit. The ascending branches of this evergreen, trailing shrub have nodding, pinkish-white flowers with 4 backward- pointing petals in clusters arising in the leaf axils. Cultivated cranberry varieties developed from this native species are grown extensively on Cape Cod and in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Small Cranberry (V. oxycoccus), a native of North America and Eurasia that occurs in mainland Canada and across the northern United States, has smaller leaves that are whiter beneath and have rolled edges. These two species were originally known as craneberries because of the resemblance of their petals and beaked anther to the head of those wading birds; they are sometimes placed in their own genus, Oxycoceus. Wild cranberries often form low dense masses over peaty, boggy areas. The berries are ready for picking in the fall. (1) Acid boggy ground in Eastern N. America. Occasionalyy naturalized in Britain. An evergreen shrub growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 2 m (6ft) at a medium rate. It is hardy to zone 2. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. (2)
Warnings: None. (3)
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. It can also be dried for winter use. Rich in vitamin C, the fruit is too acid for most peoples tastes to be eaten raw, so it is mainly used in pies, preserves etc. It is said that a teaspoon of salt added to the cooking fruit can take the place of half the sugar normally used. The fruit is between 1 and 2cm in diameter. (4)Medicinal Uses: An infusion of the branches has been used as a treatment for pleurisy (5) (I can’t believe they didn’t list urinary tract infections.)
Common Name: Small Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos)
Appearance and Habitat: (Native to N. America) Acid boggy land in Europe, including Britain from Scandavavia south and east to France, Rourmania, N. Asia to Japan. An evergreen shrub growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone 2. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jun to August.
Edible Uses: Fruit – raw or cooked. Considered by some to be the most pleasantly-flavoured of British wild fruits. The fruit is high in pectin, this means that it can be mixed with fruits that are low in pectin to help them set when making jam. Pectin has also been shown to have a valuable role in the diet, where it is said to protect the body against radiation. An acid taste, the fruits are usually cooked in preserves etc. Although smaller than the related V. macrocarpon, the fruit of this species is considered to be of superior taste. The fruit is about 6mm in diameter. A tea is made from the leaves.
Medicinal Uses: An infusion of the plant has been used to treat cases of slight nausea.
(On to Michael Moore who only covers western species.)
Species covered: Vaccinium membranaceum, V. myrtillus, V. ovatum, V. parvifolium, V. scoparium,
Appearance and Habitat: Fruit found in the west is generally smaller. In the Rocky’s V. myrtillus form large colonies in spruce forests above 8,000 ft in Arizona and New Mexico. V. myrtillus is low and matty, usually not more than a foot tall. It’s leaves are oval lanceolate and forms open foliage with many short stems. The berries are purple but are usually eaten by birds. Look along high mountain steep ridges. The California Huckleberry (V. ovatum) grows in the coastal ranges on the north side San Diego, and northwards. It is an evergreen shrub from 4 -6 feet in height with leathery, alternate leaves that have a deep indented center vein. The leaves are also oval lanceolate, finely toothed, and lighter underneath. As for V. scoparium it has salmon colored berries and may go un-noticed because of their small size. It is also a rather small deciduous shrub. Look for any of the species in the higher mountains from the Sierra Nevada range and eastward.
Medicinal Uses: Collect the leaves, use a ratio of 1 part plant to 32 parts water; place them in boiling water, and remove from heat, allow them to sit overnight and return the water level to 32 parts. Strain and take up to 3 – 4 ounces up to 3 times a day. The tea from the leaves will lower blood sugar levels, it will alleviate both glycosuria and hperglycemia, if two cups are drunk, once in the morning and once in the evening. This is a good treatment for Type I diabetes. The tea also works well for urinary tract infections, especially so for people that find cranberry juice to irritating to their stomachs. The juice of the fruit can reach the small capillaries to help with conditions of night blindness and diabetic retinopathy. The juice of the fruit also prevents blood platelets from sticking together. Stay away from older leaves when collecting, as they seem to gather tannins as the age.
Medicinal Plants Of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, 1st Edition,pages 37 – 38 , publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press ; copy right 1979 ISBN 0-89013-104-X
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