Best Native Shrubs: Highbush Cranberry

Highbush Cranberry shrub in October, with berries.

Highbush Cranberry shrub in October, with berries.

Highbush Cranberry, is not a cranberry at all but a member of the Viburnum family of shrubs: Viburnum Triloba. All viburnums are wonderful shrubs, but this native variety really comes into its own in the fall, when it is covered with clusters of shiny, red, glowing berries, which resemble cranberries, hence the name. (The berry-like fruit is actually a drupe, like cherry, plum or raspberry.)

Not only decorative in the landscape, the shrub’s shiny berries are edible: native people and early settlers used the highbush cranberry fruit for jellies and jams. Here are some great features of this shrub:

  • edible, attractive red fruit that persists through the winter
  • berries high in Vitamin C and antioxidants
  • flat-topped white blossoms in spring
  • flowers attract butterflies
  • good survival food and shelter for birds, especially ruffled grouse and cedar waxwings
  • hardy, (up to Zone 2) low maintenance
  • will take partial shade
  • adaptable, drought resistant, or can grow in very moist soils
  • good rain garden plant
  • grows 8-12 ft tall, makes good privacy shrub
  • attractive 3-lobed leaves, turning red in the fall

Dwarf versions are also available. Look for variety called “Compactum”, which grows only 150cm high.

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