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Vaccinium vitis-idaeaCowberry

By Leanne Downs9 November 2019

Vaccinium vitis-idaea has over 25 common names in English but here in the UK they are mostly known as Cowberry or by their Swedish name of Lingonberry, which comes from the Swedish word for heather. Other names include Bearberry, Partridgeberry and Mountain Cranberry.

Where can I find Cowberries?

Cowberries grow mainly in Scotland and northern upland areas of the UK. They prefer the shade, so forests make a suitable place for them to grow. They tend to prefer to grow on the acidic soils of Pine, Birch and Oak woodlands as well as drier areas of bogland.

They can be found widely across Northern Europe, especially abundant in the boreal forests of Scandinavia and Russia. They can also be found in Northern America and Canada.

The small white/pale pink bell shaped flowers appear in the late summer months | The plant spreads underground, creating a dense population in the shadowy under canopy of forests growing on acidic soil.

When can I find Cowberries?

Cowberries ripen in the late summer and autumn months. The white bell-shaped flowers are visible in early summer.

How to identify Cowberries

Cowberries are easily identifiable in the late summer and autumn months due to the pale pink and white bell shaped flowers and deep red shiny berries that appear on the plants. They grow close to the ground no more than 40cm in height. The deep green leaves are shiny and oval shaped, up to 3cm in length. The leaves grow alternately along the stem and can be slightly notched.

The deep red berries ripen in the autumn and have an astringent acidic taste – best cooked with sugar

Uses for Cowberries

The berries are popular in Scandinavia where they are traditionally served cooked and sweetened with elk or reindeer dishes – or with meatballs. They are also used to make soft drinks such a lingonberry cordial and juice. They are also picked in North America for use in jams, syrups and baked goods.

They are a valuable source of food for bears, foxes, species of birds and moth.

Leanne Downs

About Leanne Downs

Leanne Downs is the content editor for Thryve and works as an outdoor writer, blogger and photographer. She loves hiking, hillwalking and wild camping.

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