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This native viburnum offers ornamental interest throughout the seasons; flowers in spring, red fruit in late summer, and red fall color. This American species (Viburnum opulus var. americanum; syn. Viburnum trilobum) is a better choice than the similar European cranberry-bush which has become an invasive plant in some areas.
Also called Highbush Cranberry or Viburnum opulus var. americanum, the American Cranberry Bush is an attractive native plant all season long. In spring, the cranberry will develop white flowers that resemble lace-cap hydrangeas; in summer, dense foliage provides habitat for wildlife, and in autumn, the bush will develop tart red berries before the leaves turn from yellow to purple-red in color. The true cranberry that is grown commercially for food (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is a non-related member of the Heath family (Ericaceae). The American Cranberry is a member of the Elderberry family (Adoxaceae). Like the commercial variety, the fruit of the American Cranberry is also edible, and tastes best if made into a preserve or sauce. Fruits are a staple winter food for ruffed grouse and are eaten sparingly by pheasants and at least five speciesof songbirds.
Range & Habitat: The native American Cranberry Bush is a rare shrub that is found in widely scattered areas in the upper half of Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats consist of cool moist woodlands, streambanks in wooded areas, sandy swamps, soggy thickets, edges of sandy marshes, forested bogs, and roadside ditches. American Cranberry Bush is occasionally cultivated as an ornamental landscape plant. Outside of cultivation, this shrub is usually found in high quality wetlands where the native flora is still intact.Comments: American Cranberry Bush has attractive flowers, foliage, drupes, and autumn coloration. Because birds consume the drupes sparingly, they often persist during the winter. The edible drupes have a tart flavor that is similar to cranberries. However, it is best to use them before a hard frost occurs, which can degrade their flavor. American Cranberry Bush is very similar to fertile cultivars of European Cranberry Bush (Viburnum opulus), and it is sometimes regarded as a variety of this latter shrub (Viburnum opulus americanum). (Source: www.illinoiswildflowers.info)