Table of Contents
Stang, E.J., G.G. Weis, and J. Klueh. 1990. Lingonberry: Potential new fruit
for the northern United States. p. 321-323. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon
(eds.), Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Lingonberry: Potential New Fruit for the Northern United States
Elden J. Stang, Gavin G. Weis, and John Klueh
- BOTANY AND TAXONOMY
- CURRENT AND PROPOSED RESEARCH
- Fig. 1
- Fig. 2
The lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.) is a woody, evergreen dwarf
shrub distributed worldwide in northern temperate, boreal, and subarctic areas.
Lingonberry fruit is an important berry crop harvested from the wild throughout
its distribution in northern regions of the world. Major exporting countries
are Sweden, Finland, and the Soviet Union (Liebster 1977, Holloway 1981).
Canada is the major source of fresh fruit in the United States although annual
estimates of exports approximating 1 metric ton are generally inconsistent and
likely inaccurate (U.S. Foreign Agriculture Service, personal communication,
1987). Worldwide, urban encroachment, changes in forest management,
uncontrollable fruit quality from native stands and fluctuations in annual
yield due to climatic variation have stimulated research on plant improvement
and methods of cultivation (Pliszka and Kawecki 1985, Trajkovski 1985, Hail and
Shay 1986, Holloway 1981). Previous research on lingonberries in Minnesota,
essentially terminated in the early 1980s, involved screening of seedlings,
characterization of the species, and plant vegetative and reproductive behavior
(Holloway 1982). Attempts to domesticate the species were carried out by
Lehmushovi and Hiirsalmi (1973), Lehmushovi and Säkö (1975),
Lehmushovi (1977), Fernquist (1977), Liebster (1975), and Holloway (1981).
Holloway (1981) notes at least 25 common names for V. vitis-idaea
worldwide. Among the more common English names are lingonberry, cowberry, moss
cranberry, mountain cranberry, partridgeberry, red whortleberry, alpine
cranberry or simply lingon or lingen. For marketing reasons, Pliszka (I 985)
suggested the name lingonberry be used in preference to cowberry
Throughout its natural range, a multitude of lingonberry fruit uses are
reported. These include juice, sauce, preserves, candy, jelly, syrup, ice
cream, pickles, wine, and liqueurs (Iwagaki et al. 1977, Liebster 1977,
Holloway 1981, Müller 1977). Other uses include extraction of arbutin
from leaves for use as a medicinal for stomach disorders (Racz et al. 1962) and
use of the plant primarily as an ornamental ground cover (Rehder 1940).
Camp (1945) characterized the lingonberry Vaccinium vitis-idaea as an
evergreen dwarf shrub of the Ericaceae, subgenus Vitis-idaea (Moench) W.
Koch. Plant stems are semi-woody, bearing numerous shoots 1-2 mm in diameter.
Simple, petiolate, evergreen, leathery, obovate leaves alternate in a spiral.
Leaf upper surface is dark green; the lower surface is pale green, waxy with
black glandular dots. Plants reproduce by seeds and rhizomes. Roots consist
of tap roots with finely divided rootlets at the extremities and adventitious
roots occurring at nodes along creeping stems and rhizomes. Flowers (Fig. 1)
are produced singly or in clusters in terminal racemes, with four locules per
ovary, four sepals, a bell-shaped corolla and eight stamens with nonspurred
anthers (Hail and Shay 1981). Pollen is borne in tetrads shed through a
terminal pore in the anther. The ovary is inferior producing a true globose
berry, carmine in color when ripe, up to 1 cm in diameter (Fig. 2).
Fernald (1970) considered the smaller north American form as a variety .V
vitis-idaea L. var. minus Lodd. and the larger European plant as the
variety vitis-idaea. Hulten (1970) recognizes the two races as
subspecies with vitis-idaea as the larger lowland race and the dwarf
arctic montane race as minus (Lodd) Hult. Both are distinguished mainly
by plant size. Leaf size in V. vitis-idaea may average 2.5 cm in length
and 1.0 cm in width, V. vitis-idaea var. minus 1.0 cm in length
and 0.5 cm in width (Welsh 1974). Plant height for V. vitis-idaea may
exceed 30 cm, for vitis-idaea var. minus height rarely exceeds 20
cm (Fernald 1970). Both North American and European varieties are reported by
various authors (Hall and Shay 1981) to have chromosome numbers 2n = 24.
Preliminary cultivation and screening trials at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison since 1984 suggest lingonberries are potentially suited for
cultivation in Wisconsin. Our objectives are: to screen clonal and seed
propagated populations of lingonberry for adaptability and productivity; to
evaluate selected cultivation practices including soil amelioration, herbicides
for weed control, and varying irrigation regimes; and to evaluate the influence
of selected plant growth regulators on propagation, plant growth and fruiting.
Small scale grower evaluation and demonstration trials are proposed concurrent
with these objectives.
Sandy, acidic soil (pH 5-6) with at least 2% organic matter is reported to be
the best field medium for establishment and early growth of V.
vitis-idaea (Fernquist 1977). Predominant soil in our evaluation region is
Plainfield Sandy loam (sandy, mixed, mesic, typic Fragiudalf, pH 5.9-6.2).
Irrigation for horticultural production is a necessity in this soil; ample
water for irrigation is readily available in the area at 20-40 m depths from
Initial trials were observational and involved limited screening of 100-300
lingonberry seedlings each from open pollinated European clones and native
North American (Alaska, Newfoundland) fruit collected in the wild. From this
population eleven selections were made in 1987 based on subjective evaluations
of precocity, plant vigor and rhizome production. These selections, propagated
from rhizome cuttings, were placed in replicated selection trials in 1988 with
clonally propagated European cultivars 'Erntekrone', 'Erntesegen', 'Erntedank',
and 'Koralle' to evaluate hardiness, plant growth, flowering, productivity, and
adaptability to irrigated culture under Wisconsin climatic conditions.
A population of 15,000 open pollinated seedlings of V. vitis-idaea from
the Democratic Republic of Germany, Poland, the USSR, Sweden, Norway, Finland
and V. vitis-idaea var. minus from Newfoundland was established
in 1988 for additional screening and selection trials. Selections from these
seedlings are to form the core population for further replicated evaluations
for desirable plant and fruit characteristics.
Successful introduction will depend on the ability to supply the market with a
high quality product and then to increase market size. Well established demand
and existing markets exist throughout much of the northern hemisphere. The
expectation of continuing fluctuations in the supply of lingonberries from the
wild suggests potential for commercial success in cultivation and marketing of
this new crop.
- Camp, W.H. 1945. The North American blueberries with notes on other groups of
Vacciniaceae. Brittonia 5:203-275.
- Fernald, M.L. 1970. Gray's manual of botany. 8th ed. D. Van Nostrand Co., New
- Fernquist, I. 1977. Results of experiments with cowberries and blueberries in
Sweden. Acta Hort. 61:295-300.
- Hall, I.V. and J.M. Shay 1981. The biological flora of Canada. 3. Vaccinium
vitis-idaea L. var. minus Lodd. supplementary account. Canad.
- Holloway P.F. 1981. Studies on vegetative and reproductive growth of
lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.). PhD Dissertation, Univ. of
Minnesota, St. Paul.
- Holloway, P.F., R.M. Veldhuizen, C. Stushnoff, and D.K. Wildung. 1982.
Vegetative growth and nutrient levels of lingonberries grown in four Alaskan
substrates. Canad. J. Plant Sci. 62:969-977.
- Hulten, E. 1970. The circumpolar plants II. Dicotyledons. Almqvist and Wiksell,
- Iwagaki, H., S. Ishikawa, T. Tamada and H. Koike. 1977. The present status of
blueberry work and wild Vaccinium spp. in Japan. Acta. Hort.
- Lehmushovi. A. 1977. Trials with the cowberry in Finland. Acta Hort
- Lehmushovi. A. and H. Hiirsalmi. 1973. Cultivation experiments with the
cowberry; Significance of substrate, liming, fertilization, and shade. Ann.
Agric. Fenn. 12:95-101.
- Lehmushovi. A and J. Säkö. 1975. Domestication of the cowberry
(Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.) in Finland. Ann. Agric.Fenn.
- Liebster, G. 1975. Growing red whortleberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) on
cultivated land-a new objective of experimental research work in fruit growing.
Erwerbsobtbau 17:39-42, 58-61.
- Liebster, G. 1977. Experimental and research work on fruit species of the genus
Vaccinium in Germany. Acta Hort. 61:19-24.
- Müller, H.P. 1977. The use of Vaccinium fruit in the dairy industry.
Acta Hort. 61:343-347.
- Pliszka, K. 1985. Foreword, Third Int. Symp. Vaccinium culture. Warsaw,
Poland. Acta. Hort. 165:7.
- Racz, G., I. Fuzi and L. Fulop. 1962. A method for determination of the arbutin
content of cowberry leaves (Folium vitis-idaea). Rumanian Med. Rev.
- Render, A. 1940. Manual of cultivated trees and shrubs. Macmillan, New York.
- Traikovski, V. 1985. Annual report, Division of fruit breeding-Balsgard. The
Swedish Univ. of Agr. Sci. p. 132, 134-137.
- Welsh, S.L. 1974. Anderson's flora of Alaska and adjacent parts of Canada.
Brigham Young Univ. Press. Provo, UT.
Fig. 1. Plant form and flowering in lingonberry (Vaccinium
Fig. 2. Fruiting in lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.).
Mature berry size 7-10 mm diameter.
Last update August 28, 1997