High Bush Cranberry

High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)


This is one of our more confusing native shrubs, since it is not a true cranberry and has a European cousin (Viburnum opulus) that is quite common locally. It grows up to 15 feet (4.6 m) high, with clusters of white flowers in late June. Fruits are cranberry-size and bright red, often hanging on throughout the winter. Leaves are three-lobed and maple-like, but vary considerably even on the same shrub. Buds are opposite and the tips of twigs die back during the winter. Bark is smooth and gray to light brown. The European variety is generally found around homesteads and parks and produces bitter fruit often totally ignored by wildlife. The native variety is more at home along streams, swamps and low, open woods. Its berries are tastier and seldom last through winter.

Growing Conditions:

Can be found in damp thickets and moist woods, but will grow on drier sites. It does best on rich soils and full sunlight although it is quite tolerant of a variety of conditions.


If you can find sources of native high bush cranberry, cuttings are the easiest method of propagation. Summer cuttings work especially well, with success rates usually over 90 per cent. Seed takes two years to germinate but should give satisfactory results. Make sure to either clean the fruit or crush the berries between your fingers to break the skin before planting. Each fruit contains one flat seed.

Wildlife Uses:

Native high bush cranberry fruits are much more desirable for wildlife than those of the showier European variety. It is a preferred food only of ruffed grouse and cedar waxwing, but fruit is also eaten by over 20 other species. More importantly, fruits hang on throughout the winter and serve as critical emergency food when other sources are not available. Because the tips die over the winter, plants become very bushy as they get older. They provide valuable cover and are used as nesting sites by several species of birds.

Areas of Usage:

For landscape planting, it is hard to beat high bush cranberry. While not the best of our shrubs for wildlife, it is a very attractive plant and the persistent ruby-red berries are a pleasing sight throughout the winter. Berries are edible and were once commonly used with other fruits in pies and jams. Around the home, plant high bush cranberry singly, in clumps or as a hedge. These plants can also be used as part of a windbreak, along streams or when planting the edges of ponds. Since they can grow in sun or shade and in moist or dry conditions, you have flexibility in planning where to use them. Unfortunately, they are sensitive to salt spray and should not be used along roadsides and shorelines.

Upcoming Events

10:00 am Creating and Maintaining Hedgero...
Creating and Maintaining Hedgero...
May 25 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
This workshop will look at on creating diverse, beautiful and functional hedgerows and windbreaks using a variety of native plants. Participants will learn about which plants are best, spacing, planting and maintenance.
10:00 am Shelter-building for Kids
Shelter-building for Kids
Jun 1 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Take your fort-building skills to the next level! Get outside with the whole family and learn more about shelter do’s and don’ts and how to hang a tarp securely. Let your wild creativity fly by
10:00 am Plants of Prince Edward Island w...
Plants of Prince Edward Island w...
Jun 8 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Kate, one of the province’s foremost biologists, will focus on many of the plants, both native and non-native, that you commonly encounter, plus a look at lots of rare trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ferns. You
2:00 pm Debunking Forest-Wildlife Myths ...
Debunking Forest-Wildlife Myths ...
Jun 9 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
We are thrilled that Bob is coming over again from Nova Scotia. The well-known CBC Radio Noon guest and advocate for nature throughout the region will explore some of the myths surrounding forests and wildlife.
10:00 am Tracking the Mammals of PEI
Tracking the Mammals of PEI
Jul 27 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Come on out and learn about the native and introduced mammals found on PEI, as well as a brief look at some of the mammals we’ve lost. After a brief slideshow, we’ll head off to

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