Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Southern Mountain Cranberry - Vaccinium erythrocarpum   Michaux
Members of Ericaceae:
Members of Vaccinium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Ericales » Family Ericaceae
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DistributionOccurs strictly in the Mountains, ranging from the VA border to the GA border, found mostly at high elevations (usually over 4000 feet).

This is a southern Appalachian endemic species, ranging northward only to the northern portions of WV and VA. It occurs south only into extreme northeastern GA.
AbundanceThough it has been found in nearly all of the NC Mountain counties, it is mostly infrequent to locally fairly common. It seldom is a common or dominant shrub in the sites where it is present.
HabitatUnlike most montane blueberries, this species favors cool and moist conditions at high elevations, often in spruce-fir stands. It can be found at heath balds or around some outcrops, mainly where moist or near seepages. It also occurs in bogs, at least at higher elevations.
PhenologyBlooms from late May into July, after the leaves are fully emerged; fruits in August and September.
IdentificationThis is a deciduous shrub that grows from about 2-6 feet tall. It has leaves that are more tapered to the tip than are other blueberries, and the margins are narrowly serrate; they average about 2 inches long. The leaf bases also tend to be rounded, such that the leaves are narrowly ovate or lanceolate in overall shape. However, most biologists might not recognize this shrub by its leaves, as it is our only shrub with small rosy pink flowers that has petals strongly recurved (swept-back), exposing the long stamens. In bud, the narrow petals are not curved and look like a pink “beak”. In late summer, the juicy dark red berries also can catch the eye of the observer.
Taxonomic CommentsA few references consider a taxon that grows in Japan so similar to this that it includes both as a single species and thus ours is named as V. erythrocarpum ssp. erythrocarpum. Weakley (2018) and most other references do not list subspecies or varieties.

Other Common Name(s)Highbush Cranberry, Mountain Cranberry, Mountain Blueberry, Bearberry (colloquial and vague, used for other species as well)
State RankS4
Global RankG5
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US Status
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B.A. SorrieGrandfather Mountain, on trail to McRae Peak, 17 June 2023. AveryPhoto_natural
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