|AMERICAN HIGH BUSH CRANBERRY...|
|...BRIGHT RED BERRIES AND TRI-LOBED LEAVES|
There are at least three species of mountain ash in the northland; the European mountain ash, or Rowan tree, Sorbus aucuparia; the American mountain ash, Sorbus americana; and the showy mountain ash, Sorbus decora. They are members of the rose family, the Rosaceae. The European and American mountain ash are rather difficult to tell apart and for landscape purposes are pretty much the same, the fruit of both usually being orange when ripe. The showy mountain ash, with red berries, is a more handsome tree in almost every way than either of the others, and is often grown by nurseries as a premium landscape plant. The berries of all the species are valuable wild life food, and very attractive to birds. In Europe the Rowan tree berries are still sometimes used to make a beer. The fruits of all three are edible but quite bland. The American species are plants of the eastern mixed forest and and the northern boreal forest.
Mountain ash, which are in the genus Sorbus, are so-called because their leaves are feather-compound, as are the leaves of true ash trees, in the olive family (the Oleaceaea). The two genera, however, are totally unrelated.
The high bush cranberry, Viburnum americanum, is not a cranberry at all but is in the honeysuckle family, the Caprifoliaceae. Its common name indicates the similarity in taste of the berries to cranberries, which are plants of acid bogs and are in the heath family, the Ericaceae. The ripe berries of the high bush cranberry are edible but very acid and astringent. They are good wildlife food, as they hang on the bush throughout the winter. They are also useful for jams and jellies if enough sugar is added. The high bush cranberry is also a plant of the far north, and where conditions are suitable makes an excellent landscape bush, with decorative berries, handsome leaves and brilliant fall color. The deer love it, however.
Both high bush cranberry and mountain ash berries were used as food by Native Americans. The former had some medicinal uses as a "blood purifier"and liver tonic by the Indians, and the latter some European folk medicine use as a febrifuge.
The fruits of fall "ain't just apples," and we will find some more to talk about as fall progresses.