Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.)

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Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.) is a plant found in acidic sandy or peaty soils. Its berries have been used for food since ancient times and both leaves and berries are used for medicinal purposes. The berries are valuable for their carbohydrates, pectin, and organic acids. The leaves have antibiotic properties and stimulate urinary excretion. The main reasons for this are various anthropogenic factors, such as intensification of forest preparation, forest compaction, and the development of recreational areas. In some countries, such as Sweden, Finland, Germany, the USA, and Russia, attempts are being made to cultivate the lingonberry. Research is also being carried out by our neighbors – the Poles, Latvians, Estonians, and Belarusians.

The biology of the lingonberry, its growth and development in natural habitats, and its cultivation and propagation are currently being studied. Farmers are interested in how to establish industrial berry production on infertile land.

Taking care of Lingonberry and knowing how to do that can give huge advantage.

Get familiar with Diseases and Pests of Lingonberries

Lingonberry
Lingonberry

The history of lingonberry research 

The study of lingonberry began in the late 19th century. In the 1960s, new work on the chemical composition of the berry appeared. These included adjustments to the quantities of chemical substances in relation to local conditions, new studies on biologically active substances, and the variation of various substances during ripening and storage after picking. The distribution, growth, fruiting, and phenology of lingonberries have also been studied for quite some time. c z

In Sweden, lingonberries have been grown in experimental plots since 1966. However, at that time the possibilities and difficulties of growing lingonberries were not yet known. Research began on its ecology, generative and vegetative propagation, different cultivation methods, growing conditions (irrigation, organic and mineral fertilizers and mulching, chemical weed control), selection of the best morphotypes from natural habitats, and mechanized harvesting. Cultivation work has started in Finland and the USA and continues in Germany, Poland, Scotland, Russia, Belarus, and Lithuania. In Lithuania, the lingonberry has been studied since 1969 by scientists at the Institute of Botany.

Biology

Vaccinium vitis-idaea L. is an evergreen plant of the genus Vaccinium in the Ericaceae family, distributed throughout the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, including tundra. The southern limit of distribution of the lingonberry coincides with that of the Scots pine. In addition to the common lingonberry, a variety of white-berry lingonberry (Vaccinium vitisidaea var. leucocarpum Asch et Magnus) grows in Lithuania. The lingonberry is widespread throughout the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere. In Lithuania, it is most common in the eastern, south-eastern, and southern parts. It is best found in pine forests, although it is not uncommon in spruce forests, birch forests, aspen forests, coppice forests, and intermediate bogs.

The lingonberry is a 10-30 cm tall shrub with a thin (2-4 mm diameter) long (up to 6 m long) branched rhizome. The twigs are rounded, downy, and green when young, but later they turn brown and fall off. Leaves are bracteate, 1,1-2,7 cm long and 0,6-1,1 cm wide, elliptic, obtuse, glabrous, thick, leathery, dark green on the upper side and light green, richly punctate (dotted with brown glands) on the lower side, with downward-curving margins, with a short petiole (0,5-3 mm). The flowers are clustered in clusters of 3-16 on the tops of the twigs, sometimes singly, and have an unpleasant odor. The corolla is white or white-pink, bell-shaped, usually with 4 blunt lobes. Fruit is a red, usually rounded, with a cup at the apex, juicy berry up to 8(10) mm in diameter, weighing about 0,3 g. The berries grow in clusters of usually 5-6, less often 1-3, sometimes 12-16. 100 berries usually weigh 15-30 g, sometimes slightly more. The berries contain 5-50 small reddish-brown seeds.

The lingonberry usually flowers twice a year, in June May, and July-August, with individual plants flowering until frost. The start of berry growth almost coincides with the end of the mass flowering. The berries are produced in 21-24 days from the beginning of bud formation. The berries begin to ripen from the base of the cluster and ripen at different times, with the first ripening in mid-August (approximately 70-90 days after the start of flowering) and ripening before frost.

They reproduce almost exclusively vegetatively by rhizomes, with an annual growth of 8-10 cm. Seedling strawberries take 3-5 years to bear fruit, but seedlings are rarely found in nature. The bush survives for 10 years or more, the rhizome for tens or hundreds of years.

Lingonberry and stump
Lingonberry and stump

Chemical composition of berries and leaves

Lingonberries contain up to 84-88 % water, 5-8 % sugars, mainly monosaccharides, about 1,7 % pectin, and up to 3 % organic acids, mainly citric and malic, as well as oxalic, acetic, pyruvic, and others. They also contain benzoic acid (0,05 % to 0,15 %), which kills microbes that cause decay and souring. The berries and the products made from them are therefore well preserved. Lingonberries also contain vitamins: C up to 21 mg%, B and B, 0.02 mg% each, carotene 0.07 mg%. Lingonberries contain tannic and coloring substances, flavones, glucosides (arbutin and vaccinin), which give the berries a bitter taste. The red substance idein has been found in the peel. The nitrogen content of lingonberries varies between 0,6 and 0,9 %. Other important chemical elements include phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, etc. The berries are completely free of poisonous lead.

The leaves contain 53 % water, 11 to 13 % arbutin, and 8 to 9 % tannins, as well as phytoncides and minerals.

Lingonberries are honey plants. A lingonberry plant can produce 200 kg of honey per hectare. Lingonberries are eaten by a wide range of birds and are also favored by some beasts.

Medicinal properties

Lingonberries and their products are recommended for dietary nutrition, avitaminosis, and for thirst-quenching in patients with fever. Soaked, cooked, and unprocessed lingonberries are recommended for gastritis when the acidity of the gastric juice is reduced. Fresh berries and their juices are recommended for high blood pressure.

Lingonberry leaf tea is used to stimulate urinary excretion, kidney and gall bladder stones, rheumatism, gout, remove minerals from the body, and treat swellings of various kinds. A decoction of lingonberry leaves is given to people who do not pass urine at night.

Varieties

The yield of the berry depends greatly on the variety. When selecting varieties of lingonberry, it is not only the size of the crop that is important but also the distribution of the berries: the larger the bunches, the more productive the work of harvesting the same amount of berries. The largest bunches are the ‘Erntekrone’ and ‘Erntesegen’ varieties. Some varieties, such as ‘Koralle’, ‘Erntesegen’, and ‘Erntekrone’, have a more intense second blossom than the first. A pronounced periodicity of fruiting (flushing) is a poor characteristic of the variety. It has been observed that there is not much variation in the productivity of ‘Erntekrone’ and ‘Masovia’. ‘Koralle’ produces two crops each year.

Around 20 varieties of lingonberry have been developed. The following Dutch and German varieties are known: ‘Koralle’, ‘Erntedank’, ‘Erntekrone’, ‘Erntesegen’ and ‘Red Pearl’, ‘Scarlet’, ‘Ammerland’ and ‘Erzgebirgperle’; Swedish varieties: ‘Sussi’, ‘Sanna’, ‘Ida’ and ‘Linnea’; Polish varieties: ‘Masovia’, ‘Runo Bielawskie’; Russian varieties: ‘Kostromskaja rozovaja’, ‘Kostromichka’ and ‘Rubin’; US varieties: ‘Splendor’, ‘Regal. In Lithuania, 12 varieties of lingonberries are grown in the collection of the Botanical Institute. In south-eastern Lithuania, ‘Erntedank’, ‘Koralle’ and ‘Masovia’ are early fruiting, ‘Erntesegen’, ‘Kostromička’, ‘Kostromskaja rozovaja’ are early maturing, ‘ErntekTone’ is late maturing. Later varieties often do not have time to produce their second crop of berries before frost.

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