The na­ture of things

Cow­ber­ries and their kind

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by Vic­to­ria Marston

WILD, wind-blasted moors have their own sort of beauty and a hun­kered-down flora pre­cisely at­tuned to nu­tri­ent-poor, but well­wa­tered ground. Such places, chiefly the heaths and moun­tains of North Wales, the Pen­nines and Scot­land, host our great­est pop­u­la­tions of use­ful er­i­ca­ceous plants, where the sun­shine is never over­bear­ingly strong and the soil is re­as­sur­ingly acidic.

Bees for­ag­ing in such places find the dainty, bell flow­ers of Erica, Cal­luna and Vac­cinium well worth vis­it­ing in due sea­son, wild-heather honey be­ing fa­mous for its aro­matic sweet­ness. How­ever, in win­ter, the fruits of Vac­cinium come into their own, pro­vid­ing a life­line for non-hi­ber­nat­ing ro­dents, berry-eat­ing birds, foxes and hares. Vac­cinium vi­tis-idaea (pic­tured, top left, top right) oc­curs across the North­ern Hemi­sphere’s cold­est re­gions, in­clud­ing the se­verely chal­leng­ing arc­tic tun­dra, tol­er­at­ing tem­per­a­tures of –40˚C.

Best known here as cow­berry, its nu­mer­ous monikers in­clude foxberry, par­tridge­berry, red whortle­berry, wolf­berry and lin­gonberry. Grow­ing in low, dense mats via creep­ing shoots, cow­berry’s com­mer­cial po­ten­tial has given rise to

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