Classif. Natural Order of Vaccinides. Octandria monogynia. L.
Genus OXYCOCA. Calyx superior four toothed. Corolla four parted, segments revolute. Eight stamina; filaments connivent; anthers bicorne, tubular. One style, stigma obtuse. Berry one celled many seeded. Small Evergreens.
Sp. Oxycoca macrocarpa. Creeping, branches ascending. Leaves oblong, obtuse, spreading, petiolate, nearly flat, glaucous beneath: pedicels elongated geminate, corolla with linear lanceolate segments, style straight: Berry large, spherical or ovate, more or less red. Vaccinium macracarpon, Ait. V. oxycocus, Var. Oblongifolius, Michaux.
Instead of a long description of this well known fruit, I add the definitions of two other species, one of which lately discovered is new.
2. Sp. Oxycoca vulgaris. Stem filiform, creeping, naked, leaves ovate revolute, obtuse, entire; segments of the corolla oval; berrj purple, oval, and small. In the North of Europe and Boreal America, in bogs.
3. Sp. Oxycoca Berberidea. Raf. Stem filiform branched, suberect; leaves oblong, obtuse, revolute, entire, hardly glaucous beneath; peduncles solitary, elongated, style incurved; berries red, oblong, oblique at the base. Discovered by Mr. John Carr, in Raccoon Swamp, in New Jersey, cultivated in Bartram's garden.
4. Sp. Oxycoca erythrocarpa. Pers. Stem erect, leaves oval, acuminate, serrulate, ciliated: berries scarlet. In the mountains of North Carolina.
Sub-genus. Glyciphylla, Raf. 1817. (Pollomia, Raf. 1820. Lasterpa, Torrey, 1825.) Corolla campanulate quadrifid. Flowers and berries caliculated, calicule bivalve.
5. Sp. Oxycoca hispidula. Pers. 1805. (White Cranberry, White Pollom, Sweetberry.) Stem procumbent, hispid; leaves oval, rounded, acuminate, hispid, entire, sessile: corolla campanulate, quadrifid: berries subsessile, caliculate, white, globular and hispid. In Boreal America, Canada, Catskill and Alleghany mountains. A multitude of names was given to it, having been united to the genera Vaccinium, Arbutus, Gautiera, &c. It is probably a peculiar genus, and the name of Oxycoca (Sourberry) does not apply to it, since it has sweet berries and leaves like Gautiera.
History. Another old genus wrongly abolished by Linnaeus, and united to Vaccinium, but restored by Persoon, &c. The name must be modified into Oxycoca, since there is a genus of insects called Coccus. The Vacciniums or Whortleberries, are larger shrubs, with urceolate quinquefid corolla, ten stamina, berries blue or black, less acid and more pleasant. All the Cranberries, (except the white kind) are very acid and somewhat acerb, yet become very palatable with sugar in the form of tarts, preserves, &tc. They are cooling, slightly laxative, and form an excellent diet both in health and disease. The large Cranberries peculiar to America, are the most usually gathered for our markets, and are even exported to Europe and the West Indies: keeping pretty well in barrels, and still better in bottles. They grow from Labrador to New Jersey, Michigan, and the mountains of Carolina in swamps, called Cranberry Swamps, when bearing them in abundance. They are usually as large as cherries, and somewhat similar in shape and color, although there appears to be some varieties of them. 1. Coccinea, almost scarlet. 2. Maculata, spotted of yellow and red. 3. Ovata, fruits oval. 4. Globosa, fruits globular. The second or European species is not larger than a pea. The third is similar in size and shape to Barberries. But the white or sweet Cranberry has very different qualities, the berries are snowy white, and similar to those of the Snowberry or Symphoria alba; they are quite sweet and taste somewhat like those of the Red Pollom or Gautiera. The Indians used to dry these fruits for use, they were called Atoca and Atopa in Canada, Ampimecan by the Chippeways; Pollom was the name of the sweet kind.
Properties. Refrigerant, laxative, anti-bilious, anti-putrid, diuretic, sub-astringent, &c. Useful in fevers, diarrhoea, scurvy, dropsy, and many other diseases. Their acid is said to be the oxalic and malic acid. Cranberry tarts are one of the American table luxuries. Their juice mixed with sugar or alcohol keeps a long while, and forms a fine acidulous drink with water, allaying thirst, and lessening the heat of the body. The berries last throughout the winter on the bushes, and are found in our markets from September to April; when gathered early and unripe, they are less red and acid, with more astringency. A rob and syrup is made also with them.
The Huckleberries, Bilberries or Whortleberries produced by nearly thirty species of the genus Vaccinium, are commonly round and black; their taste is sweet, subacid, sub-astringent and vinous. The V. corymbosum, V. dumosum, V. resinosum, &c. furnish most of those brought to our markets, and extensively eaten alone, or with milk or in tarts, pies, and puddings; the Indians made a kind of wine with them, and dried them in cakes. The V. frondosum and V. pennsylvanicum, have blue berries. They are all equivalents. Schoepf relates that a woman with the dropsy, was cured by eating a large quantity of berries of V. frondosum. The O. hispidula appears equivalent of Gautiera, but has not yet been tried as such.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.