The reason for even thinking of doing a series of plants like this was because of this plant – Vaccinium vitis idaea (Lingonberry/Cowberry) and the next plant in this blog series Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry). They are fairly similar and their habitats cross over into each other’s. So unless you know what you are looking for you can easily make a mistake.
It isn’t a ‘dangerous’ mistake to make, but it can spoil a recipe!
Above is a photo of the Lingonberry in its typical habitat. Both species have leathery leaves as well as similar flowers and fruit. But the Bearberry prefers even drier surroundings than the Lingonberry.
The Lingonberry leaves are oval as you see above, whereas the Bearberry leaves are paddle-shaped; The Lingonberry leaves have small dots on the underside, whereas the Bearberry leaves are finely veined; Both sets of flowers are typically Heather-like, but the Lingonberry flower is bell-shaped and the Bearberry flowers are more urn-shaped. The rhizomes of the Lingonberry sit deeper in the humus than the Bearberry, which are prostrate and limply creep across a surface.
The fruit for both plants are in clusters, but the Bearberry fruit has a slightly flatter spherical shape than that of the Lingonberry. Most importantly the Lingonberry has an inferior ovary (the flower parts arise above the ovary), meaning that the remains of the sepals are at the bottom of the hanging fruit, distal to the pedicel (stalk). The opposite is true of the Bearberry where the calyx (sepals) remain on the fruit around the pedicel.
If you look at the painted berry at the beginning of the last blog when I started discussing the species, you can see the remnants of the sepals. Compare it with these three pictures showing the development of the flower and swelling of the ovary in its inferior position.
At the end of the previous blog I showed you some of the sketches I did from various Lingonberry plants. Here you see additional ones and you may notice that they were part of the basis for my final artwork.
Below you see my first compositional plan for the Lingonberry picture, but I didn’t really like it. I suppose in this plan I wanted to avoid painting so many small, but detailed leaves. As you now know they have several diagnostic elements to them, but at the same time are quite shiny. The composition just didn’t give me the right ‘feeling’ of the plant.
One weekend I had been out picking fruit with my daughter and we were discussing the way the plants grew and the impression they gave. We again looked at my planned composition and she suggested I replace the flower on the stem with a fruit cluster.
That was the answer – the series emphasis was about the fruit. I decided to do a trial on vellum of the new piece of stem with the berries and this became the basis for the final composition.
My first sketches of this plant were done in March 2017, but I didn’t start painting the final picture until October 2022 (after harvesting), finishing December 2022. Because this plant is not deciduous, it allowed me to work on the leaves right up until the first fall of snow.
The native range of this species is Subarctic & Temp. Northern Hemisphere including the UK and Norway. It is a subshrub and grows primarily in the temperate biome.Source: Kew – Plants if the World Online
The species in my next blog scheduled for 8 June 2023 is the Bearberry, favoured by bears when they wake up from their hibernation – or so I am told.
Eva’s Raw Lingonberry Jam
Blend together the berries and the sugar until berries well macerated. If possible let it stand for few hours in the fridge before being used.
Eva Biringvad gave me this recipe and sent me on a ‘no-return’ journey. Her father made the most delicious bread, so we ate chunks of his bread with sour cream and the raw lingonberry on top. Delicious!
This is also used with meals instead of Cranberry sauce – and it is much nicer.