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Mystery plant has edible berries

Don Kinzler, Growing Together gardening columnist for The ForumMichael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 2
The fruits on a highbush cranberry plant are edible, though their tartness makes them better suited for tasty jellies and syrups. Special to The Forum2 / 2

Q: Can you identify the plant with the red berries in the photo? Royce Aardahl, Sauk Rapids, Minn.

A: The plant goes by several common names including highbush cranberry, American cranberrybush and American cranberrybush viburnum. Its botanical name is Viburnum trilobum, now possibly updated to Viburnum opulus americanum.

Although smaller landscape viburnums have been developed, the native highbush cranberry easily grows eight to ten feet high and wide.

The fruits are edible, and I've eaten them fresh, but their tartness makes them better suited for tasty jellies and syrups. Native Americans used highbush cranberries, when available, as an ingredient in pemmican, a mixture of meat and berries dried into a long-lasting food.

Q: I read your interesting article on fall lawncare. Can you recommend an effective herbicide? As for fertilizer, what's your opinion of Milorganite? I've used it regularly for two seasons, with good but necessarily great results. - Dusty Mjoen, Moorhead.

A: I've used bags of Milorganite also, and it's a good product. But like most organic fertilizers, it's relatively low in nitrogen, which is the element most needed for lush grass growth.

Nitrogen is the first of the three numbers listed on a fertilizer's analysis. Organic fertilizers tend to be slower-acting, but longer-lasting. If you would like to continue using Milorganite, apply a higher nitrogen standard-type lawn fertilizer in September and then broadcast Milorganite in spring.

The most common lawn weed herbicides contain 2,4-D as the active ingredient listed in fine print on the labels of products made by Ortho, Bayer and other companies. The active ingredient dicamba is stronger, but shouldn't be used over the root zone of trees and shrubs, as it can move downward in soil and affect non-target plants. Triclopyr and quinclorac are newer ingredients found especially in herbicides for difficult weeds. Spray-type weed killers are much more effective than granular weed-and-feed products, and mid-September is a great time to attack weeds.

Q: Is it too late in the year to plant boulevard trees? - Ron Boe, Fargo.

A: It's not too late. In fact, September is a very good month for planting trees and shrubs. Although the tops don't produce new shoots now, the roots do grow, establishing the plants and getting a jump on next spring. Fall planting has an advantage, rather than delaying until next year.

Q: I see these gorgeous autumn mum baskets and want to buy them, but I seem to kill them off in a week. Advice? Catherine McMullen, Fargo.

A: Mums are heavy drinkers. Watering thoroughly (until water runs out the bottom drain) once a day is usually necessary. It's hardly possible to overwater a mum. Don't give little sips, but soak them thoroughly. Choose plants that have some unopened flower buds, and they'll continue to bloom for weeks. If all flowers are fully opened, their blooming season is nearer the end. One dose of Miracle Gro in the first watering after purchase is a good idea. Follow the package rate for outdoor plants.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.