In her latest book, Susan poses the questions:

As the planet warms, what will happen to a berry that needs a number of chilling hours in order
to fruit?

Will it adapt, or will it move to colder climates?

And, if so, what will be lost?

America's Founding Fruit looks at thirty years of flowering times for cranberries to determine if the data indicates a trend.

Cranberry flowering times and climate change, a paper co-authored by Susan in the
International Journal of Biometeorology, further explores the subject.

Photo right:
Susan as a toddler on her great-grandparents' cranberry bog.


A more perfect fruit would be hard to design.

Early settlers called it a 'craneberry' because its flower (angled head on upright stem) reminded them of the various species of cranes who shared the earth and sky with them.

We call it a cranberry.

AMERICA'S FOUNDING FRUIT: the cranberry in a new environment
October 2014 Release

cranberry bog









The cranberry, "Vaccinium macrocarpon" is a perennial vine, one of only three cultivated fruit native to North America. Its story began as the glaciers retreated about 15,000 years ago. Years later, it kept Native Americans and Pilgrims alive through the winter months, served as a diplomatic gesture to King Charles in 1677, protected sailors on board whaling ships from scurvy, fed General Grant's men in 1864, provided over a million pounds of sustenance per year to our World War II doughboys, and today is a powerful tool in the fight against various forms of cancer.

This book looks at the history and legacy of America's superfruit to evaluate the effects of climate change on the cranberry and other fruits as they migrate to colder environments. Susan Playfair interviewed growers throughout the country (primarily on Cape Cod, but also in New Jersey and Wisconsin), scientists studying the health benefits of cranberries, plant geneticists mapping the cranberry genome, a plant biologist who provided her with the first regression analysis of cranberry flowering times, and a migrant beekeeper trying to figure out why the bees are dying.

Taking a broader view than the other books on cranberries, America's Founding Fruit presents a brief history of cranberry cultivation and its role in our national history, takes the reader through the entire cultivation process from planting through distribution, and assesses the possible effects of climate change on the cranberry and other plans and animals. Could the American cranberry cease growing in he US and, if so, what would be lost?

An Excerpt from America's Founding Fruit

"Where Wampanoags walked silently gathering wild cranberries at the edges of footpaths in the woods, where Clark Griffith’s ancestors forged pots, saucepans, skillets, stoves and washpans from nearby bog iron, where families of forty to fifty Portuguese pickers used to escape the cities to stay in bog houses for forty or so days while they harvested forty or fifty acres of cranberries, where the caramel-colored sand hills provided nourishment to produce the world’s finest cranberries, that’s where new homes now stand.

As newly developed hybrids have made it possible to grow larger berries and produce higher yields, and as the markets for cranberries have expanded, the land previously available to grow berries has been turned into starter homes. There’s not much left for farming cranberries.

"I've been so lucky to be part of growing cranberries in the time and place I did,” Gary Weston says. “When cranberries are grown in Canada or another country, but not here, cranberries will still be available, but something uniquely American will be lost."