Vaccinium caespitosum (Dwarf Bilberry)
|Also known as:||Dwarf Huckleberry|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; dry to moist sandy or rocky soil; meadows, rocky ridges, pine woods, pine barrens|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||4 to 8 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Nodding flowers are single in the axils of the lowest leaves on a branch, about ¼ inch long, urn-shaped to nearly round, with 5 short, spreading lobes. Color is pink to nearly white. Inside the tube are 8 to 10 stamens surrounding a stout style that barely extends out of the tube. The calyx cupping the flower is pale green, bowl-shaped with 5 small lobes that shrink with age. Flower stalks are short, smooth and relatively stout.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are alternate, up to about 1 inch long, to ½ inch wide, usually broadest above the middle, sometimes elliptic, blunt to rounded at the tip, tapering to a stalkless base, and hairless. Edges are finely serrated with rounded teeth; teeth on the tip half typically have a small gland at the tip.
The upper leaf surface is light to dark green, the lower is pale and gland-dotted. Branches are yellowish-green to brownish or reddish-brown, the bark becoming somewhat flaky. New branches are minutely hairy, sometimes glandular. Stems are mostly prostrate. Plants may create dense mat from spreading rhizomes.
While researching Dwarf Bilberry, I came upon a number of images showing deep pink, hot pink, or pink and white striped flowers, some oval to nearly round. Those we encountered in Minnesota were much paler, the color reminiscent of pink-tinged frosted glass, and more narrowly urn-shaped. Natural variations abound! The flowers are very similar to Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), which has toothless leaves and bright red berries. Dwarf Bilberry is rather smaller than both Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) and Velvet-leaf Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides) and is further distinguished by having single flowers in the axils rather than clusters, and serrated leaves with gland-tipped teeth. The leaves also distinguish it from the rare Alpine Bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum).
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- fruiting Dwarf Bilberry plant
- a mat of Dwarf Bilberry with Wild Strawberry and Canada Mayflower
- Dwarf Bilberry hiding in the grass
- flowering branch
- atypical 4-lobed and 6-lobed flowers
Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lake County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?