Vaccinium angustifolium (Lowbush Blueberry)
|Also known as:|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, shade, sun; sandy or rocky soil; open woods, rock outcrops, pine barrens, peatlands|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||12 to 20 inches|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Clusters of a few to several hanging, short-stalked, bell-like flowers at ends of 1-year-old twigs. Flowers are urn-shaped, around ¼ inch long, white to pinkish with 5 fused petals with triangular tips that curl back. A cluster of brown, tubular stamens surround a single, pale green style in the center of the tube. The calyx is green but often tinged red, with 5 broadly triangular lobes that are appressed to slightly spreading. The calyx and flower stalks are hairless.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are simple and alternate, short-stalked to nearly stalkless, elliptic, ¾ to 1½ inches long, 1/3 to 2/3 inch wide, the blades leathery with finely serrated edges, sometimes minutely so with a gland-tipped hair at the tip of a tooth. The upper surface is pale to dark green, hairless and often shiny, the lower surface similar except lighter green and sometimes with sparse hairs along major veins. New leaves are often light green tinged red before turning dark green. Twigs are fine, green or with reddish tinge, appearing smooth to the naked eye but minutely hairy with a very fine, warty textured surface. Older stems can be reddish brown, even gray and scaly, but do not persist for many years before being replaced by younger canes. Plants often form colonies.
Who wouldn't enjoy a trailside snack of handfuls of sweet, ripe blueberries, or back in camp, berry loaded pancakes or a bowlful with cream and sugar? For many Minnesotans it's a cherished annual tradition. Many wannabe's are missing out simply because they've never really made the effort. Lowbush Blueberry is both common and widespread across Minnesota's northern forests and shouldn't require some insider secret on where to go. Still, some attention to the landscape around you is required and actually stepping out of your air conditioned SUV a must! While highly shade tolerant and capable of persisting in perpetuity in older growth forest, pickings will be necessarily slim for even the most dedicated berry picker. But loss of canopy from either logging or fire can release the population into dense, bushy plants loaded with fruit for numbers of years. Also older, sandy pine or oak barrens can be highly productive, especially in higher moisture years. Interestingly, early research to develop taller commercial varieties that would be cold hardier in Minnesota than the more eastern Highbush Blueberry (V. corymbosum), quickly discovered that our Lowbush species are not significantly more cold tolerant, but their low stature provides them protection in our deep winter snows. In Minnesota, Lowbush Blueberry is most similar to Velvet-leaf Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides), which is easily distinguished by its densely hairy leaves and stems.
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- Lowbush Blueberry open habitat
- flowering Lowbush Blueberry, woodland habitat
- fruiting Lowbush Blueberry
- fall color
- pinkish flowers
- finely serrated leaves
- Mmmm, mmmm, good!
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin and Lake counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?