Vaccinium angustifolium

Late Low Blueberry

Vaccinium angustifolium, Late Lowbush Blueberry

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods

..

Name:

  • Vaccinium, from the Latin vaccinium, "blueberry, whortleberry"
  • angustifolium, from the Latin, angustus, "drawn together, narrow"; and folium, "leaf"; hence "narrow leaf"
  • Late Low Blueberry, from
  • Other common names include: Low Sweet Blueberry

Taxonomy:

  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Dilleniidae
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 23579
  • Also known as Vaccinium brittonii, Vaccinium lamarckii, Vaccinium nigrum

Identification:

Description:

  • A low-growing subshrub, 2"-24" inches in height, generally forming dense, extensive colonies.
  • Leaves
  • Roots shallow and fibrous but may possess a taproot, which can extend to 3' in depth. Woody rhizomes average 3/16" in diameter and 2 1/2" in depth.
  • Flowers in short, few-flowered terminals or axillary racemes.
  • Fruit a globular berry averaging 1/8"-1/2" in diameter; some cultivars

  • to 1". Berries very sweet. Each contains numerous tiny nutlets less than 1/16" in length.

Distribution:

  • Labrador and Newfoundland west to southern Manitoba and

  • Minnesota and south to northern Illinois in the West, and from New England through the Appalachians to West Virginia and Virginia in the East.

Habitat:

  • Mixed conifer and hardwood forests, in headlands, high moors, upland bogs, peaty barrens, along sandy riverbanks, and on exposed rocky outcrops of the Canadian Shield. A prominent component of Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana) barrens, maple groves, oak savannas, and Second Growth regeneration forests. Common in abandoned pastures and clearcuts, and along roadsides.
  • Climate: Tolerant of a wide range of temperature and rainfall.
  • Soils: Most commonly associated with light, well-drained acidic soils. Soils generally have a high organic content but may be relatively low in available mineral nutrients. Soils are often shallow and discontinuous. Grows on loam, sandy loam, gravelly loam, and silt or clay loam developed from sandstone, shale, or glacial drift. Parent materials vary but include granite, quartzite, gneiss, shale, and sandstone pavement.
  • Grows on acidic soils with pH ranging from 2.8 to 6.6 but reportedly thrives on soils with a pH of 4.2 to 5.2.
  • Acid rain tolerant (pH < 3.5). Can survive at least short term exposure to acid rain with a pH of 2.5. Could increase in response to acid rain in boreal forests. Also apparently resistant to emissions from zinc smelters.
  • Plants generally grow better on undisturbed than on tilled soil.
  • Understory dominant or codominant in a variety of forest communities. Common overstory dominants include White Pine (Pinus strobus), Jack Pine (Pinus banksiana), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Red Oak (Quercus rubra).

Fire:

  • Well adapted to fire, generally sprouting from rhizomes or root crown after aboveground vegetation is removed or damaged by fire. Some seed may be transported by birds and mammals, but reseeding is generally limited to favorable sites in good years and appears to play a minimal role in postfire reestablishment. Fire removes decadent aboveground vegetation and promotes vigorous growth. Peatlands, lakes, and rocky outcrops serve as natural fire breaks. Fires in these areas are frequently patchy, creating forest openings into which blueberry can rapidly expand. Plants within these openings receive sufficient light for good vigor and fruit production.
  • Well adapted to survive in many fire regimes.In drier inland areas, fire-free intervals are much shorter. Fire is important in maintaining Jack Pine communities in which late low blueberry occurs as an understory dominant. In Jack Pine communities of Minnesota, fire frequency has been estimated at 100 years.Occasional fires maintain the open character of these communities and allow for the continued prominence of blueberries.
  • Increases after fire may be due in part to the stimulatory effect of nutrients added by ash deposition or changes in pH. Blackened ground absorbs heat and may promote earlier fruit ripening in general.

Associates:

  • Trees:
  • Shrubs:
  • Herbs: Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense),
  • Ground Covers:
  • Mammals: Black Bear, eastern cottontail, and white-tailed deer feed on the foliage; rarely eaten by Moose. The reproductive success of black bears has been correlated to annual blueberry crops. Poor crops can limit black bear reproductive success as well as overall survival in aspen-birch-conifer forests of northeastern Minnesota. Other wildlife species that feed on the fruit include: red fox, raccoon, red squirrel, eastern spotted skunk, red backed vole, and many species of mice and chipmunks.
  • Birds: Flower buds eaten by Ruffed Grouse during the winter and are considered a major food source during February in some areas. Other birds feeding on the fruits, include American robin, common crow, eastern bluebird, ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, gray catbird, brown thrasher, rufous-sided towhee, black-capped chickadee, starling, cardinal, scarlet tanager, Canada goose, herring gull, whimbrel, and thrushes.

History:

  • Native Americans traditionally valued fruit. Berries were eaten fresh, dried, baked and added to soups, or mixed with venison and other meats.
  • Early European settlers ate the fruit fresh or used it to make jams, jellies, and preserves.

Uses:

  • Fruit an excellent source of vitamin C, natural sugars, niacin, and manganese. Berries are relatively high in carbohydrates and soluble solids but contain little sodium or fat. Fruit averages approximately 41 calories per 1/2 cup, with sugar concentration of 0.03% to 0.34%.
  • The most important commercial blueberry in the northeastern United States and Canada. It is grown commercially in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Maine. A major portion of the crop is gathered from managed wild stands.
  • Most fruit used in processed foods such as pie or muffin mixes, pastries, jam, ice cream, and yogurt. Berries also used to make wine and juice products. The blueberry most commonly used for commercial canning; fruit is also freeze dried. The development of the frozen food industry in the 1940's promoted rapid expansion of blueberry cultivation.
  • Throughout its range, prized by recreational berry-pickers. Blueberry picking is an important recreational activity in many areas. In the early 1980's, an estimated 20% of summer tourists engaged in blueberry picking in parts of the Great Lakes region.

Reproduction:

  • Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes.
  • First flower at about 4 years of age. Some clones are self-fertile, others self-sterile. Generally pollinated by wild bees. Shrubs with relatively few flowers may fail to attract pollinators, and shrubs with fewer than 30 flowers rarely produce fruit. Productive plants may bear more than 400 flowers.
  • Seed dispersal by various birds and mammals. Robin and black bear are particularly effective long distance dispersal agents. Deer mice, chipmunks, and red back vole are important local dispersers.
  • Seedling establishment variable. Seedlings are rare in many parts of this species' range. Poor seedling establishment is generally attributable to unfavorable soil temperatures and water stress.
  • Vegetative reproduction is the primary mode of regeneration. In the absence of disturbance, clones increase by expansion of rhizomes. After fire or other types of disturbance, plants often sprout from the stem base, from underground rhizomes, or from unburned belowground portions of aerial stems.
  • Fruit production strongly influenced by weather conditions, climate, pollinator availability, light intensity, genetic factors, and nutrient levels at the time of bud initiation. Fruit production limited under low light intensity; production virtually nil at 50 to 500 foot-candles. Shade produced by competing weeds can often reduce fruit yields.
  • Cross-pollination by insects is necessary for good fruit set.Yields tend to be lower in areas which also include Velvetleaf Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides).

Propagation:

  • By seed, following cold stratification.
  • Seed germinates best when exposed to light. Fresh seed germinates readily at 70 degrees Fahrenheit under a regime of 16 hours light per 24-hour period. Germination generally begins within 3-4 weeks and continues for 6-8 weeks. Stratification and pretreatment with gibberellin can speed germination.
  • Propagated from hard, semihard, and softwood cuttings, and from rhizome segments. Side-shoot cuttings can be used to supplement regular cuttings where rapid propagation is desired. Cuttings generally root within 6 weeks; those taken in fall and winter often root best.

Cultivation:

  • Prefers cool, acidic soils
  • Ornamental and can be used as shrubbery, hedges, or as fruiting ground cover.

Links:

Boreal border
Last updated on 9 August 1999