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Blueberry bushes are deciduous shrubs that produce clusters of edible small purple-blue berries in the summer. They are only one of many berry-producing bushes within the Vaccinium family. Close relatives include the loganberry, lingonberry, partridgeberry, whortleberry, and even the cranberry. Blueberry bushes are one of the few plants that is truly native to North America, though they can now be found elsewhere as well. The primary species of wild blueberries that grow in North America are the lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and the sour top (Vaccinium myrtilloides). These shrubs produce delicious nutrient-dense fruit. Lowbush blueberries are usually referred to as the "wild blueberries.” Some dwarf varieties exist as well. Not all blueberries taste the same because depending on the variety, the taste and size will differ from one another.
The bark texture of an adult shrub is thin and smooth. Stems are reddish in color.
Young twigs are usually greenish-brown and covered with numerous lenticels. Twigs are hairless and slightly angled or with two vertical lines of very fine short hairs along the length of the stem. Mature stems are reddish-brown to dark brown with flaky bark. Buds are alternate, small, scaly, and pointed.
The lowbush blueberry shrub grows 7 to 38cm (3 - 15") high. The sour top blueberry bush is larger, reaching heights of 15 to 62cm (6 - 24") tall.
Blueberry bushes have leaves that are dark green with yellow accents on the veins. They are smooth and do not have serrated edges. Leaf clusters are pinnate, and tend to grow in small groupings (6 or less). Blueberry leaves are ovate, in an irregular oval or slightly egg shape that is wider at the bottom than the top. During the fall they turn brilliant shades ranging from yellow to bright crimson, depending on the species.
Wild blueberries produce flowers that range from white to light pink in color. Clusters of a few to several hanging, short-stalked, bell-like flowers occur at the tips of 1-year-old twigs. Flowers are urn-shaped, around 5cm (¼") long, 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. Flowers usually appear anywhere from mid to late spring.
The common lowbush blueberry has a powdery-looking coating and taste sweet. Occasionally the coating is absent making the berries a dark bluish black. These wild fruits are sometimes cultivated for mass production. The sour top blueberries are less sweet than the lowbush blueberry.
Blueberry shrubs must have acidic soil in order to grow. This shrub likes well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. Blueberries are intolerant of excessive moisture because their shallow root systems are easily damaged by standing water. Blueberry shrubs like rocky environments, sandy savannas, sandy woodlands, cliffs, and rocky upland woodlands. They can also be found in alpine or subalpine zones, meadows and fields, as well as mountain summits and plateaus.
The berries are a sought-after edible fruit by people and wildlife. They are high in fibre, nutrients, and rich in antioxidants.
EdibleWildFood.com is informational in nature. While we strive to be 100% accurate, it is solely up to the reader to ensure proper plant identification. Some wild plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects.
We are not health professionals, medical doctors, nor are we nutritionists. It is up to the reader to verify nutritional information and health benefits with qualified professionals for all edible plants listed in this web site. Please click here for more information.