Northern Highbush Blueberry

Vaccinium corymbosum

Summary 5

Vaccinium corymbosum, the northern highbush blueberry, is a species of blueberry native to eastern North America, from the Great Lakes region east to Nova Scotia, and south through the Northeastern United States and Appalachian region, to the Southeastern United States in Mississippi. Other common names include blue huckleberry, tall huckleberry, swamp huckleberry, high blueberry, and swamp blueberry.

Adaptation 6

Highbush blueberry grows best and most commonly in moist or wet peat of moderate to high acidity – in and around marshes, swamps, and lakes, often with extended flooding, as well as on floodplains, sheltered slopes, and ravines. It also occurs in drier areas – dunes and barrier beaches, rocky hillsides, oak woods, and pine woods. It occurs as a dominant or co-dominant on Appalachian "heath balds." All of these are more or less open sites, and because of its shade intolerance, highbush blueberry can be eliminated as shading increases with overstory cover. Flowering (February-)March-June, sporadically in the southern portion of its range; fruiting (April-)May-October, about 62 days after flowering.

Barcode data: vaccinium corymbosum 7

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.

Description 8

This deciduous-leaved shrub is 3-15' tall, branching occasionally. The short trunk and larger branches of this shrub have bark that is somewhat shredded and gray to gray-brown. Small branches and twigs are brownish yellow, brown, or red; they are either glabrous or minutely pubescent in fine lines, and often glandular-warty. Young shoots are light green, terete, and either glabrous or minutely pubescent in fine lines. Alternate leaves occur along the twigs and young shoots. These leaves are 1-3" long and ½-1½" across; they are elliptic to ovate in shape, while their margins are either smooth or finely serrated and often finely ciliate. The upper surface of the leaves is dark green, medium green, or yellowish green, glabrous, and slightly waxy; the lower surface is pale green and either glabrous or finely pubescent along the veins. The petioles of the leaves are light green and very short (about ¼" in length). Small clusters of nodding flowers are produced from either lateral or terminal shoots, often in succession along individual branches. These flowers are about 1/3" (8 mm.) in length. Each flower consists of a tubular corolla, a short calyx, 10 included stamens, and a pistil with a single style. The corolla is white to pinkish white with 5 short broad teeth along its outer rim that are recurved. The calyx is light green and glabrous with 5 short broad teeth. The calyx is much shorter than the corolla. The pedicels of the flowers are light green to red and either glabrous or finely short-pubescent; they are up to ½" in length. The pedicel bases have conspicuous bracts that are light green to red, elliptic to ovate in shape, and glabrous. The blooming period occurs during late spring for about 2 weeks. Fertile flowers are replaced globoid berries that become about 1/3" (8 mm.) across at maturity. Mature berries are blue to blue-black with a white bloom; their interiors are sweet to sweet-tart and juicy, containing many tiny seeds. The root system is woody and spreading. This shrub spreads by reseeding itself. The deciduous leaves turn red during the autumn.

Faunal associations 9

The flowers are cross-pollinated by various bees, including honeybees, bumblebees, and Andrenid bees. These insects obtain nectar and/or pollen from the flowers. Other insects feed on High-Bush Blueberry and other blueberries in a more destructive manner. The caterpillars of several butterflies feed on either the flowers or leaves of these shrubs; these species include Callophrys augustinus (Brown Elfin), Callophrys henrici (Henry's Elfin), Colias interior (Pink-Edged Sulfur), Polygonia faunus (Green Comma), and Satyrium liparops strigosum (Striped Hairstreak). In addition, the caterpillars of such moths as Acronicta tritona (Triton Dagger Moth), Catocala gracilis (Graceful Underwing), Sphinx canadensis (Canadian Sphinx), and Xestia normaniana (Norman's Dart) feed on these shrubs; see the Moth Table for a more complete listing of these species. Other insect feeders include the beetle larvae of Oberea myops (Rhododendron Stem Borer) and Oberea tripunctata (Dogwood Twig Borer), the leaf beetles Altica sylvia and Neochlamisus cribripennis, the larvae of Dasineura oxycoccana (Blueberry Gall Midge) and Rhagoletis mendax (Blueberry Fruit Fly), Clastoptera proteus (Dogwood Spittlebug) and Clastoptera saintcyri (Heath Spittlebug), the leafhoppers Limotettix vaccinii and Scaphytopius magdalensis, and Mesolecanium nigrofasciatum (Terrapin Scale). Many vertebrate animals feed on the berries of these shrubs. Birds that feed on the berries include the Ruffed Grouse, Eastern Bluebird, Catbird, Veery, Wood Thrush, and Sandhill Crane (see the Bird Table for a more complete listing of these species).  Blueberry fruits are also eaten by many mammals, including the Black Bear,  Red Fox, Raccoon, Eastern Skunk, White-Footed Mouse, and Jumping Mouse. The twigs are browsed by the White-Tailed Deer and Cottontail Rabbit during the winter. The value of this shrub to wildlife is high.

Habitat characteristics 10

More info for the term: xeric

Highbush blueberry is intolerant of shade [18]. Along the Atlantic
Coast and in the Great Lakes region, highbush blueberry is most
frequently found at relatively low elevations along the edges of swamps
and bogs; along the sandy margins of lakes, ponds, and streams; and
within open areas of moist woods [18,26]. It is less abundant in
flatwoods, gray birch (Betula populifolia) scrubland, pine barrens,
bayheads, upland ericaceous meadows, upland woods, ravines, and mountain
summits. It rarely occurs in xeric pine-oak woods and cut-over pine
savannas [26].

Highbush blueberry grows best on hummocks or raised bogs which provide
moist, acidic, well-aerated, highly-organic soils optimal for growth
[17,18]. It is typically observed on soil with pH values between 2.7
and 6.6 and where nitrogen and phosphorus are quite low [24]. Plants
can withstand extended periods of flooding [1].

Key plant community associations 11

More info for the terms: fern, hardwood, minerotrophic, peat, peatland

Highbush blueberry occupies numerous habitats but seldom occurs as
community dominant. Two habitats where it occurs as a dominant or
codominant are open swamps or bogs and high-elevation balds.

In the Appalachian Oak and Northern Hardwood Regions
highbush-blueberry-dominated thickets are common on peatlands with
strong water-level fluctuations and weakly minerotrophic water [3,12].
Thickets may also occur on a quaking mat. Codominants include swamp
azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), downy blueberry (V. attrococcum),
mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronata), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia
baccata), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), casandra (Chamaedaphne
calyculata), black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), and sheep laurel
(Kalmia angustifolia) [3,4,11,12].

Highbush blueberry codominates high elevation "heath balds" with
rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.) [28].

Highbush-blueberry-dominated communities have been described in the
following publications:

Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains [28]
Community classification of the vascular vegetation of a New Hampshire
peatland [4]
The vegetation of the low-shrub bogs of northern New Jersey and adjacent
New York: ecosystems at their southern limit [12]
The ecology of peat bogs of the glaciated northeastern United States: a
community profile [3]
Demography and age structure of a central New York shrub-carr 94 years
after fire [12]

Other uses and values 12

Highbush blueberry fruit was eaten by Native Americans. Leaves and
flowers were used for various medicinal purposes [26].

Highbush blueberry is one of the most agriculturally important
blueberries of North America. It is extensively cultivated in New
Jersey, Michigan, North Carolina, and Washington and to a lesser extent
in Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York,
Massachusetts, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia [26].
In 1989, there were over 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) in commercial
highbush blueberry production in North America [8]. Berry yields in
commercial fields often average 2 to 2.5 tons per acre (4.5-5.5 t/ha)
[8]. Since the 1920's, more than 50 highbush cultivars have been
developed [26].

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Annkatrin Rose, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  2. (c) Annkatrin Rose, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  3. (c) "<a href="""">Kentucky Native Plant Society</a>. Scanned by <a href="""">Omnitek Inc</a>.", some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  4. (c) Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  5. Adapted by Jonathan (JC) Carpenter from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA),
  6. Public Domain,
  7. (c) Barcode of Life Data Systems, some rights reserved (CC BY),
  8. (c) John Hilty, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  9. (c) John Hilty, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  10. Public Domain,
  11. Public Domain,
  12. Public Domain,

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