Blueberry Botany

Blueberries November 22, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

Family:

Ericaceae

Genus:

Vaccinium, section Cyanococcus; the genus includes about 400 species

Commercially grown:

  • Highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum L.), distributed from Michigan east to Nova Scotia.
  • Southern highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum interspecific hybrid), adapted to regions with warm winters such as the southeastern United States.
  • Lowbush blueberry (V. angustifolium Ait.), native to the northeastern United States and parts of Canada.
  • Rabbiteye blueberry (V. ashei Reade), extends throughout the southeastern United States.

Morphology:

Bush height ranges

  • 5 cm to 20 cm for lowbush,
  • 4 m for highbush,
  • 4 m for southern highbush, and
  • 6 m for rabbiteye blueberry.

Leaves:

All commercial species of blueberries are decidious woody perennials, with simple leaves arranged alternately on the stem.

  • Lowbush - narrow and oval-shaped,
  • Highbush and southern highbush - ovate shape, and
  • Rabbiteye – spatula-shaped to inversely lance-shaped.

Roots:

  • Very fine, fibrous, lack root hairs in highbush and rabbiteye blueberries, and
  • Adventititous, originating from rhizomes in lowbush.

Flowers:

  • Flower buds contain a flowering stalk of 8-16 flowers.
  • Individual flowers within the bud have sepals, petals, stamens and pistils.
  • Individual flowers consist of a four to five-lobed white, whitish-yellow, or whitish pink corolla.
  • Highbush blueberry corollas are cylindrical and urn shaped.
  • Rabbiteye corollas are usually urn shaped and narrower than highbush flower.
  • The lowbush flower is typically cylindrical and smaller than the corolla of highbush and rabbiteye flowers.
  • The pistil consists of an ovary and a style with a small stigma that extends near to or beyond the corolla opening.
  • Ten stamens, shorter than the style, arise from the base of the corolla.
  • Pollen is shed through pores at the end of each anther.

Fruit:

  • Is a true berry.
  • The berry consists of an ovary with up to 100 or more ovules.
  • Ovules become berry seeds upon pollination and fertilization.
  • Ripe fruits are blue-black or dark purple with a surface wax.


Reference:

Rebecca L. Darnell, 2006. Blueberry Botany/Environmental Physiology. In: N. F. Childers and P. M. Lyrene (ed.), Blueberries for Growers, Gardeners, Promoters. E.O. Painter Printing Company, Inc., DeLeon Springs, FL., pp. 5-6.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.