Blueberry: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about blueberry

The blueberry belongs to the genus Vaccinium in the Ericaceae family and is a native North American hybrid of several accinium plant species; these include Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium angustifolium and Vaccinium ashei.

Blueberries are often confused with Bilberries (Vaccinum myrtillus) but are larger than bilberries in size and, true to their name, blueberries are more blue than bilberries. Blueberries also bear fruit in clusters with greenish pulp, while Bilberries bear solitary fruit with reddish pulp.

The blueberry is a perennial plant, with deciduous or evergreen leaves, depending on exact blueberry species and habitat. Blueberries are produced commercially in large quantities in the United States and are either known as lowbush (small species) or highbush (large species).

The leaves can be deciduous or evergreen, ovate to lanceolate, and from 1-8 cm long and 0.5-3.5 cm broad. The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red, sometimes tinged greenish. The berry, from 5-16 mm diameter, has a flared crown at the end pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple, turning blue to dark purple on ripening. The season is from May to October.

common names & nomenclature
The common name blueberry refers to the blue color of the fruit. The genus name Vaccinium may derive from the Latin for a type of berry.

Also known as:
american blueberry, bush blueberry, lowbush blueberry, highbush blueberry

Blueberry, one of the most popular berries
Blueberry: Where in the World
habitat and range for blueberry

The genus Vaccinium has a wide distribution with species in America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Blueberry: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting blueberry

Blueberries are typically grown in humid, northern climates that have winter chills, and mild summers, conditions that limit their range. But many new varieties are available for lower chill areas, very warm areas, as well as coastal areas. The blueberry now has an enormous range.

For blueberries to thrive, the soil must be well aerated, moist, very high in humus, and very acidic.

Blueberries produce more and bigger fruit when planted with at least one other variety to allow for cross-pollination. Planting multiple varieties with different maturity dates also stretches out the harvest season. Plant lowbush blueberries two feet apart, highbush blueberries six feet apart, and rabbiteyes fifteen feet apart. Enrich the soil in each planting hole by mixing in a bucketful of composted leaves or pine needles, which will help maintain acidity and provide a long-lasting source of humus for optimum nutrition, aeration, and moisture. Set each plant slightly deeper than it stood in its pot or nursery row.

Right after planting, spread a three-inch layer of organic mulch over the ground. This mulch will prevent weeds and keep the roots cool and moist. Straw, shredded leaves, pine needles, or wood chips are good choices for mulch, or well-aged sawdust, but never from wood treated with a preservative. After planting, water thoroughly and provide them with one to two inches of water weekly during the growing season.

Your blueberries won't need any pruning at all for their first three years. Remove fruit buds the first two years after planting to allow the bush to establish itself. After that, do annual late winter pruning to remove old wood, stimulating and making way for young, fruitful branches. Pruning also removes crowded, misplaced, or unproductive stems and, by removing some fruit buds, lets those that remain develop into larger and sweeter berries.

The blueberry harvest in North America varies. It can start as early as May and usually ends in late summer. Traditionally, blueberries were hand picked. In modern times, traditional hand picking is still quite common especially for the more delicate varieties. More commonly, farmers will use harvesters that will shake the fruit off the bush.

Blueberry fruit is used fresh (or frozen) and also the fruit can be dried and stored in a cool, dry place. Leaves are dried, cut and stored similarly.