Northern Highbush and Lowbush Blueberries

Vaccinium spp.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Northern Highbush Blueberry

Vaccinium corymbosum

            The blueberries are ripe at Mountain Lake! Highbush blueberries generally produce more fruit than their lowbush relatives. It is this species, then, that many human cultivars have been bred from. Although the wild blueberries are smaller and farther between, the fruit is still essentially the same as the cultivated blueberries that one can buy at a store.

            Highbush blueberries can grow up to 4 m tall, and even around here many are higher than a man. They are deciduous, perennial shrubs that grow bright red leaves in the spring that turn blue-green in the summer. The leaves turn red, orange, or yellow by the autumn. Their flowers are white or pink and bell-shaped, and appear in drooping clusters at the end of stems. These are followed by blue or black blueberries.

            This species can be found throughout this area; it is present in much of the eastern US. It goes north as far as Quebec, south to Alabama, and west into Texas. It is also, strangely, present in Washington state and British Columbia on the west coast. Although it is not a huge groundcover species here, it is quite important. Its leaves are a major source of food for the deer; and many species of birds, as well as bears, small mammals, and humans feed on the blueberries.

Lowbush Blueberry

Vaccinium angustifolium

            The lowbush blueberry is a major groundcover in the woods near here. Although it shares space with trees and similar shrubs in this area, in some states, large, natural blueberry barrens emerge, containing nothing but lowbush blueberries. This makes it a major agricultural crop. In Quebec in 2006, for example, 70 million pounds of wild blueberries were gathered: 55 million in the “blueberry farms” created from the barrens, 15 million in the forests.

            These plants can grow to 60 cm, although they do not usually exceed 35 cm. They are otherwise fairly similar to the highbush blueberry: red leaves in the spring that turn blue-green in the summer, however, the leaves turn maroon-purple in the fall. These shrubs are more sprawling than the upright form of the highbush.

            Lowbush blueberries are present in the northeastern US and southeastern Canada. They go south as far as Tennessee, north to Quebec, and west into Minnesota and Manitoba province in Canada. They, also, provide an important food source for many creatures.


Both blueberry cuttings were taken near the Wilbur lab. The blueberries set out and cooked are almost all highbush blueberries, picked either near the Wilbur Lab or along Hedwig trail.

Articles by Hazel Galloway