Northern Ontario Plant Database
Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton
En: lowbush blueberry, early lowbush blueberry, low sweet blueberry, sweet hurts, upland lowbush blueberry, late sweet blueberry
Ericaceae (Blueberry Family)
General: A low deciduous shrub, 1—3.5 dm tall, spreading by underground rhizomes and often forming large colonies, especially after fire. Blueberries are an important food source for a variety of birds and mammals, often attracting larger mammals, such as bears, to berry crops on rights-of-way.
Stems/twigs: Young twigs are usually greenish-brown and covered with numerous very small bumps (stems minutely warty); twigs are hairless (glabrous) and slightly angled or with 2 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 (acute); flower buds, located near the stem tips, are ovoid and larger than the vegetative buds. Leaf scars are small and narrowly semi-circular, with a single bundle trace scar.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, short petiolate. Leaf blade are elliptic to lanceolate, 1.5—4.5 cm long by 0.6—1.5 cm wide; glabrous on both surfaces; bright green to bluish-green above, slightly paler beneath. Leaf bases are tapering (cuneate), the apex is pointed (acute), and margins are finely toothed (serrulate) with small gland-tipped teeth. Leaves turn vivid red in autumn.
Flowers: Bisexual, in tight terminal and lateral inflorescences (racemes), with flowers on short stalks (pedicels). The green calyx had 5 low triangular lobes; the corolla is usually white, often pink when young, 4—6 mm long, and urn-shaped (urceolate), with 5 short reflexed corolla lobes at the tip. The 10 stamens have anthers that end in elongate tubular pores; the single pistil has an inferior ovary, a long slender style surrounded at the base by a nectar disk, and a small capitate stigma. To collect pollen from blueberry flowers, visiting bees must vibrate the flowers in a specific way, causing pollen grains to travel through the anthers to the terminal pores. This process, called buzz pollination or sonication, is characteristic of larger bees (e.g., bumble bees [Bombus spp.] and mining bees [Andrena spp.]); smaller bees and other pollinators do not sonicate, so cannot effectively pollinate blueberry flowers. Flowers bloom in late spring.
Fruit: In clusters of few to several globose dark blue berries, 3—12 mm in diameter, usually with a pale glaucous bloom that rubs off easily. The persistent calyx lobes form a short 5-pointed crown at the top of each berry. Berries are edible and sweet, with many small seeds. Fruits mature in late summer to fall.
Habitat and Range: Moist to dry, sandy, rocky, or peaty soils, in open forests, barrens, clearing, and rights-of-way; often dominating sites after fire. Lowbush blueberry grows best in open dry sites, but also occurs near peatlands and in open forest habitats. Lowbush blueberry is native to northeastern North America and is found throughout Ontario and the Algoma District, though it is less common above 50° N (Soper & Heimburger 1982).
Similar Species: In Algoma, velvetleaf blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides Michx.) and black lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton var. nigrum (Alph.Wood) Dole) often grow in the same habitat as lowbush blueberry. Velvetleaf blueberry can be recognized by its velvety-soft hairy leaves and downy twigs. Black lowbush blueberry has oblanceolate to obovate glabrous to glaucous leaves, small clusters of pinkish-white flowers, and darker blue berries that lack a glaucous bloom.
In southern and eastern Ontario, highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) can be recognized by its larger size, to 3 m [10 ft.] tall, and larger leaves, 3.5—7.5 cm [1?—3 in.] long; it also bears blue berries with a glaucous bloom. Highbush blueberry prefers wet habitats, such as swamps and wet woods.Back to species list