Vaccinium corymbosum L.
|Ref: ITIS 23573|
Blueberry refers to plants of the genus Vaccinium, which also includes cranberries, bilberries (also called blueberry), and many wild shrubs producing edible round blue "berries" (actually false berries) with flared "crowns" at the end. The fruit are first white, then reddish-purple, and turn blue on ripening; the fruit are also called blueberries, and have a sweet taste. Blueberries are used in jellies, jams, pies, and many other snacks and delicacies.
Blueberries are both cultivated and picked wild. In North America, the most common cultivated species is V. corymbosum, the Northern Highbush Blueberry . Hybrids of this with other Vaccinium species, are adapted to southern US climates and are known collectively as Southern Highbush Blueberries.
Although wild blueberries are smaller and much more expensive than cultivated ones, they are prized for their intense flavour and colour. The Lowbush Blueberry, V. angustifolium, is found from Newfoundland westward and southward to Michigan and West Virginia. In some areas it produces natural blueberry barrens, where it is practically the only species covering large areas. Several First Nations communities in Ontario are involved in harvesting wild blueberries.
In the US, Maine is the largest producer of Lowbush Blueberries. The Maine crop requires about 50,000 beehives for pollination, with most of the hives being trucked in from other states for that purpose.
Rabbiteye, V. ashei, is a southern type of blueberry produced from the Carolinas to the Gulf Coast states.
Other important species in North America include V. pallidum, the Hillside or Dryland Blueberry. It is native to eastern USA, but common in the Appalachians and the Piedmont of the Southeast. Sparkleberry, V. arboreum, is a common wild species on sandy soils in the southeastern US. Its fruit are important to wildlife, and the flowers important to beekeepers.