Know your Blueberry

Know your Blueberry - Introduction

  • Blueberries are flowering plants of the genus Vaccinium (a genus which also includes cranberries and bilberries) with dark-blue berries and is a perennial.  
  • The genus belongs to the Rhododendron family (Ericaceae).

Know your Blueberry - Main Types

  • There are four main types of blueberries; highbush, lowbush, rabbiteye and the more recent southern highbush hybrid.

Highbush blueberries

  • Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum
  • These are the most widely cultivated and are suitable for temperate European regions. 
  • In the USA it is grown from the Mid-Atlantic to California, Oregon, and Washington, and from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-South. 
  • Highbush varieties are usually erect but sometimes prostrate shrubs varying in size from 10 centimetres (3.9 in) to 4 metres (160 in) tall. 

Lowbush blueberry

  • Lowbush (wild) blueberry (V. angustifolium
  • This species is adapted to the far North and is best suited to Scandinavian countries in Europe. 
  • In the USA it is commercially important in Maine, Eastern Canada, and parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin. 

Rabbiteye blueberry

  • Rabbiteye (V. ashei)
  • This species is a large bush well-adapted to the south of Europe, Midle East and North Africa. 
  • In the USA, it is suitable for the South, in the region roughly south of Interstate 40. 

Southern highbush blueberry

  • Southern highbush (V. corymbosum x V. darrowi)
  • This a new hybrid, and is adapted to the southern rabbiteye zone as well as the coastal South. 
  • It has a lower chilling-hours requirement, and it flowers and fruits earlier than highbush or rabbiteye varieties.

Know your Blueberry - Growing conditions

  • Weather fluctuations and geographic seasonal advantage are the major economic considerations for type and variety selection.
  • Blueberries are distinct among fruit crops in their soil and fertility requirements. 
  • As members of the Rhododendron family, blueberries require an acidic (low pH) soil, preferably in the 4.8 to 5.5 pH range. 
  • When soil pH is appreciably higher than 5.5, iron chlorosis often results; when soil pH drops below 4.8, the possibility of manganese toxicity arises. In either case, plants do not perform well.

Know your Blueberry - Botany

  • The leaves can be either deciduous or evergreen, ovate to lanceolate, and 1–8 centimetres (0.39–3.1 in) long and 0.5–3.5 centimetres (0.20–1.4 in) broad. 
  • The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red, sometimes tinged greenish.
  • The fruit is a false berry 5–16 millimetres (0.20–0.63 in) diameter with a flared crown at the end; they are pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple, and finally blueish-purple when ripe. 

Know your Blueberry - Taste

  • They have a sweet taste when mature, with variable acidity. 
  • Blueberry bushes typically bear fruit in the middle of the growing season. 
  • Fruiting times are affected by local conditions such as altitude and latitude, so the height of the crop can vary from May to August depending upon these conditions.