Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Tirmenstein, D. A. 1991. Vaccinium angustifolium. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ .
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
early low-bush blueberry
low sweet blueberry
The currently accepted scientific name of early low-bush blueberry is
Vaccinium angustifolium Ait. (Ericaceae) [77,93]. Autopolyploidy and
allopolyploidy are common in Vaccinium spp.  and contribute to the
taxonomic complexity of this group . Most researchers recognize low
sweet blueberry as a single, highly polymorphic, species. Thus, earlier
treatments that recognized many varieties and forms of early low-bush
blueberry are now considered misleading and inappropriate .
Early low-bush blueberry hybridizes with many species, including highbush
blueberry (V. corymbosum), velvetleaf blueberry, bog blueberry (V.
uliginosum), hillside blueberry (V. pallidum), ground blueberry (V.
myrsinites), downy blueberry (V. atrococcum), and V. caesariense
[34,150,155,157]. Interspecific hybrid swarms have been reported .
The entity formerly known as V. angustifolium var. hypolasium Fernald
(var. integrefolium Leepage) may be a natural hybrid of velvetleaf
blueberry, sweet hurt's blueberry (Vaccinium boreale), and early low-bush
blueberry . Hybrids of early low-bush blueberry and highbush blueberry
have been designated as V. atlanticum Bicknell .
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Early low-bush blueberry grows from Labrador and Newfoundland westward to
southern Manitoba and Minnesota . It extends southward to northern
Illinois in the West, and from New England through the Appalachians to
West Virginia and Virginia in the East [70,119,157].
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
CT DE IA IL IN ME MA MI MN NH
NJ NY NC OH PA RI TN VT VA WV
WI LB MB NB NF NS ON PE PQ SK
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K081 Oak savanna
K094 Conifer bog
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
K109 Transition between K104 and K106
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
1 Jack pine
5 Balsam fir
12 Black spruce
13 Black spruce - tamarack
14 Northern pin oak
15 Red pine
18 Paper birch
20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple
21 Eastern white pine
24 Hemlock - yellow birch
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
27 Sugar maple
30 Red spruce - yellow birch
32 Red spruce
33 Red spruce - balsam fir
34 Red spruce - Fraser fir
35 Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir
37 Northern white-cedar
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
43 Bear oak
44 Chestnut oak
51 White pine - chestnut oak
52 White pine - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
107 White spruce
108 Red maple
110 Black oak
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Early low-bush blueberry occurs as an understory dominant or codominant in a
variety of forest communities. Common overstory dominants include
eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), jack pine (P. banksiana), sugar
maple (Acer saccharum), red maple (A. rubrum), and northern red oak
(Quercus rubra). Common codominants include Canada beadruby
(Maianthemum canadense), pointed-leaved tick trefoil (Desmodium
glutinosum), mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), and hairgrass
(Deschampsia spp.). Early low-bush blueberry is listed as an indicator or
dominant species in the following habitat type classifications:
Field guide: Habitat classification system for Upper Peninsula of
Michigan and Northeast Wisconsin 
Field guide to forest habitat types of northern Wisconsin .
SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Browse: The black bear, eastern cottontail, and white-tailed deer feed
on the foliage of early low-bush blueberry . In spruce-fir forests of
north-central Maine, it is preferred deer browse . In central
Pennsylvania, deer use is light year-round ; deer often eat
overwintering shoots during the early spring  and browse plants
during fall and winter . Early low-bush blueberry is an important moose
browse in parts of Maine  but is rarely eaten in northeastern
Minnesota . Domestic sheep commonly avoid early low-bush blueberry
Fruit and flowers: Fruit is readily eaten by a wide variety of birds
and mammals . In some areas, it is a particularly important late
summer-early fall ptarmigan food . Flower buds are readily eaten
by ruffed grouse during the winter and are considered a major food
source during February in some areas .
Wildlife species that feed on the fruit include: mammals - black bear,
red fox, raccoon, red-backed vole, and many species of mice
[17,70,99,132]; birds - American robin, common crow, and eastern
bluebird [70,132]. Wildlife species that eat the fruits of Vaccinium
spp. in general include: mammals - white-footed mouse, fox squirrel,
red squirrel, eastern spotted skunk, gray fox, and many species of
chipmunks [100,108,124,157,160]; birds - wild turkey, ruffed grouse,
spruce grouse, gray catbird, brown thrasher, rufous-sided towhee,
northern mockingbird, black-capped chickadee, red-cockaded woodpecker,
starling, cardinal, scarlet tanager, Canada goose, herring gull,
whimbrel, quail, and thrushes [108,157,160].
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
The food value of berries and browse varies seasonally, and with site
characteristics, geographic location, and fire history [29,143].
Fruit: Fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, natural sugars,
niacin, and manganese [31,123]. Berries are relatively high in
carbohydrates and soluble solids but contain little sodium or fat
[13,31,123,164]. Fruit averages approximately 41 calories per 0.5 cup
, with sugar concentration ranging from 0.03 to 0.34 percent .
Overall nutrient value is rated as moderately low . Average
vitamin and mineral content of early low-bush blueberry fruit on a wet weight
basis is available .
Browse: Nitrogen typically decreases from July 22 to September 22
during crop years but increases during years in which no fruit
production occurs . Levels of phosphorus, calcium, manganese,
potassium, and magnesium also exhibit seasonal fluctuations .
Nutrient content of early low-bush blueberry leaves is as follows :
Nutrients - N P K Ca Mg
Concentration (%) - 1.50-2.00 0.08-0.121 0.40-0.55 0.40-0.65 0.15-0.20
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Early low-bush blueberry may have potential use for rehabilitating certain
types of disturbed sites. It is tolerant of metals and grows in stunted
form on industrially damaged sites near Sudbury, Ontario . Plants
have recolonized strip-mined areas in West Virginia  and reclaimed
mined peatlands of the Northeast . Rhizomes can sometimes aid in
preventing soil erosion on steep slopes .
Early low-bush blueberry can be readily propagated from hard, semihard, and
softwood cuttings, and from rhizome segments [26,63,90,95]. Side-shoot
cuttings can be used to supplement regular cuttings where rapid
propagation is desired . Cuttings generally root within 6 weeks
; those taken in fall and winter often root best . Detailed
information on vegetative propagation techniques is available
Early low-bush blueberry can also be propagated by seed . Cleaned seed
averages 1,972,174 per pound (4,344/g) . Seedlings can be
transplanted to flats after 6 to 7 weeks .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Traditional uses: Native Americans traditionally valued early low-bush
blueberry fruit. Berries were eaten fresh, dried, baked and added to
soups, or mixed with venison and other meats [72,132,157]. Early
European settlers ate the fruit fresh or used it to make jams, jellies,
and preserves .
Modern uses: Early low-bush blueberry is the most important commercial
blueberry in the northeastern United States and Canada . It is
grown commercially in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and
Maine [31,113]. A major portion of the crop is gathered from managed
wild stands .
Most fruit is used in processed foods such as pie or muffin mixes,
pastries, jam, ice cream, and yogurt [17,31,72,132]. Berries are also
used to make wine and various juice products [17,72]. Early low-bush
blueberry is the blueberry most commonly used for commercial canning
. Fruit is also freeze-dried. The development of the frozen food
industry in the 1940's promoted rapid expansion of early low-bush blueberry
Recreation use: Throughout its range, the early low-bush blueberry is prized
by recreational berry-pickers. Blueberry picking is an important
recreational activity in many areas . In the early 1980's, an
estimated 20 percent of all summer tourists engaged in blueberry picking
in parts of the Great Lakes region .
Horticultural value: Plants are ornamental and can be used as
shrubbery, hedges, or as fruiting ground cover . The cultivar
'Tophat' is used only for ornamental purposes and is well suited for
bonsai . Early low-bush blueberry has potential for use in breeding
northern fruit-producing stock [45,81] and is well suited to small
farms, since 5 to 10 acres is sufficient to produce a significant
quantity of fruit .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Competition: In some areas, early low-bush blueberry is described as a
"troublesome" brush species that can interfere with red pine
regeneration . In other areas, however, jack pine regenerates
better in monotypic stands of early low-bush blueberry than in mixed stands
of sweet-fern, bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), and fireweed
(Epilobium angustifolium) .
Herbicides: Early low-bush blueberry can be controlled by 2,4-D, and 2,4,5-T
. Herbicides such as hexazinone and Terbacil have been widely used
in commercial fields to eliminate weeds that compete with early low-bush
Environmental Considerations: Early low-bush blueberry is tolerant of acid
rain (pH < 3.5) . Studies indicate that plants can survive at
least short-term exposure to acid rain with a pH of 2.5. Early low-bush
blueberry could increase in response to acid rain in boreal forests
. It is apparently resistant to emissions produced by zinc
Wildlife: The reproductive success of black bears has been correlated
to annual blueberry crops. Poor blueberry crops can limit black bear
reproductive success as well as overall survival in aspen-birch-conifer
forests of northeastern Minnesota. In Wisconsin bears depredations
such as damage to crops and beehives and livestock losses typically
increase during poor berry years .
Timber harvest: Although opening a closed stand can improve the growth
and vigor of early low-bush blueberry, clearcutting and postharvest burning
does not ensure the development of a lush stand of blueberry . Hall
 observed that after growing in the heavy shade of a closed forest
canopy, many plants were killed by postharvest burns. Survival may be
greater if plants are allowed to grow and increase in vigor before
burning . Thinning for pulpwood cuttings can result in vigorous
growth of early low-bush blueberry [65,70] as plants spread by rhizomes into
opened areas. Response to various types of timber treatments has been
Fruit production: Early low-bush blueberry fruit production is strongly
influenced by weather conditions, climate, pollinator availability,
light intensity, genetic factors, and nutrient levels at the time of bud
initiation [16,70,147]. Fruit production is limited under low light
intensity [67,150]; production is virtually nil at 50 to 500
foot-candles . Shade produced by competing weeds can often reduce
fruit yields .
Cross-pollination by insects is necessary for good fruit set
[87,103,168]. Aalders and Hall  observed that fruit set ranged from
approximately 81 to 90 percent in cross-pollinated plants but from only
0 to 52 percent in self-pollinated plants. Yields tend to be lower in
fields containing both velvetleaf blueberry and early low-bush blueberry than
in fields containing only early low-bush blueberry . In some areas, the
widespread use of insecticides has decimated wild bee populations.
Although honeybees are less effective pollinators than wild bees,
growers often add honeybees in an effort to improve fruit set
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Early low-bush blueberry is an erect, low-growing, variable shrub that
reaches 2 to 24 inches (5-60 cm) in height [17,34,141,157]. It
typically forms dense, extensive colonies . Roots are shallow and
fibrous but may possess a taproot, which can extend to 3 feet (1 m) in
depth [17,66,72]. Woody rhizomes average 0.18 inch (4.5 mm) in diameter
and 2.4 inches (6 cm) in depth .
Flowers are borne in short, few-flowered terminals or axillary racemes
[94,111,157]. Fruit is a globular berry averaging 0.12 to 0.4 inch
(4-11 mm) in diameter [94,150]; some cultivars produce fruit up to 1
inch (2.5 cm) in diameter . The berries are very sweet . Each
contains numerous nutlets averaging approximately 0.04 inch (1.2 mm) in
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Early low-bush blueberry reproduces vegetatively and by seed [72,111].
Seed: Plants generally first flower at approximately 4 years of age
. Researchers have reported a range of 56 to 64 seeds per berry
[21,153]. Viability ranges from 30 to 50 percent . Some clones
are self-fertile, others self-sterile . Flowers are generally
pollinated by wild bees . Shrubs with relatively few flowers may
fail to attract pollinators, and shrubs with fewer than 30 flowers
rarely produce fruit. Productive plants may bear more than 400 flowers
Seed dispersal: Seeds of early low-bush blueberry are dispersed by various
birds and mammals [72,124]. In New England and the Maritime Provinces,
the American robin and black bear are particularly effective long
distance dispersal agents [72,100,,126,154]. Deer mice, chipmunks, and
the red-back vole are important local dispersers [9,100].
Seed banking: Seed banking has not been documented, but researchers
have reported the presence of seeds within the top layers of soil .
Seed can remain viable for up to 12 years when properly stored ,
and limited seed banking may occur.
Germination: In laboratory tests, germination ranged from 30 to 80
percent . Seed germinates best when exposed to light . Fresh
seed germinates readily at 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 deg C) under a
regime of 16 hours light per 24-hour period . Germination generally
begins within 3 to 4 weeks and continues for 6 to 8 weeks .
Stratification and pretreatment with gibberellin can speed germination
Seedling establishment: Seedling establishment appears variable.
Seedlings are commonly observed in parts of the Maritime Provinces and
in northern Maine , where seeds germinate on open sites with high
moisture availability . Seedlings are sometimes observed in
clearcuts, on burned sites, and in abandoned fields . However,
seedlings are rare in eastern Ontario and in many other parts of this
species' range . In Ontario, seedling establishment is unlikely
unless the following conditions occur: (1) a cool spring follows
dispersal, (2) August and September are wet, (3) the winter is mild or
there is a good snow cover, and (4) the spring is wet. These conditions
have been observed only once during a 40-year period . Poor
seedling establishment is generally attributable to unfavorable soil
temperatures and water stress .
Vegetative regeneration: In many areas, vegetative expansion is the
primary mode of regeneration [8,153]. In the absence of disturbance,
clones increase by expansion of rhizomes [15,119,124]. After fire or
other types of disturbance, plants often sprout from the stem base, from
underground rhizomes , or from unburned belowground portions of
aerial stems . Rhizomes subjected to heat treatment often develop
significantly greater numbers of shoots than do untreated rhizomes .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Early low-bush blueberry grows in a wide variety of habitats . It
occurs in mixed conifer and hardwood forests, in headlands, high moors,
upland bogs, peaty barrens, along sandy riverbanks, and on exposed rocky
outcrops of the Canadian Shield [49,56,105,157]. Early low-bush blueberry is
a prominent component of jack pine (Pinus banksiana) barrens, maple
groves, oak savannas, and poplar regeneration forests [105,145,157]. It
is common in abandoned pastures and clearcuts, and along roadsides
Climate: Early low-bush blueberry is tolerant of a wide range of
temperatures . It grows in areas having a dry, sunny, continental
climatic regime receiving an average of 20 inches (500 mm) of
precipitation annually, as well as in areas having cloudy maritime
climates receiving 61 to 79 inches (1,560-1,950 mm) of precipitation
Shade: Shade is detrimental to the growth of early low-bush blueberry in the
Atlantic Provinces but is necessary for optimal growth in Manitoba's
dry, sunny continental climate .
Soils: Early low-bush blueberry is most commonly associated with light,
well-drained acidic soils . Soils generally have a high organic
content but may be relatively low in available mineral nutrients
[29,77]. Soils are often shallow and discontinuous . Early low-bush
blueberry grows on loam, sandy loam, gravelly loam, and silt or clay
loam developed from sandstone, shale, or glacial drift [49,78,124].
Parent materials vary but include granite, quartzite, gneiss, shale, and
sandstone pavement . In much of eastern Ontario, soils have formed
over Precambrian bedrock . Early low-bush blueberry grows on acidic
soils with pH ranging from 2.8 to 6.6  but reportedly thrives on
soils with a pH of 4.2 to 5.2 [70,97,157]. Plants generally grow better
on undisturbed rather then tilled soil . Early low-bush blueberry occurs
at elevations from sea level to 4,950 feet (1,500 m) [72,150].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Facultative Seral Species
Early low-bush blueberry is an important recolonizer . Its sprouts are
prominent on disturbed sites such as clearcuts, burns, fields, and
pastures [17,72,157]. Cover is typically higher on fields derived from
hayfields than those derived from woodlots . Early low-bush blueberry is
an important seral species during the transition from field to forest in
various eastern old-field communities .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Phenological development of early low-bush blueberry varies according to
geographic location and specific weather conditions [22,62].
Temperature and day length are important regulatory influences [72,76].
Initial floral development begins in the year prior to flowering and
fruiting . Floral bud primordia appear during June and early July
 when day length reaches approximately 15 hours . Development
may continue until late October if air temperatures remain above 32
degrees Fahrenheit (0 deg C) with long periods above 50 degrees
Fahrenheit (10 deg C) . Leaves harden by mid-July, color by late
August, and abscise by late October [72,119].
Plants are dormant in fall  and overwinter in a leafless state
. Active annual growth can begin as early as March or April ,
but in many areas, both vegetative and flower bud development begins in
early May after air temperatures have exceeded 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10
deg C) for a least 3 to 4 consecutive days . Vegetative shoots
grow until midsummer .
Plants generally flower in May or June of their 2nd year [72,167]. A
few flowers may open as early as March in unusually good years, and some
plants occasionally flower as late as September or October .
Flowering may be delayed by 2 or 3 weeks in cool, coastal areas .
Fruit generally ripens from midsummer to late summer, approximately 50
days after anthesis . In an Ontario study, seed dispersal began
from June 11 to June 20, peaked in early July, and ended in September
. Generalized flowering and fruiting dates for various locations
are as follows:
Location Flowering Fruiting
VA May-June July-August 
NS June-late July early-mid-August [72,157]
Pictou Co.,NS ---- July 17- Oct. 27 
ME ---- mid July-August 
MI May-June July-August 
NJ April ---- 
ON May-early June June-September [153,154,141].
SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Early low-bush blueberry is well adapted to fire [29,144]. It generally
sprouts from the rhizomes or root crown after aboveground vegetation is
removed or damaged by fire. Some seed may be transported on-site by
birds and mammals, but seedling establishment is generally limited to
favorable sites in good years and appears to play a minimal role in
postfire reestablishment. Fire removes decadent aboveground vegetation
and promotes vigorous growth . In parts of the Maritimes and the
northeastern United States, peatlands, lakes, and rocky outcrops serve
as natural fire breaks . Fires in these areas are frequently
patchy, creating forest openings into which early low-bush blueberry can
rapidly expand. Plants within these openings receive sufficient light
for good vigor and fruit production.
Fire frequencies vary across its wide range, but early low-bush blueberry
appears well adapted to survive in many fire regimes. In Acadian
forests, fire frequencies range from 60 to 1,000 years . In parts
of southeastern Labrador, fire occurs an average of once every 500 years
, and in parts of New Brunswick, an average of once every 370 years
. In drier inland areas, fire-free intervals are much shorter.
Fire is important in maintaining jack pine communities in which low
sweet blueberry occurs as an understory dominant . In jack pine
communities of Minnesota, fire frequency has been estimated at 100 years
. Fire frequencies in Wisconsin pine barrens have been estimated
at 20 to 40 years . Occasional fires maintain the open character
of these communities and allow for the continued prominence of early low-bush
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown
Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil
SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Early low-bush blueberry is tolerant of heat . Underground portions of
the plant generally survive wildfires or prescribed fires , even
even when all aboveground vegetation is consumed [28,41]. In jack pine
barrens, rhizomes have survived brief exposure to fires producing soil
surface temperatures up to 1,013 degrees Fahrenheit (545 deg C) .
However, exposure to temperatures of 1,295 to 1,513 degrees Fahrenheit
(702-823 deg C) for 80 sec apparently resulted in some rhizome mortality
Fire effects vary with fire severity and intensity, and season of burn
. Rhizome mortality increases as heat penetration into the soil
increases . In a northern Wisconsin muskeg, survival was poor
after hot fires burned out layers of sphagnum . Plants are
generally most severely harmed by hot summer fires which occur when food
reserves are low . Seedlings that lack a well-developed rhizome
system are often killed by recurring fires .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Early low-bush blueberry generally sprouts from rhizomes and the root crown
after aboveground vegetation is consumed by fire [65,83]. Plants may
also sprout from buds located on the stem base [83,157], but stems that
arise from underground rhizomes are generally more vigorous than those
that develop from partially burned aboveground stems . Rhizome
sprouting is much slower than crown sprouting . Some
reestablishment via seed germination may occur under favorable
Fire intensity and severity, season of burn, community type, and soil
are important factors influencing postfire response [138,148,161].
Cover and stem density commonly increase rapidly , and recovery may
be well underway within 4 to 5 postfire months [55,57]. Early low-bush
blueberry was well represented within 4 months after an intense fire
destroyed all aboveground vegetation in a spruce stand in Manitoba .
In many areas, including parts of Nova Scotia and Ontario, early low-bush
blueberry regains prominence 2 to 3 years after fire [6,106,144].
Although initially reduced after fire in jack pine and black spruce
communities, early low-bush blueberry increased beyond prefire levels after 5
years [10,42,109]. Recovery may be delayed after hot fires. Early low-bush
blueberry was present within 13 years after a severe wildfire in a red
pine-white pine forest . Hall and others  reported that V. a.
forma nigrum tends to increase more rapidly than does V. a. forma
angustifolium in fields that are burned regularly.
Fruit is not produced the year of the burn but is produced in abundance
during the next 3 postfire years [25,28,161]. In general, young
healthy plants regenerate more successfully than older, decadent ones
. Where clones are extremely decadent, it may take three seasons of
postfire growth before fruit production and vigor reach "satisfactory
levels" . Some researchers report that burning too frequently can
cause fruit yields to decline .
Increases in early low-bush blueberry after fire may be due in part to the
stimulatory effect of nutrients added by ash deposition or changes in pH
. Blackened ground absorbs heat and may promote earlier fruit
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
Season of burn: In general, early low-bush blueberry is most reduced by
summer fires . Flinn and Wein  reported higher stem densities
after burning in fall, when plants had completed photosynthate storage
and had reserves available for new growth. Smith  reported no
increases in density or productivity after plants were burned in summer
in northern Ontario. Eaton and White  observed that the number of
sprouts and flowers was greatest after spring fires. Plants burned
after July 1 did not sprout until the following year . Plants
burned in August, September, October, or November, do not sprout until
the following spring . Spring fires typically promote fewer
competitors than do fall fires . In commercial blueberry fields,
increases in dry matter and percent cover have been noted after both
spring and fall fires .
For further information on early low-bush blueberry to fire, see Fire Case
Studies. Also see the Research Project Summary Vegetation change in
grasslands and heathlands following multiple spring, summer, and fall
prescription fires in Massachusetts, which provides information on
prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species, including
early low-bush blueberry, that was not available when this species review
was originally written.
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Prescribed fire: Prescribed fire can be used to improve fruit yields
[77,132]. In order to remove decadent aboveground foliage without
damaging rhizomes, hot fires should be avoided .
Fuels and flammability: Fuel loads are low and discontinuous in xeric
jack pine-red pine forests dominated by early low-bush blueberry, common
juniper (Juniperus communis), lichens, and mosses . Fires in these
communities tend to be of irregular intensity. The probability of crown
fires increases in later successional stages in more mesic stands .
In northeastern New York, Stergas and Adams  reported that
"fire-line intensities greater than 1500 kW/m can easily develop into
crown fires." Low rates of spread may be necessary to keep a prescribed
fire under control given the potential fuel loading and heat content of
the aboveground understory vegetation, which is dominated by early low-bush
blueberry, black huckleberry, and lichen . Ash content of low
sweet blueberry ranges from 4.20 to 4.54 percent, high heat content from
20,134 to 20,298 KgJ/kg, and ash-free high heat content from 21,040 to
21,084 kJ/kg :
Wildlife considerations: In central Wisconsin, prescribed fires are
recommended at 4-year intervals where management aims include limiting
shrub growth and providing habitat for white-tailed deer, sharp-tailed
grouse, and prairie chickens . Fire can be used to aid the
restoration of sand barren vegetation . Vogl  reported that
burning at 10-year intervals would allow early low-bush blueberry to reach
maximum fruit yields and allow time for maximum fuel accumulations to
reduce competing oaks, aspen, and birch. Prescribed fire can be used to
increase grouse numbers in Pennsylvania hardwood forests with a low
sweet blueberry understory .
Disease: Regular burn pruning can limit the spread of red leaf disease
 and blueberry leaf spot . However, some diseases such as
powdery mildew and rust (Pucciniastrum myrtilli) tend to increase with
the proliferation of the host plant .
Nutrients: Nutrient content of early low-bush blueberry foliage is altered
by burning [29,78,116]. Leaf tissue from burned plants is typically
higher in nitrogen and phosphorus . Comparative values are
SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION :
Tirmenstein, D. A., compiler. 1991. Burn pruning of early low-bush blueberry in Minnesota.
In: Vaccinium angustifolium. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/
Shubat, Deborah Jo. 1983. Management of native lowbush blueberry for
recreational picking in northeastern Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN:
University of Minnesota. 79 p. Thesis. .
SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION :
STUDY LOCATION :
Sites are located along Highway 1 in northeastern Minnesota, south of the Ely
Airport, and 2 miles north of Silver Bay on Lake Superior. Specific locations
are as follows:
(1) Palisades Site: located 2.5 miles (4 km) northeast of Silver Bay on
Highway 61. (SW 1/4 Sec 22, T56N, R7W).
(2) Isabella Tracks: cleared area north of Ely on Highway 1,
approximately 0.5 mile (0.8 km) west of Forest Service
Headquarters at Isabella, Minnesota. (NE 1/4, SE 1/4, Sec 1,
(3) Isabella Sawbill: 12 miles (19 km) east of Isabella, Minnesota, just
west of Sawbill Landing (NE 1/4 Sec 1, T60N, R8W).
(4) Ely North: 2 miles (3 km) south of Ely Airport on Highway 120 and
Highway 1 (W 1/2, NE 1/4, SW 1/4, Sec 35, T62N, R12W).
(5) Ely South: located near Ely, Minnesota (SW 1/4, NW 1/4, NW 1/4, Sec
11, T61N, R12W).
PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY :
The preburn vegetative community consisted of pure open stands of low
sweet blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), or stands made up of both low
sweet blueberry and velvetleaf blueberry (V. myrtilloides).
(1) Palisade Site: Early low-bush blueberry plants were short and "stunted."
(2) Isabella Tracks: Velvetleaf blueberry was the primary lowbush
blueberry at this site.
(3) Isabella Sawbill: This stand was made up of young, vigorous low
sweet blueberry plants.
(4) Ely North: Many weedy species were intermixed with early low-bush
(5) Ely South: This stand exhibited few weedy plants. The soil surface
was cover with decomposing branches and small logs. Early low-bush
blueberry plants were described as vigorous.
TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE :
SITE DESCRIPTION :
Paired plots, burned and unburned, were located at four of the location.
The fifth site (Palisade) had only the unburned plot. All plots were on
level ground in full sun. Soils were as follows:
P IT IS EN ES
a b a b a b a b
pH 4.5 5.3 5.3 5.3 5.4 5.0 5.4 5.0 4.1
matter high low low low med. low low low med.
nitrogen low low low low low low low low low
texture loam loamy sandy loamy loamy loamy sand loamy sand
sand loam sand sand sand sand
a unburned plot P Palisade site IS Isabella Sawbill site
b burn plot ES Ely South site IT Isabella Tracks site
EN Ely North site
FIRE DESCRIPTION :
Palisades Site - not burned.
Isabella Tracks - mechanically pruned and burn-pruned plots.
Isabella Sawbill - mechanically pruned and burn-pruned plots.
Ely North - mechanically pruned and burn-pruned plots.
Ely South - mechanically pruned and burn-pruned plots.
Dried straw was spread across the burn-pruned plots prior to ignition.
FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES :
stems/ flower buds/ stem length stand
0.1 m sq. plant (cm) age (yrs)
unburned 2.3 6 22 3
burned 2 8 24 3
unburned 3 2.3 22 2.6
burned 5 2.4 22 2
unburned 2 2 23 4
burned 2.3 1 23 4
unburned 3 11.6 35 4
burned 2 5.5 25 5
FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS :
Both burning and mechanical pruning increased stem numbers. However,
mechanically pruned plants produced more flower buds than the
burn-pruned plants. Tests indicated that mulch should not be applied to
recently pruned plants. Fertilizers proved to be most effective on
mechanically pruned and untreated plants. They had little effect on
recently burned plants. Best results were observed when plants were
mechanically clipped or fire pruned in April or November. This
experiment suggests that semicultivated stands of early low-bush blueberry in
Minnesota may need to be pruned every 4 to 5 years rather than every
other year as is most common in parts of the Northeast.
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