Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Vaccinium corymbosum
SPECIES: Vaccinium corymbosum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Uchytil, Ronald J. 1993. Vaccinium corymbosum. 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/ .
Cyanococcus corymbosus (L.) Rydb.
Vaccinium constablaei Gray
Vaccinium corymbosum L. var. albiflorum (Hook.) Fernald
Vaccinium corymbosum L. var. glabrum A. Gray
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
northern highbush blueberry
The currently accepted scientific name of highbush blueberry is
Vaccinium corymbosum L. (Ericaceae). It is a member of the
true blueberry section Cyanococcus.
The highbush blueberry complex is highly variable and includes diploids,
tetraploids, hexaploids, and various hybrid combinations [7,24]. It has
long been a subject of taxonomic confusion and controversy; numerous
taxonomic treatments have been proposed. Named hybrids include:
Vaccinium atlanticum Bicknell, Atlantic blueberry
Highbush blueberry also hybridizes with low sweet blueberry (V.
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Vaccinium corymbosum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Highbush blueberry grows from northeastern Illinois and northern Indiana
northeastward to southwestern Nova Scotia, south to Florida, and west to
northeastern Texas and adjacent Oklahoma . The species is absent or
rare in Missouri, central Ohio, western Kentucky, western Tennessee,
West Virginia, and central Pennsylvania . It has been introduced
outside of its natural range for commercial berry production in
Wisconsin, Washington, British Columbia, and New Brunswick .
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
AL AR CT DE FL GA IL IN KY LA
ME MD MA MI MS NH NJ NY NC OH
PA RI SC TN TX VT VA WA WV WI
BC NS ON PQ
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K091 Cypress savanna
K094 Conifer bog
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
K109 Transition between K104 and K106
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
K116 Subtropical pine forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
13 Black spruce - tamarack
18 Paper birch
19 Gray birch - red maple
30 Red spruce - yellow birch
31 Red spruce - sugar maple - beech
32 Red spruce
33 Red spruce - balsam fir
34 Red spruce - Fraser fir
35 Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir
37 Northern white-cedar
44 Chestnut oak
45 Pitch pine
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
65 Pin oak - sweetgum
70 Longleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
84 Slash pine
97 Atlantic white-cedar
108 Red maple
111 South Florida slash pine
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Highbush blueberry occupies numerous habitats but seldom occurs as
community dominant. Two habitats where it occurs as a dominant or
codominant are open swamps or bogs and high-elevation balds.
In the Appalachian Oak and Northern Hardwood Regions
highbush-blueberry-dominated thickets are common on peatlands with
strong water-level fluctuations and weakly minerotrophic water [3,12].
Thickets may also occur on a quaking mat. Codominants include swamp
azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), downy blueberry (V. attrococcum),
mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronata), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia
baccata), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), casandra (Chamaedaphne
calyculata), black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), and sheep laurel
(Kalmia angustifolia) [3,4,11,12].
Highbush blueberry codominates high elevation "heath balds" with
rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.) .
Highbush-blueberry-dominated communities have been described in the
Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains 
Community classification of the vascular vegetation of a New Hampshire
The vegetation of the low-shrub bogs of northern New Jersey and adjacent
New York: ecosystems at their southern limit 
The ecology of peat bogs of the glaciated northeastern United States: a
community profile 
Demography and age structure of a central New York shrub-carr 94 years
after fire 
SPECIES: Vaccinium corymbosum
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Blueberry fruits provide important summer and early fall food for
numerous species of birds. In the Southeast, blueberries are a
preferred summer food of wild turkey, ruffed grouse, and quail . As
much as 19 percent of the summer diet of quail may consist of
blueberries . Songbirds which feed heavily on the fruits of
highbush blueberry include the scarlet tanager, eastern bluebird, scrub
jay, rufous-sided towhee, gray catbird, northern mockingbird, brown
thrasher, northern cardinal, and the American robin and several other
Mammals that often consume blueberries include the black bear, red fox,
cottontail, fox squirrel, white-footed mouse, and skunks and chipmunks
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
The principal components of highbush blueberry berries are water,
sugars, crude proteins, vitamins, fats (in seeds), and fiber . They
are a good source of vitamin C and natural sugars and contain moderate
amounts of trace minerals and other vitamins . One-half cup of
berries contains 41 calories, 1.96 grams of dietary fiber, and 9.6 mg of
vitamin C .
Vander Kloet and Austin-Smith  reported that seed and pulp energy
varied considerably among highbush blueberries from three geographic
locations. Northern plants produced fruit with low seed energy and high
pulp energy, while southern plants produced fruit with high seed energy
and low pulp energy. Mean pulp caloric values for three populations
varied as follows:
Florida - 52 calories/berry
Nova Scotia - 141 calories/berry
Ontario - 184 calories/berry
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Highbush blueberry fruit was eaten by Native Americans. Leaves and
flowers were used for various medicinal purposes .
Highbush blueberry is one of the most agriculturally important
blueberries of North America. It is extensively cultivated in New
Jersey, Michigan, North Carolina, and Washington and to a lesser extent
in Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York,
Massachusetts, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia .
In 1989, there were over 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) in commercial
highbush blueberry production in North America . Berry yields in
commercial fields often average 2 to 2.5 tons per acre (4.5-5.5 t/ha)
. Since the 1920's, more than 50 highbush cultivars have been
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Vaccinium corymbosum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Highbush blueberry is a crown-forming deciduous shrub with two to five
stems arising from a single bole. It typically grows from 6.5 to 10
feet (2-3 m) in height. The fruit is a sweet, juicy, blue-black berry
about 0.3 to 0.4 inch (7 to 10 mm) in diameter, containing several small
seeds (nutlet) about 0.05 inch (1.2 mm) long [24,26].
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Highbush blueberry primarily reproduces from seed. Bees are the primary
pollinator. It typically produces abundant fruit annually. In Florida,
5-foot-tall (1.5 m) shrubs annually produc an average of 231,000 ovules,
of which about 11 percent (25,410) develop into seeds . Mature,
commercially grown 8- to 10-year-old plants often yield 8 to 10 pints of
fruit per year .
Highbush blueberry seeds are dispersed in the droppings of frugivorous
birds and mammals. Long-distance dispersal is rare because most animals
which consume highbush blueberries are territorial. Even when fruit
ripening coincides with migration of songbirds, dispersal distances are
short because berry pulp rarely stays in the gut of cropless birds for
more than 20 minutes . In the southern portion of its range,
highbush blueberry fruits are dispersed sporadically from late March
through June. These seeds have thick seed coats and require cold
stratification before germination can occur . Germination typically
occurs in the winter following spring dispersal. In contrast, plants of
northern latitudes have thinner seed coats and germinate in the autumn
shortly after dispersal [27,29].
In Florida, highbush blueberry averaged 16 seeds per berry, of which 57
percent germinated when placed in an illuminated misting chamber .
Germination percent is reduced at least 15 percent after passing through
the digestive system of a bird or mammal .
Vegetative regeneration: Highbush blueberry rarely produces rhizomes
except in a few isolated populations in the Florida panhandle, on
isolated mountain peaks in North Carolina and Tennessee, and in eastern
Quebec where it introgresses with low sweet blueberry . Layering
has been observed only in populations in Ontario and Quebec . When
"disturbed or burnt" the plant occasionally produces new plants from
root sprouts 3 to 6 feet (1-2 m) away from the parent .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Highbush blueberry is intolerant of shade . Along the Atlantic
Coast and in the Great Lakes region, highbush blueberry is most
frequently found at relatively low elevations along the edges of swamps
and bogs; along the sandy margins of lakes, ponds, and streams; and
within open areas of moist woods [18,26]. It is less abundant in
flatwoods, gray birch (Betula populifolia) scrubland, pine barrens,
bayheads, upland ericaceous meadows, upland woods, ravines, and mountain
summits. It rarely occurs in xeric pine-oak woods and cut-over pine
Highbush blueberry grows best on hummocks or raised bogs which provide
moist, acidic, well-aerated, highly-organic soils optimal for growth
[17,18]. It is typically observed on soil with pH values between 2.7
and 6.6 and where nitrogen and phosphorus are quite low . Plants
can withstand extended periods of flooding .
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Because of its shade-intolerance, highbush blueberry is restricted to
open swamps and bogs, lakeshores and streamsides, open woods, and
high-elevation balds. Such habitats represent intermediate stages of
succession. Highbush blueberry can be eliminated from sites as
overstory cover and shading increase. In shrub bogs in northern
Illinois, highbush blueberry was largely replaced by the shading and
competitive effects of glossy-leaved buckthorn (Rhamnus framgula) .
Fire can be an important factor in creating shade-free environments for
highbush blueberry. A shrub-carr in New York codominated by mountain
holly and highbush blueberry was created by a severe swamp fire in 1892
which consumed over 3 feet (1 m) of peat. Although this shrub community
represents an intermediate stage of succession between wet meadow and
forested wetland, it is relatively stable. Size and age structure of
the two dominant shrubs in 1986 showed an inverse j-shaped distribution
indicative of self-maintaining populations; the dense shrub community
is only slowly progressing to black spruce (Picea mariana) and tamarack
(Larix laricina) .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
In the southern portion of its range, highbush blueberry flowers
sporadically over a 2- to 3-month period. North of latitude 44 degrees
N., flowering is synchronous and lasts a maximum of 25 days .
Flowers open as the leaves unfold or rarely when the leaves are half
developed . Fruiting begins about 62 days after flowering and is
thus asynchronous in the south and synchronous in the north. Vander
Kloet and Austin-Smith  speculate that the fruit ripening patterns
of highbush blueberry may be related to the nutritional needs of avian
seed dispersers. Mass fruiting in the north occurs in summer when avian
dispersers are numerous.
Beginning of anthesis is as follows :
south Florida - mid-February
Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, northern Florida - March
Piedmont - early April
Appalachians and Ouachitas - late April to early May
Carolinas - late March to early April
Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey - late April to early May
Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, New England - early to late May
southern Ontario, Michigan - mid-May to early June
eastern Ontario, Quebec - early June to late June
southwestern Nova Scotia - mid-June
Fruit ripening is as follows :
Florida - early April until November
Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina - May to June, but not until
August in the mountains
Michigan to Quebec, New York and New England - July and August
SPECIES: Vaccinium corymbosum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Highbush blueberry is not rhizomatous . Little quantitative
information has been written about its sprouting ability; what has been
reported appears contradictory .
Vander Kloet  described highbush blueberry as crown forming shrubs
from a single bole that occasionally sucker "when disturbed or burnt."
Describing V. ashei [V. corymbosum] Camp  stated that the species
occurs where protected from fire and that "the ease by which various of
its forms are killed by fire may explain their apparent scarcity today
in certain areas where they might be expected." These authors indicate
that highbush blueberry is not a vigorous sprouter following fire.
However, a study by LeBlanc and Leopold  in a central New York
shrubby swamp thicket indicates that highbush blueberry is a good
sprouter following disturbance. Two years after stems were cut at
ground level, highbush blueberry sprouts averaged 6.9 inches (17.4 cm)
in height. LeBlanc and Leopold concluded that this population of
highbush blueberry was being maintained through sprout recruitment.
Thus, at least at this central New York site, highbush blueberry is a
vigorous sprouter following disturbance.
Fire may create shade-free environments favorable for highbush blueberry
growth. It seems probable that highbush blueberry seeds would be
dispersed onto burned sites in animal droppings.
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 :
Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
SPECIES: Vaccinium corymbosum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Severe fires may remove trees and create openings favorable for highbush
blueberry. Twenty-five years after a stand-destroying fire in a red
spruce (Picea rubens)-Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) forest at about 5,500
feet (1,676 m) elevation in North Carolina, highbush blueberry was the
dominant shrub, with over 26,300 stems per acre (65,000/ha). This
constituted 15.8 percent of total shrub stems . In a central New
York shrub-carr created by a severe wildfire in 1892 which consumed over
3 feet (1 m) of peat, highbush blueberry codominated the site with
mountain holly and black chokeberry in 1986. Early photographs indicate
that shrubs dominated the site by the 1940's .
Burning favored highbush blueberry in the Great Dismal Swamp of
southeastern Virginia. Highbush blueberry was present on logged (2
successive cuts 1970 and 1974) and unlogged areas swept by a late summer
wildfire in 1975 which burned 12 inches (30 cm) of peat, but was not
present on control areas. Peak biomass values (g/m2/year) for highbush
blueberry 1 to 2 years after burning were as follows :
cut-burned area uncut-burned area control area
11.31 66.52 0
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
SPECIES: Vaccinium corymbosum
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blueberry in response to root zone flooding. Journal of the American
Society for Horticultural Science. 112(4): 603-608. 
2. Camp, W. H. 1945. The North American blueberries with notes on other
groups of Vacciniaceae. Brittonia. 5(3): 203-275. 
3. Damman, Antoni W. H.; French, Thomas W. 1987. The ecology of peat bogs
of the glaciated northeastern United States: a community profile.
Biological Report 85(7.16). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the
Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Research and Development, National
Wetlands Research Center. 100 p. 
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of a New Hampshire peatland. Rhodora. 89(860): 415-440. 
5. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and
Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. 
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1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range
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Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. 
7. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern
Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of
Georgia Press. 734 p. 
8. Hancock, James F.; Draper, Arlen D. 1989. Blueberry culture in North
America. HortScience. 24(4): 551-556. 
9. Krefting, Laurits W.; Roe, Eugene I. 1949. The role of some birds and
mammals in seed germination. Ecological Monographs. 19(3): 269-286.
10. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation
of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York:
American Geographical Society. 77 p. 
11. LeBlanc, Cheryl M.; Leopold, Donald J. 1992. Demography and age
structure of a central New York shrub-carr 94 years after fire. Bulletin
of the Torrey Botanical Club. 119(1): 50-64. 
12. Lynn, Les M.; Karlin, Eric F. 1985. The vegetation of the low-shrub bogs
of northern New Jersey and adjacent New York: ecosystems at their
southern limit. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 112(4): 436-444.
13. Sampson, Arthur W.; Chase, Agnes; Hedrick, Donald W. 1951. California
grasslands and range forage grasses. Bull. 724. Berkeley, CA: University
of California College of Agriculture, California Agricultural Experiment
Station. 125 p. 
14. McKinley, Carol E.; Day, Frank P., Jr. 1979. Herbaceous production in cut-
burned, uncut-burned, and control areas of a Chamaecyparis thyoides (L.)
BSP (Cupressaceae) stand in the Great Dismal Swamp. Bulletin of the
Torrey Botanical Club. 106(1): 20-28. 
15. Pritts, Marvin P.; Hancock, James F. 1985. Lifetime biomass partitioning
and yield component relationships in the highbush blueberry, Vaccinium
corymbosum L. (Ericaceae). American Journal of Botany. 72(3): 446-452.
16. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant
geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. 
17. Reich, Lee. 1988. Backyard blues. Organic Gardening. 35(6): 28-34.
18. Rogers, Robert. 1974. Blueberries. In: Gill, John D.; Healy, William M.,
compilers. Shrubs and vines for northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep.
NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Northeastern Forest Experiment Station: 12-15. 
19. Saunders, Paul R.; Smathers, Garrett A.; Ramseur, George S. 1983.
Secondary succession of a spruce-fir burn in the Plott Balsam Mountains,
North Carolina. Castanea. 48(1): 41-47. 
20. Soper, James H.; Heimburger, Margaret L. 1982. Shrubs of Ontario. Life
Sciences Misc. Publ. Toronto, ON: Royal Ontario Museum. 495 p. 
21. Stushnoff, Cecil; Hough, L. Fredric. 1968. Response of blueberry seed
germination to temperature, light, potassium nitrate and coumarin.
Proceedings of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 93:
22. Taft, John B.; Solecki, Mary Kay. 1990. Vascular flora of the wetland
and prairie communities of Gavin Bog and Prairie Nature Preserve, Lake
County, Illinois. Rhodora. 92(871): 142-165. 
23. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982.
National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names.
SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. 
24. Vander Kloet, S. P. 1980. The taxonomy of the highbush blueberry,
Vaccinium corymbosum. Canadian Journal of Botany. 58: 1187-1201.
25. Vander Kloet, S. P. 1982. A note on the occurrence of root-shoots in
Vaccinium corymbosum L. Rhodora. 84: 447-450. 
26. Vander Kloet, S. P. 1988. The genus Vaccinium in North America.
Publication 1828. Ottawa: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada. 201 p.
27. Vander Kloet, S. P.; Austin-Smith, P. J. 1986. Energetics, patterns and
timing of seed dispersal in Vaccinium section Cyanococcus. American
Midland Naturalist. 115: 386-396. 
28. Whittaker, R. H. 1956. Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Ecological Monographs. 26(1): 1-79. 
29. Crouch, P. A.; Vander Koet, S. P. 1980. Variation in seed characters of
Vaccinium subsection Cyanococcus (the blueberries) in relation to
latitude. Canadian Journal of Botany. 58: 84-90.