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SPECIES:  Vaccinium angustifolium
Lowbush blueberry. Image by Doug Doohan, Ohio State University/ OARDC,


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: []. Revisions: On 28 August 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from: early low-bush blueberry to: lowbush blueberry. Images were also added. ABBREVIATION: VACANG SYNONYMS: Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton var. hypolasium Fernald Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton var. laevifolium House Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton var. nigrum (Alph. Wood) Dole Vaccinium brittonii Porter ex E.P. Bicknell Vaccinium lamarckii Camp Vaccinium nigrum (Alph. Wood) Britton NRCS PLANT CODE: VAAN COMMON NAMES: lowbush blueberry early low-bush blueberry low sweet blueberry TAXONOMY: The scientific name of lowbush blueberry is Vaccinium angustifolium Ait. (Ericaceae) [77,93]. Autopolyploidy and allopolyploidy are common in Vaccinium spp. [137] and contribute to the taxonomic complexity of this group [34]. Most researchers recognize lowbush blueberry as a single, highly polymorphic, species [157]. Lowbush 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 [137]. 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 lowbush blueberry [137]. Hybrids of lowbush blueberry and highbush blueberry have been designated as V. atlanticum Bicknell [150]. LIFE FORM: Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Lowbush blueberry grows from Labrador and Newfoundland westward to southern Manitoba and Minnesota [160].  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].
Distribution of lowbush blueberry. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC. [2018, August 28] [149].
   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


   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

     1  Jack pine
     5  Balsam fir
    12  Black spruce
    13  Black spruce - tamarack
    14  Northern pin oak
    15  Red pine
    16  Aspen
    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


Lowbush 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.).  Lowbush 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 [43]
Field guide to forest habitat types of northern Wisconsin [98].


SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Browse:  The black bear, eastern cottontail, and white-tailed deer feed on the foliage of lowbush blueberry [71].  In spruce-fir forests of north-central Maine, it is preferred deer browse [112].  In central Pennsylvania, deer use is light year-round [30]; deer often eat overwintering shoots during the early spring [17] and browse plants during fall and winter [131].  Lowbush blueberry is an important moose browse in parts of Maine [112] but is rarely eaten in northeastern Minnesota [85].  Domestic sheep commonly avoid lowbush blueberry browse [72]. Fruit and flowers:  Fruit is readily eaten by a wide variety of birds and mammals [70].  In some areas, it is a particularly important late summer-early fall ptarmigan food [158].  Flower buds are readily eaten by ruffed grouse during the winter and are considered a major food source during February in some areas [131].  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]. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY 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 [123], with sugar concentration ranging from 0.03 to 0.34 percent [168]. Overall nutrient value is rated as moderately low [164].  Average vitamin and mineral content of lowbush blueberry fruit on a wet weight basis is available [31]. Browse:  Nitrogen typically decreases from July 22 to September 22 during crop years but increases during years in which no fruit production occurs [147].  Levels of phosphorus, calcium, manganese, potassium, and magnesium also exhibit seasonal fluctuations [147]. Nutrient content of lowbush blueberry leaves is as follows [72]: Nutrients -              N          P           K         Ca          Mg Range of Concentration (%) -  1.50-2.00  0.08-0.121  0.40-0.55  0.40-0.65  0.15-0.20 COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: Lowbush 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 [165].  Plants have recolonized strip-mined areas in West Virginia [79] and reclaimed mined peatlands of the Northeast [53].  Rhizomes can sometimes aid in preventing soil erosion on steep slopes [72]. Lowbush 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 [90].  Cuttings generally root within 6 weeks [4]; those taken in fall and winter often root best [82].  Detailed information on vegetative propagation techniques is available [14,47,63,82,95]. Lowbush blueberry can also be propagated by seed [124]. Cleaned seed averages 1,972,174 per pound (4,344/g) [44].  Seedlings can be transplanted to flats after 6 to 7 weeks [12]. OTHER USES AND VALUES: Traditional uses:  Native Americans traditionally valued lowbush 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 [157]. Modern uses:  Lowbush blueberry is the most important commercial blueberry in the northeastern United States and Canada [34].  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 [157].   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].  Lowbush blueberry is the blueberry most commonly used for commercial canning [123].  Fruit is also freeze-dried.  The development of the frozen food industry in the 1940's promoted rapid expansion of lowbush blueberry cultivation [157]. Recreation use:  Throughout its range, the lowbush blueberry is prized by recreational berry-pickers.  Blueberry picking is an important recreational activity in many areas [93].  In the early 1980's, an estimated 20 percent of all summer tourists engaged in blueberry picking in parts of the Great Lakes region [132]. Horticultural value:  Plants are ornamental and can be used as shrubbery, hedges, or as fruiting ground cover [123].  The cultivar 'Tophat' is used only for ornamental purposes and is well suited for bonsai [123].  Lowbush 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 [7]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Competition:  In some areas, lowbush blueberry is described as a "troublesome" brush species that can interfere with red pine regeneration [52].  In other areas, however, jack pine regenerates better in monotypic stands of lowbush blueberry than in mixed stands of sweet-fern, bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), and fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) [41]. Herbicides:  Lowbush blueberry can be controlled by 2,4-D, and 2,4,5-T [124].  Herbicides such as hexazinone and Terbacil have been widely used in commercial fields to eliminate weeds that compete with lowbush blueberry [77,137,172]. Environmental Considerations:  Lowbush blueberry is tolerant of acid rain (pH < 3.5) [129].  Studies indicate that plants can survive at least short-term exposure to acid rain with a pH of 2.5.  Lowbush blueberry could increase in response to acid rain in boreal forests [129].  It is apparently resistant to emissions produced by zinc smelters [91]. 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 [125]. Timber harvest:  Although opening a closed stand can improve the growth and vigor of lowbush blueberry, clearcutting and postharvest burning does not ensure the development of a lush stand of blueberry [65].  Hall [65] 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 [65].  Thinning for pulpwood cuttings can result in vigorous growth of lowbush blueberry [65,70] as plants spread by rhizomes into opened areas.  Response to various types of timber treatments has been reported [9,10,134]. Fruit production:  Lowbush 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 [67].  Shade produced by competing weeds can often reduce fruit yields [67]. Cross-pollination by insects is necessary for good fruit set [87,103,168].  Aalders and Hall [1] 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 lowbush blueberry than in fields containing only lowbush blueberry [1].  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 [1,102,111,166].


SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Lowbush 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 [157].  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 [56]. 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 [7].  The berries are very sweet [150].  Each contains numerous nutlets averaging approximately 0.04 inch (1.2 mm) in length [157]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Lowbush blueberry reproduces vegetatively and by seed [72,111]. Seed:  Plants generally first flower at approximately 4 years of age [72].  Researchers have reported a range of 56 to 64 seeds per berry [21,153].  Viability ranges from 30 to 50 percent [153].  Some clones are self-fertile, others self-sterile [1].  Flowers are generally pollinated by wild bees [119].  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 [156]. Seed dispersal:  Seeds of lowbush 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 [65]. Seed can remain viable for up to 12 years when properly stored [124], and limited seed banking may occur. Germination:  In laboratory tests, germination ranged from 30 to 80 percent [153].  Seed germinates best when exposed to light [72].  Fresh seed germinates readily at 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 deg C) under a regime of 16 hours light per 24-hour period [72].  Germination generally begins within 3 to 4 weeks and continues for 6 to 8 weeks [48]. Stratification and pretreatment with gibberellin can speed germination [48,125]. Seedling establishment:  Seedling establishment appears variable. Seedlings are commonly observed in parts of the Maritime Provinces and in northern Maine [157], where seeds germinate on open sites with high moisture availability [119].  Seedlings are sometimes observed in clearcuts, on burned sites, and in abandoned fields [119].  However, seedlings are rare in eastern Ontario and in many other parts of this species' range [153].  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 [153].  Poor seedling establishment is generally attributable to unfavorable soil temperatures and water stress [142]. 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 [157], or from unburned belowground portions of aerial stems [15].  Rhizomes subjected to heat treatment often develop significantly greater numbers of shoots than do untreated rhizomes [56]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Lowbush blueberry grows in a wide variety of habitats [105].  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].  Lowbush 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 [141,157]. Climate:  Lowbush blueberry is tolerant of a wide range of temperatures [154].  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 annually [83]. Shade:  Shade is detrimental to the growth of lowbush blueberry in the Atlantic Provinces but is necessary for optimal growth in Manitoba's dry, sunny continental climate [83]. Soils:  Lowbush blueberry is most commonly associated with light, well-drained acidic soils [124].  Soils generally have a high organic content but may be relatively low in available mineral nutrients [29,77].  Soils are often shallow and discontinuous [152].  Lowbush 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 [152].  In much of eastern Ontario, soils have formed over Precambrian bedrock [137].  Lowbush blueberry grows on acidic soils with pH ranging from 2.8 to 6.6 [157] 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 [96].  Lowbush blueberry occurs at elevations from sea level to 4,950 feet (1,500 m) [72,150]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Lowbush blueberry is an important recolonizer [57].  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 [68].  Lowbush blueberry is an important seral species during the transition from field to forest in various eastern old-field communities [72]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Phenological development of lowbush 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 [3].  Floral bud primordia appear during June and early July [22] when day length reaches approximately 15 hours [3].  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) [72].  Leaves harden by mid-July, color by late August, and abscise by late October [72,119]. Plants are dormant in fall [157] and overwinter in a leafless state [72].  Active annual growth can begin as early as March or April [22], 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 [72].  Vegetative shoots grow until midsummer [83]. 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 [154]. Flowering may be delayed by 2 or 3 weeks in cool, coastal areas [72]. Fruit generally ripens from midsummer to late summer, approximately 50 days after anthesis [171].  In an Ontario study, seed dispersal began from June 11 to June 20, peaked in early July, and ended in September [153].  Generalized flowering and fruiting dates for various locations are as follows: Location        Flowering               Fruiting         VA              May-June                July-August [150] NS              June-late July          early-mid-August [72,157] Pictou Co.,NS   ----                    July 17- Oct. 27 [151] ME              ----                    mid July-August [77] MI              May-June                July-August [44] NJ              April                   ---- [154] ON              May-early June          June-September [153,154,141].        


SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Lowbush 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 [29].  In parts of the Maritimes and the northeastern United States, peatlands, lakes, and rocky outcrops serve as natural fire breaks [59].  Fires in these areas are frequently patchy, creating forest openings into which lowbush 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 lowbush blueberry appears well adapted to survive in many fire regimes.  In Acadian forests, fire frequencies range from 60 to 1,000 years [55].  In parts of southeastern Labrador, fire occurs an average of once every 500 years [59], and in parts of New Brunswick, an average of once every 370 years [55].  In drier inland areas, fire-free intervals are much shorter. Fire is important in maintaining jack pine communities in which lowbush blueberry occurs as an understory dominant [59].  In jack pine communities of Minnesota, fire frequency has been estimated at 100 years [172].  Fire frequencies in Wisconsin pine barrens have been estimated at 20 to 40 years [163].  Occasional fires maintain the open character of these communities and allow for the continued prominence of lowbush blueberry. 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: Lowbush blueberry is tolerant of heat [56].  Underground portions of the plant generally survive wildfires or prescribed fires [157], 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) [140]. 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 [111]. Fire effects vary with fire severity and intensity, and season of burn [136].  Rhizome mortality increases as heat penetration into the soil increases [136].  In a northern Wisconsin muskeg, survival was poor after hot fires burned out layers of sphagnum [161].  Plants are generally most severely harmed by hot summer fires which occur when food reserves are low [55].  Seedlings that lack a well-developed rhizome system are often killed by recurring fires [96]. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Lowbush 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 [107].  Rhizome sprouting is much slower than crown sprouting [148].  Some reestablishment via seed germination may occur under favorable conditions [117].
Fire-pruning of lowbush blueberry. Image by Caleb Slemmons, National Ecological Observatory Network,
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 [55], and recovery may
be well underway within 4 to 5 postfire months [55,57].  Lowbush
blueberry was well represented within 4 months after an intense fire
destroyed all aboveground vegetation in a spruce stand in Manitoba [84].
In many areas, including parts of Nova Scotia and Ontario, lowbush
blueberry regains prominence 2 to 3 years after fire [6,106,144].
Although initially reduced after fire in jack pine and black spruce
communities, lowbush blueberry increased beyond prefire levels after 5
years [10,42,109].  Recovery may be delayed after hot fires.  Lowbush
blueberry was present within 13 years after a severe wildfire in a red
pine-white pine forest [11]. Hall and others [72] 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
[93].  Where clones are extremely decadent, it may take three seasons of
postfire growth before fruit production and vigor reach "satisfactory
levels" [131].  Some researchers report that burning too frequently can
cause fruit yields to decline [25].

Increases in lowbush blueberry after fire may be due in part to the
stimulatory effect of nutrients added by ash deposition or changes in pH
[70].  Blackened ground absorbs heat and may promote earlier fruit
ripening [28].

Season of burn:  In general, lowbush blueberry is most reduced by
summer fires [50].  Flinn and Wein [58] reported higher stem densities
after burning in fall, when plants had completed photosynthate storage
and had reserves available for new growth.  Smith [138] reported no
increases in density or productivity after plants were burned in summer
in northern Ontario.  Eaton and White [50] 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 [110].  Plants
burned in August, September, October, or November, do not sprout until
the following spring [50].  Spring fires typically promote fewer
competitors than do fall fires [139].  In commercial blueberry fields,
increases in dry matter and percent cover have been noted after both
spring and fall fires [139].

For further information on lowbush 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
lowbush blueberry, that was not available when this species review
was originally written.

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 [124]. 

Fuels and flammability:  Fuel loads are low and discontinuous in xeric
jack pine-red pine forests dominated by lowbush blueberry, common
juniper (Juniperus communis), lichens, and mosses [24].  Fires in these
communities tend to be of irregular intensity.  The probability of crown
fires increases in later successional stages in more mesic stands [24].
In northeastern New York, Stergas and Adams [145] 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 lowbush
blueberry, black huckleberry, and lichen [143].  Ash content of low
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 [143]:

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 [27].  Fire can be used to aid the
restoration of sand barren vegetation [27].  Vogl [163] reported that
burning at 10-year intervals would allow lowbush 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 lowbush
blueberry understory [131].

Disease:  Regular burn pruning can limit the spread of red leaf disease
[113] and blueberry leaf spot [12].  However, some diseases such as
powdery mildew and rust (Pucciniastrum myrtilli) tend to increase with
the proliferation of the host plant [12].

Nutrients:  Nutrient content of lowbush blueberry foliage is altered
by burning [29,78,116].  Leaf tissue from burned plants is typically
higher in nitrogen and phosphorus [78].  Comparative values are
available [29,116].


SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION: Tirmenstein, D. A., compiler. 1991. Burn pruning of lowbush 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: []. REFERENCE: Shubat, Deborah Jo. 1983. Management of native lowbush blueberry for recreational picking in northeastern Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota. 79 p. Thesis. [132] SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION: May/not reported. 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,             T59N, R9W).      (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 lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), or stands made up of both lowbush blueberry and velvetleaf blueberry (V. myrtilloides).      (1) Palisade Site:  Lowbush 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 lowbush             blueberry plants.      (4) Ely North:  Many weedy species were intermixed with lowbush             blueberry.      (5) Ely South:  This stand exhibited few weedy plants.  The soil surface             was cover with decomposing branches and small logs.  Lowbush             blueberry plants were described as vigorous. TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE: not reported 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 organic  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) Isabella Tracks-   unburned     2.3          6                 22               3   burned       2            8                 24               3 Isabella Sawbill   unburned     3           2.3                22               2.6   burned       5           2.4                22               2 Ely North       unburned     2           2                  23               4   burned       2.3         1                  23               4 Ely South   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 lowbush 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.


SPECIES: Vaccinium angustifolium
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