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SPECIES:  Vaccinium pallidum
Blue Ridge blueberry. Wikimedia Commons image by Fritzflohrreynolds.


SPECIES: Vaccinium pallidum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Tirmenstein, D. A. 1991. Vaccinium pallidum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. ABBREVIATION : VACPAL SYNONYMS : Vaccinium vacillans Kalm ex Torr. NRCS PLANT CODE : VAVA COMMON NAMES : Blue Ridge blueberry hillside blueberry TAXONOMY : The currently preferred scientific name of Blue Ridge blueberry is Vaccinium pallidum Ait. [32]. Blue Ridge blueberry hybridizes with many species including Darrow's evergreen blueberry (V. darrowii), sweet hurt's blueberry (V. boreale), small cluster blueberry (V. tenellum), highbush blueberry (V. fuscatum), deerberry (V. stamineum), mayberry (V. elliottii), velvetleaf blueberry (V. myrtilloides), downy blueberry (V. atrococcum), lowbush blueberry (V. angustifolium), New Jersey blueberry (V. caesariense), and smallflower blueberry (V. virgatum) [14,19,58,60]. Hybrid swarms or complexes involving Blue Ridge blueberry,swamp highbush blueberry, and black highbush blueberry have been reported [58]. Vander Kloet [61] reported that Blue Ridge blueberry may be an ancestor of highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum). Hairy-fruited blueberry (V. hirsutum) may be the product of Blue Ridge blueberry x deerberry hybridization [61]. LIFE FORM : Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Vaccinium pallidum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Blue Ridge blueberry grows from Minnesota and southern Ontario to Maine, and southward to the uplands of Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas [58,61]. It occurs abundantly in the Allegheny Plateau but is primarily local to the west in Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Oklahoma [8,61]. Blue Ridge blueberry grows throughout the Ozarks, southern Appalachians, and Coastal Plain but is restricted to isolated populations to the north in much of New England [55,58].
Distribution of Blue Ridge blueberry. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC. [2018, August 30] [56].
   FRES10  White - red - jack pine
   FRES12  Longleaf - slash pine
   FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine
   FRES14  Oak - pine
   FRES15  Oak - hickory

     AL  AR  CT  DE  GA  IL  IN  IA  KS  KY
     MD  MA  MI  MN  ME  MO  NH  NJ  NY  NC
     OH  OK  PA  RI  SC  TN  VT  VA  WV  WI


   K095  Great Lakes pine forest
   K100  Oak - hickory forest
   K104  Appalachian oak forest
   K110  Northeastern oak - pine forest
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest

     1  Jack pine
    40  Post oak - blackjack oak
    44  Chestnut oak
    45  Pitch pine
    52  White oak - black oak - northern red oak
    53  White oak
    55  Northern red oak
    70  Longleaf pine
    71  Longleaf pine - scrub oak
    76  Shortleaf pine - oak
    81  Loblolly pine
    82  Loblolly pine - hardwood
   110  Black oak


Blue Ridge blueberry is a prominent understory species in oak (Quercus
spp.) woodlands, red maple (Acer rubrum) swamps, oak-chestnut (Castanea
dentata spp.) woodlands, pine (Pinus spp.)-oak communities, ecotonal
white pine (P. strobus) thickets, pitch pine (P. rigida) barrens, and
open pine savannas [9,23,61,64].  Numerous evergreen and deciduous
overstory dominants grow in association with Blue Ridge blueberry.  Common
associates include northern red oak (Q. rubra), black oak (Q. velutina),
white oak (Q. alba), post oak (Q. stellata), chestnut oak (Q. prinus),
blackjack oak (Q. marilandica), Virginia pine (P. virginia), shortleaf
pine (P. echinata), pitch pine (P. rigida), loblolly pine (P. taeda),
longleaf pine (P. palustris), jack pine (P. banksiana), eastern hemlock
(Tsuga canadensis), red maple, and black cherry (Prunus serotina)

Understory associates:  Blue Ridge blueberry grows as a principal species
in higher elevation spirea (Spirea corymbosa) meadows of Virginia [26].
In the southern Appalachians, mountain-laurel (Kalmia latifolia),
rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum), yellow birch (Betula
alleghaniensis), black huckleberry (Gaylussacia bacatta), wintergreen
(Gaultheria procumbens), and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
typically occur with Blue Ridge blueberry [64].  Common associates in oak,
oak-pine communities, and the Pine Barrens of New Jersey include black
huckleberry, melampyrum (Melampyrum lineare), sweet-fern (Comptonia
peregrina), cat greenbriar (Smilax glauca), mountain-laurel, dangleberry
(Gaylussacia frondosa), yellow sedge (Carex pensylvanica), and bracken
fern (Pteridium aquilinum) [12,18,34].  Sweet-fern, black huckleberry,
dangleberry, and low sweet blueberry often grow with Blue Ridge blueberry
in oak woodlands [31].  In the upper Midwest, sedges (Carex spp.),
Dichanthelium depauperatum, and dewberry (Rubus hispidus) are common
understory associates [2].

Blue Ridge blueberry grows as a "diagnostic understory species" in certain
old-growth post oak-black oak communities of the Piedmont [30].  It is
listed as an indicator or codominant in the following community type
classification system:

Old-growth forests within the Piedmont of South Carolina [30]


SPECIES: Vaccinium pallidum
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE : The wood of Blue Ridge blueberry is soft and white but has no known commercial value [53]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Browse: The importance of Blue Ridge blueberry browse to wild ungulates appears variable. It is reported to have fair forage value in the Ozarks [47] and receives only light year-round use by white-tailed deer in parts of central Pennsylvania [43]. White-tailed deer seldom feed on Blue Ridge blueberry browse during the winter in New Jersey, but in parts of Pennsylvania, it may be eaten during the spring and summer [38]. Blue Ridge blueberry has been described as a preferred white-tailed deer food in parts of Virginia [15]. This preference may be due in part to the presence of juicy, flavorful berries. Fruit: Fruit of Blue Ridge blueberry is widely used by numerous species of small birds and mammals [53]. In Virginia and presumably elsewhere, berries are readily consumed by the wild turkey [15]. Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) fruits are eaten by many species of birds including the rufous-sided towhee, northern mockingbird, gray catbird, brown thrasher, American robin, whimbel, herring gull, Canada goose, ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, eastern bluebird, and various tanagers and thrushes [40,59,63]. The black bear, red squirrel, gray fox, red fox, skunks, and chipmunks also feed on blueberry fruit [40,59,61]. PALATABILITY : Palatability of Blue Ridge blueberry browse to deer has not been well documented [12]. Several food habit studies suggest that it is of at least fair palatability to deer in many areas. The juicy, sweet fruit is highly palatable to numerous species of birds and mammals [53]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Fruit: Blue Ridge blueberry is characterized by a high soluble solid content [3]. Soluble solids average 13.07 percent, with a titratable acidity of 0.67 [3]. Each berry averages 8 calories [63]. Browse: Leaf nutrient content varies according to phenological development. Killingbeck and Costigan [34] reported the following nutrient values: micrograms per cm -2 N P Cu Fe Zn pre-senescent leaves 57.5 5.5 0.05 0.15 0.07 senescent leaves 2.3 0.4 0.002 0.008 0.013 COVER VALUE : The low-statured Blue Ridge blueberry presumably provides minimal cover for large mammals. However, plants form good ground cover for a variety of small mammals [53]. Fallen leaves commonly lodge in dense thickets of this shrub increasing its cover value during late fall and winter [53]. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Blue Ridge blueberry can retard erosion on steep slopes [53]. Most blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) can be readily propagated by hardwood cuttings or by seed [65]. The weight of 100 seeds averages 0.001 ounce (34 mg) [60]. Propagation techniques have been examined in detail [65]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Fruit of Blue Ridge blueberry is sweet to bland and of "fair quality" [14,58]. Fruit is eaten fresh or used to make pies and jellies [53]. It receives casual use throughout its range but is harvested commercially in northeastern Alabama, northwestern Georgia, western and northwestern Arkansas, and West Virginia [61]. In many areas, quantities of berries are difficult to collect because the fruit ripens over a relatively long period of time [53]. Blue Ridge blueberry has shown promise for use in breeding hardy, early-ripening, fruit-producing cultivars [4,19]. It has shown particular promise for developing commercial blueberries adapted to upland mineral soils [35]. Blue Ridge blueberry is an attractive shrub and is occasionally grown for its ornamental value as well as its fruit [33]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Drought resistance: Blue Ridge blueberry is resistant to drought [19,61] but is not as drought tolerant as many other southern blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) [20]. Radiation: Blue Ridge blueberry is resistant to ionizing gamma radiation [10]. Plants sprouted from rhizomes 0.4 inch (1.0 cm) or greater in depth following aerial exposure to 105 R per day. Plants did not sprout after rhizomes were exposed to 65 to 70 R per day [10]. Disease: The shrub is susceptible to "stunt" virus [19]. Timber harvest: Cover of Blue Ridge blueberry is reportedly greater in cut stands (20 percent) than in uncut stands (9 percent) [12].


SPECIES: Vaccinium pallidum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Blue Ridge blueberry is a variable, erect, deciduous shrub that commonly reaches 9 to 21 inches (23-51 cm) in height [14,48,61]. On some sites, plants reach maximum heights of only 3 inches (8 cm), but on extremely favorable sites, individuals may grow to 39 inches (100 cm) [61]. This rhizomatous shrub forms small to extensive colonies [14,61]. The terete to slightly angled twigs are pale green, reddish, yellow, or pale gray [33,48,48,53]. The variable twigs are glabrous to pubescent [58]. Stem morphology has been examined in detail [45]. Smooth, slightly ridged bark is greenish-brown or red [53]. Roots are finely textured [20]. The simple, alternate leaves are variable in both color and morphology [53]. Leaves are ovate, obovate, spatulate, or broadly elliptic and 0.8 to 2.3 inches (2.0-6 cm) in length [48,58]. Margins are entire, minutely serrulate, or ciliate [53,58]. The glabrous upper surface is yellow-green, pale green, or dark blue green, whereas leaves are paler and glaucous to pubescent beneath [25,58,61]. Leaves turn scarlet or crimson in the fall [33]. Cylindric to urceolate-campanulate inflorescences are borne in groups of 4 to 11 on axillary or terminal racemes [25,48,58]. The perfect flowers are pink, greenish-white, or occasionally white [53,61] and average 0.25 inch (6 mm) in length [33]. Floral morphology has been reported in detail [46]. Fruit is a sweet, juicy, globular berry 0.2 to 0.5 inch (4-12 mm) in diameter [25,33,48,58]. Average berry weight has been estimated at approximately 0.01 ounce (0.28 g) [3]. Berries are blue and glaucous to black and shiny [25,61]. White-fruited forms, although rare, have also been reported [33]. Each berry contains 8 to 14 variable, irregular seeds [25,53]. Of this number, approximately four are viable [63]. Viable seeds tend to be brown or reddish-brown [25,53]. The glossy, pitted seeds average 0.04 to 0.06 inch (1-1.6 mm) in length [53]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Chamaephyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Blue Ridge blueberry can regenerate through seed or by vegetative means. Seed: In some areas, fruit is produced in abundance [33,53], but elsewhere yields are more often small [16]. Vander Kloet and Austin-Smith [63] reported that plants produce fruit "en masse" in the Appalachians and Ozarks but produce fruit sporadically near the Atlantic Coast. Little is known about specific germination requirements. Radicles generally emerge within 13 days, dicotyledons develop within 23 days, and true leaves are produced within 38 days after planting [60]. The seeds of most blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) germinate only on good sites in favorable years. Ballington and others [4] observed only a few surviving Blue Ridge blueberry seedlings. Vegetative regeneration: Blue Ridge blueberry spreads by means of rhizome expansion to form extensive colonies [43,61]. Plants sprout readily from underground rhizomes after aboveground vegetation is damaged or destroyed. Most rhizomes are concentrated in the top 1.9 inches (5 cm) of the A horizon of the soil, but some extend to depths of 6 inches (15 cm) [10]. Buds nearest the stem apex typically sprout first after disturbance [10]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Blue Ridge blueberry grows on dry, rocky hillsides, upland ridges, rocky outcrops and ledges, sandy knolls, and in shale barrens [14,58,61,53]. It commonly occurs on a variety of disturbed sites, such as abandoned pastures and farmlands, along roadsides, and in clearcuts [14,44,58,61]. Blue Ridge blueberry is a common component of dry, open woods but also grows in hardwood swamps [51,61]. It generally occurs below 3,500 feet (1,061 m) in elevation [14]. Soils: Blue Ridge blueberry grows on dry, sandy or gravelly soils, as well as on heavy clay [17,25,30]. It grows well on acidic soils [53]. Parent materials are variable but include chert, granite, gneiss, and schist [25,30]. Climate: Blue Ridge blueberry grows in a humid mesothermal climatic regime [34]. Average annual precipitation amounts have been reported as ranging from 39 to 47 inches (100-120 cm) [6,34,50]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Blue Ridge blueberry is reported to have "ruderale tendencies" [57,58]. It commonly invades disturbed sites, such as abandoned farms and clearcuts [58,61]. In parts of New England, it has become widely established on abandoned pasturelands. Blue Ridge blueberry, black huckleberry, and roundleaf greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia) have assumed dominance in these relatively stable plant communities [44]. In many areas, it becomes more abundant on plots burned at frequent intervals [27]. Blue Ridge blueberry also grows in several climax communities. It occurs in climax stands in pine-oak communities of New Jersey and in old-growth post oak-black oak communities of the South Carolina Piedmont [30,37]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Flowers generally appear before the leaves are "half grown" [33]. The mean interval between flowering and fruiting is approximately 66 days [24]. Vander Kloet [61] reported a period of 60 days until seed set. Blue Ridge blueberry often ripens over a relatively long period of time [53], although much geographic variation has been observed. In the foothills of the Appalachian and Ozark mountains, populations often fruit synchronously [63]. However, in coastal regions, fruit ripens sporadically [63]. Ballington and others [4] observed peak ripeness in early June, although berries could be harvested from July 12 to July 29. Generalized flowering and fruiting dates are as follows: Location Flowering Fruit ripe Authority VA ---- July - August Uttal 1987 Great Plains April - June July - September Great Plains Flora Flora Assoc. 1986 n-c Great Plains mid-April early July Stephens 1973 NC, SC March - April June - July Radford and others 1964 OH ---- July 16-28 Gorchov 1987 New England May 10 - June 14 ---- Seymour 1985


SPECIES: Vaccinium pallidum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Fire is a dominant influence in many Coastal Plain forests in which Blue Ridge blueberry occurs [41]. Historic fire intervals have been estimated at approximately 65 years in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey [6]. Fire intervals are estimated at 40 years in oak-pine stands and as frequent as every 8 years in pitch pine stands of New Jersey [6]. Blue Ridge blueberry is well represented in these communities. Although it can survive during fairly long fire-free intervals, this shrub is particularly well adapted to frequent fires. In the New Jersey Pine Barrens, it typically assumes importance under a regime of frequent fires [10,12]. Burning more than once within 5 years can produce increases in the relative abundance of Blue Ridge blueberry. Buell and Cantlon [12] observed no "regular trend in cover until burns became more frequent than every 3 years." However, plants may be reduced by annual burning. On annually burned plots, Blue Ridge blueberry cover was approximately one-half that of less frequently burned plots [12]. Blue Ridge blueberry is well adapted to fire [10]. It readily regenerates in postfire communities [14] from rhizomes, root crowns, or surviving portions of aerial stems [10]. As with other lowbush blueberries, clones of Blue Ridge blueberry are rejuvenated as fire removes decadent material and stimulates sprouting [52]. Birds and mammals may transport some seed from off-site, but establishment is probably limited to good sites in favorable years. 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 Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Vaccinium pallidum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Most aboveground stems are presumably killed by fire. However, buds are resistant to heat damage [10]. Brayton and Woodwell [10] observed a "few" surviving aboveground stems after a "heavy burn" in New York. Underground regenerative structures are generally well protected by overlying layers of soil. Postfire mortality is apparently low. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Blue Ridge blueberry sprouts readily after fire [10,14] from underground rhizomes, buds located on the root collar, and buds located on portions of surviving aerial stems [10,42]. Surviving buds located nearest the stem apex generally sprout to produce the new shoots [10]. Plants commonly sprout from underground rhizomes after aboveground foliage is consumed by fire. Sprouts often originate from root collar buds after only light damage [42]. Sprouting ability may be reduced by severe damage or by fires at too frequent intervals [10]. After wildfires in white oak-scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea)-pitch pine forests of New Jersey, shoot elongation of Blue Ridge blueberry was reduced by "heavy" as compared to "light" burns. However, greater population increases were noted after "heavy" burns. Comparative values were as follows [10]: stems/ m sq burn 117 light 138 heavy Some seedling establishment may occur as birds and mammals transport seed from off-site. However, seedling establishment in most blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) is generally limited to favorable sites in good years. Recovery of Blue Ridge blueberry is typically rapid. By the second year after a prescribed fire in a clearcut jack pine stand in northern lower Michigan, plants exhibited significant increases in cover [1]. Blue Ridge blueberry was considered dominant in both burned and unburned stands [1]. Cover was documented as follows [1,2]: 1979 1980 1981 cover freq. cover freq. cover freq. mature jack pine stand 27.2 30.0 -- -- -- -- unburned clearcut 11.3 43.3 20.5 44.0 19.2 44.4 burned clearcut 14.3 34.2 9.0 41.0 19.4 43.9 Although Blue Ridge blueberry generally increases after fire, small reductions have been noted on certain sites. Ten to 26 months after a burn in north-central New York, Swan [54] reported average frequencies on unburned plots of 47 percent, whereas the average frequency on burned plots was 36 percent. Similarly, Brown [11] observed relative densities of 37.58 percent on burned sites and 43.92 percent on unburned sites in Rhode Island woodlands. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : The following Research Project Summaries provide information on prescribed fire and postfire response of plant community species, including Blue Ridge blueberry, that was not available when this species review was written: FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Prescribed fire: Clones of lowbush blueberries such as Blue Ridge blueberry persist for years on undisturbed sites. However, fruit production and overall vigor typically decline with age [52]. Fire has been widely used to rejuvenate decadent clones and improve wildlife habitat [52]. Biomass: Estimates of Blue Ridge blueberry biomass in New Jersey Pine Barrens were as follows [6]: (kg/ha) control wildfire wildfire pres. burn pres. burn ---- + 1 162 35 Environmental consideration: Blue Ridge blueberry is able to persist in chestnut-oak woodlands of Pennsylvania adjacent to zinc smelters [31]. Studies in these contaminated communities indicated that many species, normally favored by fire, were weakened by exposure to high soil levels of zinc and did not assume prominence on burned sites. However, Blue Ridge blueberry, although also weakened by exposure to soil contaminants, nevertheless increased on burned plots. Percent cover was as follows [31]: burned unburned (sampled 14-15 years after fire) control 7.8 1.2 smelter site 4.7 0.9


SPECIES: Vaccinium pallidum
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Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434] 6. Boerner, Ralph E. J. 1981. Forest structure dynamics following wildfire and prescribed burning in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. American Midland Naturalist. 105(2): 321-333. [8649] 7. Bramble, W. C.; Goddard, M. K. 1943. Seasonal browsing of woody plants by white-tailed deer in the bear oak forest type. Journal of Forestry. 41(7): 471-475. [3298] 8. Braun, E. Lucy. 1936. Forests of the Illinoian till plain of southwestern Ohio. Ecological Monographs. 6(1): 91-149. [8379] 9. Braun, E. Lucy. 1942. Forests of the Cumberland Mountains. Ecological Monographs. 12(4): 413-447. [9258] 10. Brayton, R. D.; Woodwell, G. M. 1966. Effects of ionizing radiation and fire on Gaylussacia baccata and Vaccinium vacillans. American Journal of Botany. 53(8): 816-820. [9074] 11. Brown, James H., Jr. 1960. 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Vacciniaceae--huckleberry family. In: Our northern shrubs and how to identify them. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.: 315-342. [9272] 34. Killingbeck, Keith T.; Costigan, Steve A. 1988. Element resorption in a guild of understory shrub species: niche differentiation and resorption thresholds. Oikos. 53: 366-374. [8973] 35. Korcak, Ronald F. 1988. Nutrition of blueberry and other calcifuges. Horticultural Reviews. 10: 183-227. [9612] 36. 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. [1384] 37. Little, S.; Moore, E. B. 1949. The ecological role of prescribed burns in the pine-oak forests of southern New Jersey. Ecology. 30(2): 223-233. [11107] 38. Little, Silas; Moorhead, George R.; Somes, Horace A. 1958. Forestry and deer in the Pine Region of New Jersey. Station Pap. No. 109. 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