Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Vaccinium uliginosum
SPECIES: Vaccinium uliginosum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Matthews, Robin F. 1992. Vaccinium uliginosum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
Vaccinium occidentale A. Gray
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name of bog blueberry is Vaccinium
uliginosum Linnaeus [1,34,37,41,72]. It has been placed within the
section Vaccinium of the taxonomically complex genus Vaccinium .
Recognized subspecies and varieties based on morphological
characteristics or distribution are as follows:
Vaccinium uliginosum subsp. alpinum (Bigel.) Hulten [37,87]
Vaccinium uliginosum subsp. microphyllum Lange [37,41,81]
Vaccinium uliginosum subsp. pubescens (Wormsk. ex Hornem.) Young [41,75,81]
Vaccinium uliginosum subsp. occidentale (Gray) Hulten [41,81]
Vaccinium uliginosum subsp. pedris (Harshberger) Young [41,81]
Vaccinium uliginosum subsp. gaultherioides (Bigel.) Young 
Vaccinium uliginosum var. alpinum Bigel. [23,37,72,75,87]
Vaccinium uliginosum var. salicinum (Cham.) Hulten [37,81]
Vaccinium uliginosum var. uliginosum Linnaeus [1,34,37,41,72]
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Vaccinium uliginosum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Bog blueberry is distributed throughout Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.
It occurs south through New England, the northern portions of the Great
Lakes States, and western Washington and Oregon [1,34,72,75,87]. Bog
blueberry is also found in Japan, other parts of Asia, and in Europe
FRES10 White - red - jack pine
FRES11 Spruce - fir
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
AK CA ME MI MN NH NY OR VT WA
WI AB BC LB MB NB NF NT NS ON
PE PQ SK YT
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K001 Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest
K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest
K004 Fir - hemlock forest
K008 Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest
K015 Western spruce - fir forest
K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
K094 Conifer bog
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
1 Jack pine
5 Balsam fir
12 Black spruce
13 Black spruce - tamarack
107 White spruce
201 White spruce
202 White spruce - paper birch
204 Black spruce
205 Mountain hemlock
206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir
218 Lodgepole pine
224 Western hemlock
225 Western hemlock - Sitka spruce
227 Western redcedar - western hemlock
228 Western redcedar
251 White spruce - aspen
253 Black spruce - white spruce
254 Black spruce - paper birch
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Bog blueberry can occur as a dominant or codominant in a variety of
habitats within its range. It may occur as an understory component in
open or closed forest habitats, primarily with black or white spruce
(Picea mariana; P. glauca) [25,65,76,85,70]. Bog blueberry can also
dominate or codominate in dwarf shrub types, bogs or muskegs, and on
open tundra [27,43,86].
Other associated tree species include: Alaska-cedar (Chamaecyparis
nootkatensis), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), balsam poplar (P.
balsamifera), and paper birch (Betula papyrifera).
Associated understory species include: willows (Salix spp.), alders
(Alnus spp.), bog birch (Betula glandulosa), dwarf arctic birch (B.
nana), Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum and L. palustre), lignonberry
(Vaccinium vitis-idaea), bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis),
rustyleaf menziesia (Menziesia ferruginea), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum),
red fruit bearberry (Arctostaphylos rubra), leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne
calyculata), bog laurel (Kalmia polifolia), cloudberry (Rubus
chamaemorus), bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia), salal (Gaultheria
shallon), fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), Labrador lousewort
(Pedicularis labradorica), entire leaf mountain avens (Dryas
integrifolia), Mt. Washington mountain avens (D. octopetala), bluejoint
reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis), altai fescue (Festuca altaica),
cottonsedge (Eriophorum vaginatum and E. angustifolium), and various
sedges (Carex spp.), feathermosses (Hylocomium, Pleurozium, and
Stereocaulon spp.), clubmosses (Lycopodium spp.), sphagnum mosses
(Sphagnum spp.), and lichens (Cladonia and Cladina spp.).
Published classifications listing bog blueberry as a major component of
plant associations (pas), community types (cts), or vegetation types
(vts) are as follows:
AREA CLASSIFICATION AUTHORITY
interior AK postfire forest cts Foote 1983
nw AK cts Hanson 1953
AK gen. veg. pas Viereck & Dyrness 1980
AK: Seward Peninsula cts Kelso 1989
YT vts Stanek and others 1981
OR: Willamette NF gen. veg. pas Hemstrom and others 1987
Newfoundland peatland pas Pollett 1972
N.W.T. cts Black & Bliss 1978
SPECIES: Vaccinium uliginosum
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Bog blueberry is consumed by many species of wildlife. Many songbirds
and game birds including ptarmigan and spruce grouse eat the berries,
often before they are ripe [57,80]. Bog blueberry leaves are important
in the diet of spruce grouse throughout the spring, summer, and fall
. Many small mammals including chipmunks, squirrels, mice, and
rabbits also consume bog blueberry leaves or fruits. Consumption of
leaves by snowshoe hares is highest in the spring . Ninety-two
percent of the red-backed vole's fall diet consists of berries, many of
which are bog blueberries .
Caribou and moose browse on bog blueberry. In northwestern Manitoba,
occurrence of leaves and twigs in caribou rumen samples was 75 percent
in April and 81 percent in November . Bog blueberry was also
detected in samples in the winter months but may have been consumed as
litter as the caribou browsed on lichens . Moose lightly browse bog
blueberry throughout the year .
When available, bog blueberries are one of the most important fruits
consumed by black bear in interior Alaska. The berries are utilized
heavily from July to September . Black bear browse on bog blueberry
leaves in the spring . Brown bear are also known to eat bog
Palatability of Vaccinium species as browse is rated as fair to moderate
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
The nutritional value of bog blueberry is not well documented. However,
Vaccinium species in general have sweet berries that contain high
concentrations of mono- and disaccharides . They are rich in
vitamin C, high in energy content, and low in fat .
COVER VALUE :
Bog blueberry presumably provides cover for a variety of small wildlife
species. It often forms a dense understory layer that may serve as
hiding or resting sites for birds or small mammals.
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Bog blueberry has been successful at naturally colonizing local seismic
lines in the subarctic . It has also naturally colonized borrow
pits in tundra regions of northwestern Canada and may be of use in
managed reclamation projects .
Bog blueberry is tolerant of high concentrations of heavy metals in the
soil. Leaf tissues can accumulate uranium, copper, lead, zinc, nickel,
and iron in large quantities with no apparent detrimental effects to the
plant . The ability to inhabit soils with high concentrations of
these metals may favor the use of bog blueberry in certain revegetation
Bog blueberry could not be established from seed during the first
growing season in simulated pipeline trenches near Fort Norman,
Northwest Territories. Bog blueberry has, however, successfully
germinated after one or two growing seasons when planted in other areas
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Bog blueberries are edible and have good flavor . The berries are
often picked in large quantities [1,87] and used in jams, jellies, and
pies [37,38]. They are the most popular fruit of Native Americans in
the Fort Yukon region . Fresh or dried leaves can be used for tea
. Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) leaves, flowers, and rhizomes have
been used for medicinal purposes .
Bog blueberry has no economic importance , but its cold hardiness
(including late flowering) and resistance to the blueberry fungus
Fusicoccum putrefaciens make it useful for hybridizing with more
economically important species [33,81].
A high correlation exists between concentrations of uranium, copper, and
lead in bog blueberry leaf tissues and levels of these metals in the
surrounding soil. The ability of bog blueberry to reflect heavy metal
concentrations in till favors its use as a tool in mineral exploration.
The advantages and disadvantages of using bog blueberry for
biogeochemical prospecting have been considered .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Leaf production of bog blueberry increased in response to overgrazing by
caribou in arctic Canada. Average cover was 9 percent in overgrazed
areas but only 2 percent in areas that were not overgrazed .
In one study, bog blueberry showed no significant response to
fertilization or irrigation .
White spruce stands on Willow Island, Alaska were subjected to clearcut
and shelterwood treatments. Second year average percent cover and
average percent frequency of bog blueberry in the stands were as follows
Control Clearcut Shelterwood, 46 ft. Shelterwood, 30 ft.
(14 m) spacing (9 m) spacing
Cover 0.3 0.1 + 0.5
Frequency 6.0 7.0 3.0 13.0
Vegetative propagation of bog blueberry has been more successful with
root or rhizome cuttings than with stem cuttings. Rooting percentages
from both hardwood and softwood stem cuttings were poor, whereas 52
percent of rhizome cuttings produced shoots when planted immediately
after collection .
Blueberries can also be grown from seed. In general, the seeds should
be planted in a mixture of sand and peat. Seedlings grown in the
greenhouse can be transplanted 6 to 7 weeks after emergence but should
not be transferred to the field until after the first growing season.
Blueberries are exacting in their site requirements and are difficult to
establish on sites that do not meet their specific needs. Naturally
occurring stands can usually be managed successfully .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Vaccinium uliginosum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Bog blueberry is a low, highly branched, deciduous shrub. It is
prostrate to erect in form and generally reaches 8 to 16 inches (20-40
cm) in height. The leaves are oval and leathery, and twigs are slender.
Older twigs have gray, shreddy bark. The flowers are white to pink and
are borne singly or in clusters at the ends of stems. The fruit is a
blue to black berry [1,75,87]. Bog blueberry can form dense mats or
open extensive colonies .
Bog blueberry roots in the organic layer and is rhizomatous. Rhizome
depth ranges from superficial to 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm) below the
surface . Mycorrhizal associations exist on bog blueberry roots
that allow for increased plant nitrogen levels [28,48,78]. Bog
blueberry has a relatively high ratio of root biomass to shoot biomass
[32,69]. These adaptations are important for nutrient uptake in the
cold, poorly aerated, nitrogen-poor soils characteristic of bog
blueberry sites [10,32].
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Bog blueberry is capable of vegetative and sexual reproduction. It
regenerates vegetatively by layering or sprouting from rhizomes.
Seeds of most Vacciniums are not dormant and require no pretreatment for
germination . In one study, however, bog blueberry seeds exhibited
shallow dormancy, and a 30-day cold stratification at 35 degrees
Fahrenheit (2 deg C) increased germination success. Very few stratified
or unstratified seeds germinated at temperatures below 59 degrees
Fahrenheit (15 deg C) . Seed viability of most Vacciniums is of
short duration .
Seeds are readily dispersed by the birds and animals that eat bog
blueberry fruits . Bog blueberry seedlings can colonize exposed
mineral soil , but seedlings are rare in established adult
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Bog blueberry occupies sites ranging from sea level to alpine zones
. It occurs in organic or inorganic soils that are generally acidic
(pH 3.5 to 6.2) . Bog blueberry can tolerate a wide range of soil
moisture conditions and is found on well-drained to poorly drained
sites. Bog blueberry is found in sites characteristic of cool-temperate
to cool-mesothermal climates .
Bog blueberry occurs in a wide variety of habitats, such as coastal and
interior bogs [2,6,49,51]; cottongrass tussock tundra [5,6]; low shrub
tundra [2,5,9]; sedge meadows [6,39,46]; black or white spruce woodlands
[2,5,81]; forested areas [71,87]; rocky or sandy shores of lakes and
streams [8,11,42]; rock outcrops [12,72]; and barrens [23,72].
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Bog blueberry remains an important component of forest and woodland
understory through the early, mid-seral, and late stages of succession
[9,19]. It is important in the early shrub stages of tundra succession,
as well as in climax stages . Bog blueberry can also be found in
dense, mature-climax forest stands [16,25].
Bog blueberry can sprout from underground plant parts following fire and
remains important throughout successional stages. The following cover
and frequency percentages were found in black spruce stands in interior
Stage Years after fire Frequency(%) Cover(%)
Newly burned 0 - 1 38.0 less than 0.5
Moss-herb 1 - 5 62.0 3.0
Tall shrub-sapling 5 - 30 40.0 5.0
Dense tree 30 - 55 65.0 8.0
Mixed hardwood-spruce 55 - 90 59.0 5.0
Spruce 90 - 200+ 42.0 2.0
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Bog blueberry flowers from June to early July. Fruits ripen from late
July through September [23,42,75].
SPECIES: Vaccinium uliginosum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Bog blueberry sprouts from rhizomes or rootstocks following fire
[53,64,82]. It roots in the organic layer and therefore only survives
in patches where the organic layer is not consumed . Fire destroys
the seeds, so bog blueberry must invade burned areas from off-site
sources . Wildfires that occur in the wet sites that bog blueberry
often occupies are generally low in severity.
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 :
survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex
survivor species; on-site surviving rhizomes
off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Flower buds tend to be more numerous on new shoots, and periodic removal
of old shoots may increase flower production in many species of
Vaccinium . Berry production, however, may be delayed for a few
years. Ground fires of moderate severity favor growth and development
of bog blueberry, and prescribed burning is the recommended management
tool to increase berry yield . Burning should take place in late
fall or early spring before growth resumes .
In Russia, low- to moderate-severity ground fires caused 2.2 to 3.1 fold
increases in the number of bog blueberry shoots per unit area. Annual
growth increments also increased, and were nearly two times greater in
plants on burned areas than in plants on unburned areas. Fruit
production resumed 3 years after fire, and berries in burned areas were
larger and healthier (more resistant to damage) than berries in other
areas. Yield in burned areas was also greater than in adjacent unburned
SPECIES: Vaccinium uliginosum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Fire generally top-kills bog blueberry. Moderate- to high-severity
fires may also kill underground vegetative structures.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Bog blueberry sprouts from surviving rhizomes or rootstocks after low to
moderate-severity fires. Burned aerial stems may also sprout [64,88].
Bog blueberry grows rapidly for the first 50 to 60 years after fire ,
and reaches its highest postfire cover and frequency 50 to 120 years
after burning . Bog blueberry leaves are larger in burned areas,
even after 5 years .
Dyrness  found that bog blueberry in black spruce stands increased
in biomass production after light summer fires. The increase in biomass
production corresponded to an increase in nutrient uptake. Nutrient
levels (percent dry weight) in lightly burned versus unburned areas were
N P K Ca Mg
unburned .613 .074 .192 .172 .056
lightly burned 1.85 .324 .966 .394 .130
In the 4 years following the Wickersham Dome Fire near Fairbanks,
Alaska, bog blueberry in black spruce stands increased in percent cover
and biomass production, but did not reach control levels. Recovery in
lightly burned stands was much greater than in heavily burned stands
Biomass production in bog blueberry decreased following a summer fire in
tussock tundra near Fairbanks, Alaska. Production in burned areas was
significantly lower (P<.05) than in adjacent unburned areas 13 years
after the fire .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
For information on prescribed fire and postfire responses of many plant
species, including bog blueberry, see these Research Project Summaries:
SPECIES: Vaccinium uliginosum
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