March 30, 2010

Taxonomy of Blueberries

Taxonomy of Blueberries
Blueberries are members of the Ericaceae (or heath) family, genus Vaccinium, subgenus Cyanococcus.

The genus is very diverse containing 150 to 450 species, mostly found in the tropics at high elevations but also in temperate and boreal regions.

Most species are shrubs similar to the blueberry but again a diverse range of growth forms, from epiphytes to trees, exists.

The Ericaceae family contains several important ornaments: rhododendrons and azaleas (Rhododendron), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), heather (Calluna), health (Erica) and leatherleaf (Leucothoe).

Other species of Vaccinium grown for fruit include the following:

  • Cranberry (V. macrocarpon). The most economically important Vaccinium in the world, cranberry is grown primarily in the northeastern United States. The plant is a creeping rhizomatous, bog species that grows wild in swampy areas.

  • Huckleberry (V. ovatum –evergreen; V. parvifolium – red; V. ovaliflium – tall mountain; V. deliciosum – low growing mountain). Prized as wildlife species, huckleberry plants provide an edible landscape element and are also used as ground covers. Huckleberry is also classified in the genus Gaylussacia.

  • Lignonberry (V. vitis-idaea). A creeping evergreen from Northern Europe, this plant produces small, cranberry like fruits.

  • Bilberry (V. myrtillus), A rhizomatous shrub native to Northern Europe, Russia, Scandinavia and the Pacific Northwest, this plant produces aromatic, purple berries that are collected from the wild and used in jellies, jams and wines.

Taxonomy of Blueberries

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