1. Family: Ericaceae Durande
    1. Genus: Vaccinium L.
      1. Vaccinium corymbosum L.

        Vaccinium corymbosum is cultivated in North America and West and Central Europe for its edible fruits, which are used to make pies, muffins, jams and syrups. It is a member of the heather, strawberry tree and rhododendron family (Ericaceae). There are about 500 species in the genus Vaccinium, including V. myrtillus (bilberry), V. oxycoccus (cranberry), V. macrocarpum (large American cranberry) and V. vitis-idaea (lingonberry or cowberry).

    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Vaccinium corymbosum is cultivated in North America and West and Central Europe for its edible fruits, which are used to make pies, muffins, jams and syrups. It is a member of the heather, strawberry tree and rhododendron family (Ericaceae). There are about 500 species in the genus Vaccinium, including V. myrtillus (bilberry), V. oxycoccus (cranberry), V. macrocarpum (large American cranberry) and V. vitis-idaea (lingonberry or cowberry).

    Vaccinium corymbosum was described by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753 from material collected by Peter Kalm in eastern North America. The generic name Vaccinium is from the Latin for blueberry and the specific epithet corymbosum refers to the umbrella-like inflorescences.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Vaccinium corymbosum is native to eastern USA and Canada, where it is found at up to 1,600 m above sea level.

    It is cultivated in many countries, including the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile.

    Description

    Overview: An erect, deciduous shrub up to 1.5 m tall, sometimes producing suckers.

    Leaves: Dark green, up to 7.0 × 2.5 cm, slightly leathery, sometimes with sharply toothed margins.

    Flowers: Lantern-like (urceolate) with white or pink petals. Stamens (male parts) with hairy filaments.

    Fruits: A berry, pale green, turning reddish-purple then dull blue-black on maturity, with a waxy blue-grey bloom, hairless, up to 12 mm in diameter.

    Seeds: Viable seeds large, brown, up to 17 per fruit. Imperfect seeds small, pale, up to 38 per fruit.

    Uses Food and drink

    Blueberry fruits are eaten raw, used to produce juice or processed into products including jams, syrups, pies, muffins, breakfast cereals and cereal bars.

    Blueberries contain moderate levels of vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and dietary fibre. They are promoted as a ‘superfood’, particularly in relation to their antioxidant properties.

    Medicinal

    Blueberries contain antioxidant anthocyanins, which have been alleged to increase communication between brain cells, and hence may have a role in preventing age-related memory-loss.

    The fruits also contain ellagic acid, which is considered to be potentially effective against cancer.

    Ornamental

    Blueberry is also cultivated as an ornamental and makes a good container plant or border shrub. In addition to the attractive flowers and foliage of many cultivars, growers benefit from a harvest of edible fruits.

    Cultivation

    Mature blueberry seeds should be placed on top of a peat-sand (in equal parts) mixture and kept in a misting chamber. When the seed-leaves emerge, the pots should be moved to a greenhouse bench and watered daily.

    Blueberry can be grown in acid soils (with a pH of 2.7–6.6) and tolerates low levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.

    This species at Kew

    Blueberry can be seen growing around Kew’s Woodland Glade and Waterlily Pond.

    Pressed and dried specimens of Vaccinium corymbosum are held in Kew’s Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these specimens, including images, can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.

    A specimen of wood from Vaccinium corymbosum is held in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection in the Sir Joseph Banks Building, where it is available to researchers by appointment.

    Distribution
    Canada, USA
    Ecology
    Moist woods, bogs, open swamps, ponds, streams, sandy margins of lakes, grey-birch scrub, pine barrens, mires, upland ericaceous meadows, ravines and mountain summits.
    Conservation
    Widespread in cultivation.
    Hazards

    None known.

    [KSP]
    Use
    Food, drink, ornamental.

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    Alabama, Illinois, Tennessee

    Introduced Into:

    Czechoslovakia

    Common Names

    English
    Blueberry

    Vaccinium corymbosum L. appears in other Kew resources:

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 350 (1753)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] Bailey, C. & al. (2015) Guide to the Vascular Plants of Tennessee . University of Tennessee press
    • [2] Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2014) Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide , ed. 4: 1-536. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale
    • [3] (2012) Preslia. Casopsi Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 84: 647-811
    • [4] Kral, R., Diamond, A.R., Ginzbarg, S.L., Hansen, C.J., Haynes, R.R., Keener, B.R., Lelong, M.G., Spaulding, D.D. & Woods, M. (2011) Annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Alabama . Botanical reseach institute of Texas
    • [8] Herkert, J.R. & Ebinger, J.E. (eds.) (2002) Endangered and Threatened Species of Illinois: status and distribution 1: 1-161. Endangered species protection board, Springfield, Illinois
    • [10] Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1972) Flora Europaea 3: 1-370. Cambridge University Press

    Literature

    • [5] Vander Colet, S. P. (2009). Vaccinium. Flora of North America 8: 551–530.
    • [6] Vaughan, J. G. & Geissler, C. A. (2009). The New Oxford Book of Food Plants, 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
    • [7] Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
    • [9] Vander Colet, S. P. (1980). The taxonomy of the highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum. Canadian Journal of Botany 58:1195.

    Sources

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
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