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Blueberry

(Vaccinium spp.)

Range:

Identifying characteristics:

Growth Type:

Perennial woody shrubs. Members of the heath family.

Height:

They range from 1 to 14 feet tall.

Leaves:

Apart from a couple of species, they are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves each year. They are short stalked with alternate elliptical leaves. The leaves are smooth edged, or slightly toothed, and about 1 to 2 inches long.

Stem/Trunk:

Woody Stems

Root:

N/A

Flower:

Season:

Early Spring

Appearance:

Plants bear clusters of bell shaped white flowers often on racemes which can be up to inch long. They have 4 to 5 petals which are sometimes tinged with red, pink, or green.

Seed/Fruit:

The round blue-black, blue, or red berries that form in the early summer have many seeds, although in some species they are much too small to notice. The characteristic that sets Vaccinium apart from berries with a superficial resemblance is the calyx, or crown. On the end of the berry opposite the stem there will be what looks like a crown. It will be a circle with 4 or 5 little points. These are the remnants of the petals from the original flower. Most blueberries and huckleberries will be covered with a white powdery 'blush'.

Miscellaneous characteristics:

Unlike other berries, they do not have thorns or pickers of any type. Blueberries often grow in dense thickets making them easy to collect in quantity. The main differences between blueberries and huckleberries, besides the taste, are blueberries are typically borne singly on a short stem, while huckleberries are typically borne in a cluster of multiple berries similar to grapes. Huckleberries also typically have much less blush on their skin.

Habitat:

The various species of blueberries and huckleberries grow in a wide range of habitats from the arctic circle to the southern United States. All species grow in acidic soils, so they are quite abundant in bogs, under conifers, and in mountainous regions.

Parts Used:

The berries are most often used, but Native Americans prized the entire plant for its medicinal value.

Uses:

Wild Food Uses:

Fruit - Eaten Fresh, dried, jellies, and jams, juiced. Blueberries make one of the best homemade wines I have ever tasted. It is delicate, yet full bodied.

Leaves - A decoction from the leaves is good for diabetes. It contains neomyrtilicine which has been shown to reduce blood sugar.

Roots - A tea from the roots has been used to facilitate child birth. It stimulates and soothes the uterus.

The leaves and roots have astringent properties as well. Bilberries have been shown to greatly improve night vision. WWII pilots ate bilberry jam before leaving for night missions, and it improved their night vision. Subsequent studies found bilberries contain low levels of anthocyanosides which not only improve night vision, but also help with a wide range of eye problems.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:

Blueberries have excellent antioxident properties. A decoction of the leaves is said to be an excellent treatment for diabetes. A tea from the roots has been used to facilitate child birth. It stimulates and soothes the uterus.

Medicinal Actions:

Antioxidant

Pictures of Blueberries

Pictures of Huckleberries

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Revised: 05/11/16 Living Afield