– Heath or Heather family
Perennial woody shrubs. Members of the heath family.
They range from 1½ to 14 feet tall.
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.
Plants bear clusters of bell shaped white
flowers often on racemes which can be up to ¾ inch long.
They have 4 to 5 petals which are sometimes tinged with red,
pink, or green.
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
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.
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
The berries are most
often used, but Native Americans prized the entire plant for its
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
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.
Blueberries have excellent antioxidant
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.