Blueberries

Sweet tasting blueberries are a popular treat for many animals in mid to late summer, including humans.  Blueberry jam or fresh blueberries on top of some corn flakes is hard to beat.

 

We have several types of wild blueberries here in our area, but they all have similar features.  All are shrubs with many branches.  The leaves are around 2 inches long, lance shaped, smooth or finely toothed edge, and a short stem.   The flowers, which bloom in spring, are small, white, and bell like.  The twigs of blueberries often grow in a zigzag pattern, and can be green or reddish in color.  The berries themselves are fairly small (pea sized), round, and blue to purple when ripe in late July and August.  They may be glossy in appearance or look like they have a white powder on them.

 

The main difference between blueberry species in our area is height.  The High Bush Blueberry is usually 5 to 10 feet tall and is most often found in the higher mountains.  The Low Bush Blueberry is only around 3 feet tall, and is our most common variety. There is also the Huckleberry, which grows only around 1-3 feet tall, and looks very similar to the Low Bush Blueberry.  The leaves of the Huckleberry have small yellowish globs of resin on their lower surface.

 

Both the Blueberry and Huckleberry tend to grow where it is fairly dry and the soil acidic.  Look on ridge tops, south and west facing slopes, and under an oak-pine or oak forest, especially Chestnut Oak.  This is very different to the blueberries of the New England states, which are usually found in wet, boggy places.

 

Because blueberries ripen towards the end of summer, they are an important source of food to many species of wildlife that are trying to fatten up for winter.  Grouse are especially dependent on the fruit, as well as many songbirds, chipmunk, black bear, skunk, and field mice.  Rabbits and deer eat the fruit, but also use the foliage and branches as a food source.

 

 

 

 

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