The Blueberry Family: American Treasures

The Blueberry Family: American Treasures

Blueberry enthusiasts are fond of pointing out that the old saying “as American as apple pie” should really be “as American as blueberry pie.” Though there are several native North American crabapple species, the common Domestic Apple (Malus domestica) used in apple pies is actually descended from a species native to Central Asia. Blueberries, on the other hand, are one of relatively few native American fruits that have no equivalent in Eurasia. In fact, only a few members of the large and diverse blueberry family (Vaccinium sp.) are native to anywhere but North America at all.

The blueberry family includes blueberries, huckleberries, bilberries, and cranberries, as well as a few other species such as whortleberry, lingonberry, farkleberry, deerberry, and ohelo.

Blueberries and their relatives are treasured for their delicious and nutritious fruits, which are considered delicacies by humans and wildlife alike.

Many blueberry species also make attractive and easy to grow ornamental shrubs, though a few species, especially the cranberries, have very specific growing requirements that may be difficult for the average landowner to duplicate. The most commonly cultivated species is the Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum).

The most important native blueberry species include:

  • Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium)
  • Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
  • Cascade huckleberry (Vaccinium deliciosum)
  • Ohelo (Vaccinium dentatum)
  • Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
  • Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)
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