Ground blueberry

Vaccinium myrsinites
Family: Ericaceae

Natural History
Ground blueberry flowers in the springtime
Photo credit: Niels Proctor, University of Florida

Ground blueberry usually grows in open places, from wet to dry sites. It commonly grows in prairies, pine forests, and at the edges of bogs or bays. It also occurs in mixed forests, on disturbed dunes, and in unplanted fields. Ground blueberry sprouts readily after a fire and is found in four states in the southeast: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.

Mammals such as black bears, raccoons, foxes, skunks, chipmunks, mice, and squirrels feed on the fruit of ground blueberry. Many species of birds eat the berries. White-tailed deer consume the fruit and leaves. The plant provides cover for a variety of small birds and mammals. The berries are sweet and they are commonly eaten by people. Many berries in the Vaccinium genus were important traditional foods of Native American tribes. Today they are eaten fresh, in jams, in pies, and in muffins.

Elliot blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii) is similar but has leaves ½" to 1" long, achieves a height of 3' to 9', and is deciduous.


 

Identifying Characteristics

Habitat: Ground blueberry grows on wet and dry sites, usually in open places. It can be found in pine flatwoods, on marsh borders, and in fields.
Size/Form: Ground blueberry is an upright, multi-branched shrub that measures 8" to 24" tall. It commonly forms extensive colonies from rhizomes.
Stem: The light green stems are slender and ascending. They have a somewhat zig-zagging growth form.
Leaves: The leaves are simple, alternate, and persistent. They are usually ¼" to ½" long and 1/8" to 1/4" wide, although they may be smaller. They are oblanceolate to elliptic in outline and shiny green to grayish green.
Flowers: The flowers appear in the springtime and are typical of the family, with fused petals forming a vase or urn shape.
Fruit: The fruit is a black, round berry, about ¼" wide and often has a white, waxy coating.

 

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