Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Small Black Blueberry - Vaccinium tenellum   Aiton
Members of Ericaceae:
Members of Vaccinium with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Ericales » Family Ericaceae
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AuthorAiton
DistributionEssentially throughout the Coastal Plain (though possibly absent in several far northeastern counties), and nearly throughout the eastern half of the Piedmont; it ranges west to Union and Stokes counties. There are no records for the Mountains or western Piedmont.

This is a Southern species that surprisingly ranges no farther north than south-central VA. Also, it becomes scarce into central GA, though there are scattered records in northern FL, AL, and MS.
AbundanceVery common to abundant in most of the Coastal Plain; common in the eastern Piedmont, and fairly common at best in the central Piedmont.
HabitatThis is a widespread and characteristic low shrub of dry, somewhat xeric woodlands. It occurs in pine-oak sandhills, upland oak and pine stands in the Piedmont, and other dry forests. It is outnumbered by Gaylussacia dumosa in xeric sandhills, but it is a numerous shrub in other sandy and dry soil forested habitats, especially in fire-suppressed sandhill forests.
See also Habitat Account for General Upland Heath Thickets
PhenologyBlooms from late March to early May, generally as the leaves are unfurling. Fruits in June and July.
IdentificationThis is one of the smallest blueberries in stature, being a rhizomatous (and thus quite colonial) shrub growing only to about 1 foot in height on average. It is sparsely branched, as well, with branches often being virgate and not wide-spreading. The leaves are also distinctive, being narrowly oblanceolate (clearly wider toward the tip), and only about 1-inch long. The leaves are not overly thick or shiny, unlike the somewhat similar Gaylussacia dumosa, the main species with which it can be confused. Also, the Vaccinium has narrow, tubular white to pink-tinged flowers, quite a bit different from the wider, bell-shaped and more conspicuous flowers of the Gaylussacia.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Narrowleaf Blueberry, Small-cluster Blueberry, Southern Blueberry
State RankS5
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
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B.A. SorrieWalthour Moss Foundation, dry longleaf upland, June 2014. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieSandhills Game Land, dry longleaf pine upland, Apr 2010.

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