Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Southern Highbush Blueberry + - Vaccinium formosum   Andrews
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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AuthorAndrews
DistributionOccurs over most of the Coastal Plain and into the southeastern portion of the Piedmont. Scarce to absent in most of the far eastern counties near Albemarle and Pamlico sounds, and from parts of the northwestern Coastal Plain. In general, this is the “Vaccinium corymbosum” distribution in the Coastal Plain and eastern Piedmont from older references.

This species, recently split off from V. corymbosum, is limited essentially to the Atlantic Coastal Plain, ranging north to NJ, and south mostly to eastern GA. There are scattered records west to southern AL and northern FL. Thus, it is primarily a Carolina and VA species.
AbundanceIn the southern half of the Coastal Plain, it is frequent to common; however, it is much less numerous in the northern and eastern counties, and rare toward the sounds. It is scarce to rare in the small Piedmont portion of the range.
HabitatThis species occurs in quite wet ground where waters are not flowing, such as swamps (especially in blackwater swamps), beaver pond margins, boggy places, and depression ponds.
PhenologyBlooms from late February to May, mostly before or as the leaves are unfurling. Fruits from June to August. The fruits are considered to be the most flavorful of any native blueberry species, and it is the primary source of cultivated highbush blueberries.
IdentificationThis is a medium to fairly tall deciduous shrub that usually grows to 6-12’ high, often to about 10’ tall. However, it has fairly typical elliptical to slightly ovate (widest below the middle) leaves, which grow to an average of 2-3” long. Many biologists may need to see the flowers to corroborate the identification, as it has white flowers that are a bit larger, typically 2/5” long (about 10 mm), than similar blueberries (especially V. fuscatum), and they tend to be more cylindrical in shape than urceolate (i.e., more parallel-sided than ball-shaped). In fact, other blueberries in Coastal Plain wetlands typically have flowers that are pink- or green-tinted and not pure white, except for the very similar V. caesariense. See that species account for separation from that species. Biologists will likely have most trouble separating it from V. fuscatum, which has darker green leaves above, narrower or more urceolate flowers (that can be pink-tinged), and black berries (as opposed to glaucous blue).
Taxonomic CommentsUntil recently, most references had this taxon included within V. corymbosum. However, in recent years, the latter species has been determined to consist of multiple good species, and thus V. formosum has been split out as the primary Coastal Plain form, which generally has larger flowers and leaves than do the others in the group (i.e., V. corymbosum and V. caesariense).

Other Common Name(s)Southern Blueberry, Swamp Highbush Blueberry
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