1045 Vaccinium myrsinitesCommon Names: shiny blueberry, evergreen blueberry Family: Ericaceae (heath Family)
Shiny blueberry is a knee-high shrub that has glossy little leaves all year long, pinkish white urn-shaped flowers in spring, and shiny blue-black berries that ripen in summer. The closely related glaucous blueberry (V. darrowii) is very similar, and can be found growing in the same places, but its leaves, berries and flower stalks are usually covered with a powdery bloom that can be wiped off with the finger. The condition is called "glaucous", and it imparts a beautiful bluish cast to new leaves and stems, unlike the glossy green leaves of shiny blueberry. Another way to tell the two species apart is to use a 10X hand lens, and look for tiny stalked glands on the underside of the leaves. Vaccinium myrsinites has the glands and V. darrowii does not. Both species can get up to 3 ft (1m) tall. Both are evergreen with many branches and a rounded habit. Both have edible berries which can be just as tasty as the cultivated commercial blueberries (V. ashei, for example).
Vaccinium myrsinites and V. darrowii are common components of piney woods habitats (from seasonally wet to extremely dry) on the southeastern Coastal Plain from South Carolina through the Florida peninsula and west along the Gulf Coast.
CultureBlueberries, typical members of the heath family, like a sandy, acidic soil. Don't add lime where you want to grow blueberries, azaleas, rhododendrons, etc. And don't bother trying to grow them on marly or limey soils. They actually do better in poor sandy soil than in humus-rich fertile soil. Light: Blueberries can tolerate light shade but will produce best in full sun. Moisture: Both of these low bush blueberry species occur naturally in well drained xeric habitats and poorly drained mesic habitats. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 10. Propagation: Blueberries can be started from fast growing tip cuttings. Best results are obtained under mist. Seeds can be difficult to germinate. They require light (don't bury them) and fluctuating temperatures, and may take a year or more to sprout.
Shiny blueberry (and glaucous blueberry) are neat, compact and dense little evergreen shrubs that are at home in low borders or hedges, and in the naturalistic woodland garden. Both produce an abundance of flowers and berries. All manner of wildlife (your writer included) feast on the berries. For best fruit production, grow in full sun, mulch well with organics, and prune back older growth every year or two.
You can always find room for native blueberries in the cultivated landscape. Hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers, and songbirds eat the berries. Once established, blueberries require no attention from the gardener.
Steve Christman 05/04/07