Monday, April 30, 2012

Late Low Blueberry

I remember my surprise at finding blueberries growing on dry, high pH, limestone based soils.  I had always thought of them as plants requiring wet, acid soils in which to grow.  I walked past these plants several times thinking that they were just short Deerberry, which I had already identified on the site.  The shock came one day when I glanced down and observed the blooms.  I was looking at Late Low Blueberry, Vaccinium pallidum.
Low in the name refers to height, which is seldom more than 18 inches.  The short plants form colonies that can sometimes spread over a large area. 
The plants are fairly open and despite displaying various shades of red and pink, are not very noticeable.  Many clumps virtually disappear later in the summer when overtopped by tall grasses.

Blueberry species can show a lot of variation within a population.  These plants are no exception.  Flower color ranges from a greenish ivory to bright red. 

Leaves also show a range of shapes.  Gleason and Cronquist have combined a couple of  species into Vaccinium pallidum, so traits that other people have used to separate species are just some of this plant’s variations.

I like the slightly smaller leaves with the pink blush.  I think this would be a fine plant to enhance the landscaping around the house.

Late Low Blueberry has its fair share of animal interactions.  Deer help keep the plant short by constantly pruning the top growth.  The fly may have been just perching, but I’ve noticed that some insects have certain plant species upon which they prefer to sit.  That could mean that the plant plays some important role in the insect’s life.

A larva was busily consuming one of the leaves.  I took this shot on a cloudy day, but the green of the larva seemed to glow with an inner light.  I wondered what it was to become and all I could think of was bird food.

Of course, the Allegheny Mound Ants were interacting with the blueberry.  This ant was examining every part of the plant.  I wasn’t able to determine what the attraction was.  It looks like we might get a good crop of berries this year and I’m interested in seeing how the ants respond to that.

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