Vaccinium myrtilloides (Velvet-leaf Blueberry)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; sandy or rocky soil; open woods, rock outcrops, pine barrens, peatlands
Bloom season:June
Plant height:12 to 20 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Clusters of a few to several hanging, short-stalked, bell-like flowers at ends of 1-year-old twigs. Flowers are urn-shaped, around ¼ inch long, with 5 fused deep pink to white petals with triangular tips that curl back.

[inside the flower] A cluster of brown, tubular stamens surround a single, pale green style in the center of the tube. The calyx is hairless, green but often tinged red, with 5 broadly triangular lobes that are appressed to slightly spreading.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, short-stalked to nearly stalkless, elliptical, ¾ to 2 inches long, 1/3 to ¾ inch wide. Blades are leathery, the edges smooth and toothless, the upper surface dark green with an opaque luster through dense, fine hairs, the lower surface similar except lighter green. Twigs are fine, green or brownish with a reddish tinge, densely covered in fine hairs and a fine, warty texture underneath. Older stems can be reddish brown or purplish, eventually peeling, but do not persist for many years before being replaced by younger canes. Plants often form colonies.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a round berry, ¼ to 1/3 inch diameter, typically with a waxy powdery blue coating; occasionally the coating is absent making the berries a dark bluish black.


Perhaps the majority of wild foragers are not aware that their tasty haul of plump, sweet blueberries are coming off of two different species. While not as common, they are nearly identical in growth habit, range and habitat preference and are frequently found side by side. The more common Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) is easily distinguished by the mostly hairless leaves. A few might say Velvet-leaved berries are a bit more tart than Lowbush but we'd never turn them aside - delicious!

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Cook County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin and Lake counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Sean R - Pelican Lake, Crow Wing Co.
on: 2017-07-22 11:27:03

I was just foraging these last weekend. The bushes are prolific in the mixed sand-plain forest surrounding the lake. Seems to like compete well with the grasses.

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