Red, White, and Blueberry

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Filed under Outdoor Notes

July 1, 2011

It is easy to remember when to start picking blueberries in the mountains, July 4th weekend. Actually, this year, I have already seen pickers out and about in the mountains. Look along ridgetop trails and roads especially.

Blueberries

Blueberries from Tuscarora State Forest

Blueberries are in the genus Vaccinium, which is one of those genera that requires a lot of attention to detail and time on your hands to distinguish species with certainty. Moreover, they hybridize. The genus includes blueberries, deerberries, cranberries, bilberries, farkleberries (really), and Ohelo–two species native to Hawaii.

According to the USDA, there are some thirty-five species of Vaccinium in the United States, of which nine grow in Pennsylvania.  I can’t really tell them apart, but the ones that look exactly like the ones you buy in the grocery store (maybe a little smaller) are excellent.

If you are a butterfly watcher, mark hilltop blueberry patches for a visit next spring. The blueberries bloom in April, and they are very attractive to early butterflies, especially Spring Azures (Celastrina ladon) and Brown Elfins (Callophrys augustinus).

Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)

Spring Azure on blueberry

Brown Elfin (Callophrys augustina)

Brown Elfin

A last word, if you go, keep an eye out for wildlife, and make a little noise as you go. Bears love blueberries. Snakes like ridgetops.

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