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Vaccinium virgatum is a deciduous shrub growing to 3 to 6 feet tall and with up to a 3 foot spread. The leaves are spirally arranged, oblate to narrow elliptic, 3 inches long and start out red-bronze in the spring only to develop into a dark-green. The flowers are white, bell-shaped, 5 mm long. The fruit is a berry 5 mm diameter, dark blue to black, bloomed pale blue-gray by a thin wax coating.
Grows best on acid soil. This one was growing in a mixed hardwood-pine forest in the Piedmont region of east-central Georgia. Photographed along the Bartram Trail in Columbia County, GA near Pollards Corner, GA.
Vaccinium virgatum is self-infertile, and must have two or more varieties to pollenize each other. Honeybees are inefficient pollinators, and carpenter bees frequently cut the corollas to rob nectar without pollinating the flowers. V. virgatum does best when pollinated by buzz pollination by bees, such as the native southeastern blueberry bee, Habropoda laboriosa. Berries of Vaccinium virgatum are edible and are used as sauces and syrups, and for breads, muffins, pancakes, and pies, and may have pain killing properties. It is worth the walk on the Petersburg Section of the Bartram Trail in May just to snack on the blueberries.