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Vaccinium myrtillus L.

Whortleberry, Bilberry

Modern name

Vaccinium myrtillus L.

A deciduous shrub usually 6 to 12 in. high, sometimes more; young branches glabrous, distinctly angled, remaining green for several years. Leaves ovate, 12 to 1 in. long, often somewhat heart-shaped, regularly and bluntly toothed, bright green and quite glabrous, scarcely stalked. Flowers produced in May usually singly on drooping stalks from the leaf-axils. Corolla nearly globular, pale pink, 14 in. long. Berries black, with a blue bloom, 13 in. in diameter, globular.

Native of Britain, where it is one of the commonest of mountain and moorland shrubs, also of N. and Central Europe. The bilberry is one of the most valuable wild fruits of Britain, and is frequently offered in considerable quantities in the markets of north country towns. They are used for making tarts, jelly, and are especially delicious eaten with cream and sugar. A very hardy plant, it manages to survive on the summits of our loftiest mountains. It is scarcely of sufficient interest for the garden, and does not always thrive well translated to low-level gardens, in the south at any rate. Its angled stems distinguish it from the other British species.

f. leucocarpum (Dumort.) E. Busch – Fruits white. This occurs quite frequently in the Alps; the fruits are said to be sweeter and better flavoured than the normal kind.

V. scoparium Leiberg V. myrtillus var. microphyllum Hook.; V. microphyllum (Hook.) Rydb., not Bl.; V. erythrococcum Rydb. Grouseberry. – Native of the inner ranges of western North America as far north as British Columbia. It is about half the size of V. myrtillus in all its parts and its berries are red.



Other species in the genus