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Vaccinium padifolium Sm.

Madeira Whortleberry

Modern name

Vaccinium padifolium Sm.


V. maderense Link; V. arctostaphylos sens. Ait., in part, not L.

A deciduous shrub, 6 to 8 ft high in this country, but becoming a small tree in Madeira; young wood downy except for glabrous strips extending from the base of one leaf to the axil of the next below. Leaves ovate to oval, 1 to 214 in. long, 12 to 1 in. wide, rounded or tapering at the base, pointed, finely toothed, dark green and downy on the midrib above, paler and downy at the base of the midrib below; stalk 112 in. long. Flowers produced in June in racemes 1 to 2 in. long, from the wood of the previous year, each flower drooping and jointed at the base of the ovary to a short stalk springing from the axil of a bract about 13 in. long. Corolla bell-shaped, 13 in. long, dull yellow tinged with purple, the five lobes triangular; stamens ten, glabrous. Berries blue, globose, 13 to 12 in. across. Bot. Mag., t. 7305.

Native of the mountains of Madeira at altitudes of 3,000 to 5,000 ft; introduced to Kew by Francis Masson on his return in 1777 from his famous collecting expedition to the Cape of Good Hope. What was believed to be one of his plants was still growing at Kew near the Main Gate in 1909; it had, at any rate, stood in that position for at least sixty years. But whilst it may thus be considered hardy, it thrives better where the climate is warmer and moister. There has been much confusion between this species and the Pontic V. arctostaphylos, but seen together they are quite distinct. The latter has larger leaves, is of more open growth, the stamens are hairy, and it is quite deciduous. The confusion no doubt arose because V. padifolium was at first identified as V. arctostaphylos and was well established in gardens under that name when Smith distinguished it as a separate species in 1817.

V. cylindraceum Sm. V. longiflorum Wikstr. – Allied to V. padifolium (and to V. arctostaphylos) but easily distinguished by the cylindrical corollas, which are up to 34 in. long, greenish yellow tinged with purple. The flowers are borne in dense racemes up to 2 in. long, up to twenty in each, during late summer and autumn. The narrowly elliptic or lanceolate leaves do not fall until shortly before the new foliage appears in spring. Native of the Azores, not cultivated in the open air until the late 1930s, and even now uncommon in gardens, but hardy in woodland south of London. It makes a tall shrub of narrow habit.



Other species in the genus