Maine wild blueberries 101

Illustration by Hattie Stiles

Maine wild blueberries 101

  • Maine’s 44,000 acres of wild blueberries grow naturally in forests, fields and barrens, from the Down East coast to the southwest corner of the state.
  • The native crop thrives in naturally acidic, low-fertility soils.
  • Several species of wild blueberries are found in Maine. The most abundant wild blueberry in the state is of the angustifolium species. Plants are 4 to 15 inches in height with smooth stems that vary in color from tan to red. The dark green leaves can have slightly toothed edges. Bell-shaped blossoms are usually white or pinkish-white.
  • Blueberry plants send out underground stems called rhizomes that grow near the soil surface, periodically sending up new stems. Roots develop on the rhizomes as they grow.
  • The original plant, with its spreading rhizome system, is referred to as a clone. Each clone is genetically different from neighboring plants. Clones vary in size, and the area they cover is related to their age. Typically, a clone will cover 75 to 250 square feet; one clone has been reported to be a half-mile long. In any given field, the average distance between clones is 20 feet, with about 109 clones per acre.
  • The complex mixture of clones gives wild blueberries their rich diversity of flavors.
  • Average yield is nearly 5,000 pounds per acre, but fields with dense stands of productive clones and more intensive management could potentially have double that production.
  • Wild blueberries are grown on a two-year production cycle. Each year, half of a grower’s land is managed to encourage vegetative growth and the other half is prepared for a wild blueberry harvest in August.
  • Maine is the world’s largest producer of wild blueberries, generating 10 percent of all blueberries in North America, including wild and cultivated.

Source: University of Maine Cooperative Extension

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