Happy Independence Day! What could be more all-American than native plants? We don't know.
That's why we're featuring species with red, white, or blue flowers or fruit this week, so stay tuned!
|Figure 1. Vaccinium myrsinites in FL|
While shopping at my local grocery store in Kendall, I bought some blueberries to make a pie. I was surprised at how expensive they were, even when on sale ($2.50/half pint). Unaware that blueberries were grown commercially in Florida, I was even more startled when I read on the label that these were from Winter Haven (near Orlando). After thinking about it, it seemed fairly reasonable, especially given how many native species occur here. I am uncertain what species of blueberry I purchased (they were delicious), but was reminded of a blueberry which is found in almost every county in the state (Figure 1).
|Figure 2. Shiny blueberry flowers|
Vaccinium myrsinites, or shiny blueberry, grows to about 2 feet in height, and possesses a profusion of urn-shaped flowers that hang down and are white with hues of pink (Figure 2). Fruits are dark-blue to black when ripe and measure ¼ inch across (Figure 3). Mature fruits are quite tasty, and for some reason, they are better tasting when exposed to sunlight on the plant. Leaves are less than ½ inch long (Figure 4) and have stalked glands apparent when viewed with a loupe (hand lens). Shiny blueberry possesses underground stems that spread horizontally, creating patches of plants.
|Figure 3. (inset) Shiny blueberry fruit|
Figure 4. V. myrsinites in the landscape
Instead of bringing watermelon, a native of Africa, to your Independence day celebration, consider putting blueberries on the menu. Blueberry season is almost over. Close it out with a bang while watching fireworks and enjoying the wonderful harvest that native Florida has to offer.
Figure 1: Species distribution
Figure 2: Flowers, Photo credit: Shirley Denton
Figure 3: Fruit, Photo credit: Malcolm Manners
Figure 4: Leaves, Photo Credit: Pat Howell
Formatted and illustrated by Laurie Sheldon.