Highbush blueberry. Used with permission from Daniel Ahlqvist.



Vaccinium corymbosum have two different types of roots.  The first type of root is a thick root that is meant to serve as an anchor for the plant and also acts as a storage site for nutrients, especially during the winter.  The second type of roots are the finer roots.  They function in nutrient and water absorption.  Interestingly, highbush blueberry roots lack root hairs.


The most obvious function of the shoot is to support the plant.  The shoot hold the highbush blueberry upright, allowing it to grow taller than grasses and other plants it is competing with.  The shoot also serves as a 'highway' for transport for nutrients and water between the roots and the leaves.  Inside the shoot is xylem and phloem for this purpose.  Both primary growth (upwards) and secondary growth (increase in girth) occurs in Vaccinium corymbosum.Leaves and flowers. USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.


The leaves of the highbush blueberry play a critical role in the plants survival; they are the site of photosynthesis.  They also  help the plant to detect how long the days are (based on the amount of sunlight it is receiving), which determines when the vegetative buds will become flowering buds.  The leaves of Vaccinium corymbosum can grow to be up to 75 millimeters long.


The flowers are the reproductive organ of the Vaccinium corymbosum.  The flower is usually white or off-white and has five fused petals.  The major structures of the flower include the corolla tube, the pistil, and the anthers:

Great view of corolla tubes. Photo by Opioła Jerzy.  Used under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Corolla tube - The corolla tube consists of all of the petals put together.  It serves to protect the internal organs of the flower from rain and moisture.

Pistil - The pistil is the female reproductive part of the flower.  It contains the stigma, style, and ovary.

Anther - The anther is essentially a sack of pollen attached to the end of the stamen, which is attached at the base of the corolla tube.


Reproduction and Life Cycle

Vaccinium corymbosum, like all other plants, undergoes what is known as alteration of generations.  Alteration of generations means that the organism has both a multi-cellular diploid and a multi-cellular haploid stage in its life cycle.  In plants, alteration of generations can be illustrated simplistically by the following diagram:

Alteration of generations in plants

As mentioned above, the flower is the reproductive organ of the highbush blueberry.  But just how does the fertilization and reproduction occur in the flower?

Vaccinium corymbosum has help from from other organisms - specifically bees.  When bees land on a flower, pollen grains from the anther get stuck to various parts of the bee's body.  The bee then flies to another flower of the same species and transfers the pollen to the stigma of another flower, where the fertilization occurs.  The bee does this all without knowing it!  The process of fertilization in a flower is known as pollination.  After pollination takes place, pollen tubes are formed that grow down the style and into the ovary.

Bumble bee! Photo by Adam Ginsburg.

The next step is fruit formation.  In the Vaccinium corymbosum, the ovary develops into the actual berry after pollination.  The berry, which is the fruit, protects embryos (the seeds) from the outside world.  It also serves as a seed dispersal mechanism.  Many animals eat the blueberry but are unable to digest the seeds.  After the animal has traveled around for a while, the seeds leave the animal's body in feces during defecation.  The seeds are then ready to grow into a new plant.

The following diagram sums up the life cycle of the highbush blueberry:

Highbush blueberry life cycle 

As you can see, the life cycle of the highbush blueberry is quite interesting.  Advance to the Interactions page to find out about other organisms involved in the life a Vaccinium corymbosum cultivar.

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