Blueberries (Vaccinium uliginosum) Mmm Mmm Good They are so good that every type of wildlife from ptarmigan (Alaskan Chickens) to insects, Grizzly Bears to little shrews, even humans, gorge on them. Grizzly Bears in Denali National Park eat over 30,000 to 50,000 berries a day and a large portion of them are blueberries. Humans eat them raw or prepare them in jellies, jams, pies, muffins, and freeze for use in winter. To learn how to prepare all types of berries, you can find information at the UAF Cooperative Extension Web site, please see listing below.
Blueberries are a great nutritional supplement to our every day diet. The berries are rich in antioxidants that have beneficial and preventive effects on cancer and heart disease. A recent nutritional study by Dr. James Joseph, at Tufts University, concluded that blueberries also cause 30% neurogenisis (new brain cells) at any age and may help in reversing aging. Maybe that is why my Grandmother keeps beating me at cards; no more blueberry syrup for her!
There are many types of blueberries:
The Bog Blueberry Vaccinium uliginosum L. is a very common low (8 to 16 in) spreading shrub of bog, open forest, and tundra throughout Alaska except for the extreme northern coastal plain. Its habitat is so extensive that it even grows in Europe and Asia. The fruit is blue to black in color with a bluish bloom and an ovid diameter. The Early Blueberry Vaccinium ovalifolium Smith is the most common blueberry of the coastal forest. It is a tall shrub, up to 5 feet tall and forms a nearly continuous shrub layer in forest openings. The fruit is round with a blue to blusih black color with a bluish bloom.
The Alaska Blueberry Vaccinium alaskensis Howell habitat is in Southeast Alaska and is a tall shrub up to 6 feet tall with stout reddish twigs, that are browsed by goat, elk and deer. Its fruit is bluish black to purple and variable in shape. It usually grows in forest openings or open canopies.
The Thin Leaved Blueberry Vaccinium membranceum Dougl. habitat is also in Southeast Alaska and is a tall shrub. Its fruit is dark purple to black.
The Dwarf Blueberry Vaccinium caespitosum Michx. habitat is in Central and Southeast Alaska and is a low spreading shrub only reaching 16 inches in height. Its fruit is a blue berry with a bluish bloom and is a common shrub of bogs, subalpine meadows, and open forest areas in Southeast Alaska.