Leaves: alternate, oval, short-petioled, glabrous on both sides, rounded at both ends or somewhat narrowed at the base, thin, entire. Flowers: white and pink, commonly solitary in the axils on rather short recurved pedicels; calyx-limb slightly toothed; corolla globose-ovoid, toothed; stamens ten. Fruit: a many seeded blue berry with a bloom, acid.
There are in the mountain regions many species of Vactinium that bear edible berries, but the Oval-leaved Blueberry and the Black Blueberry are the most conspicuous in fruit, the former having blue berries covered with a rich soft bloom and possessing an acid though not unpalatable flavour, and the latter having purplish-black berries that are quite sweet and pleasant to the taste.
The Oval-leaved Blueberry is a branching shrub, growing from three to ten feet high, and has smooth twigs that are sharply angled at the joints. The leaves are oval, green above and covered with a whitish bloom beneath. The small pink and white flowers are formed like tiny toothed bells, and grow singly at the ends of the slender recurved stalks, which causes them to droop downwards. The berries also are pendent.
Vactinium membranaceum, or Black Blueberry, is not so tall as the preceding species, seldom attaining a height of six feet. The leaves are larger than those of the Oval-leaved Blueberry, and are green on both sides and finely edged with very tiny teeth. The flowers are globular, and from their rounded corollas the long style protrudes. The recurved axillary stalks, which bear the blossoms, become upright in fruit and thus hold erect the large, sweet, purple-black berries, which have no bloom.
Vaccinium cccspitosum, or Dwarf Bilberry, grows only from three to seven inches high, and has many little fine branches thickly covered with leaves, which are obovate, blunt, thickly serrulate and bright green on both sides. The stem-branches bear numerous tiny, bell-shaped, pinkish or white flowers, with the calyx' five-toothed and about ten stamens. These in time turn to sweet blue berries, covered with a rich bloom, and so large as to be out of all proportion to the plant.
Vacciniam Vitis-Idcea, or Mountain Bilberry, has crowded oval emarginate leaves. The most remarkable feature of this low, creeping, evergreen shrub is that it has numerous black bristly dots beneath the leaves. The clusters of tiny, waxen, pink bells grow on erect branches, which spring from the creeping stems and attain to a height of about eight inches. The berries are dark red and very acid.
Vaccinium erythrococcum, or Alpine Bilberry, has erect stems with numerous slender strict branches and branchlets. The leaves are ovate or oval and a lovely bright green, while the pink five-lobed flowers are solitary in the axils of the leaves. The berries are small and bright red. Vaccinium is the name by which classical writers have referred to some plant whose identity is lost to us, and even when it was given to the present genus of this name there is reason to believe that it was originally spelt Baccinium, meaning a plant which produces berries. Bilberry was no doubt formerly Bellberry or Hillberry, just as Blaeberry is only the Scottish pronunciation of Blueberry.
Vaccinium Oxycoccus, or Small Cranberry, is a creeping shrub, with alternate ovate entire leaves that are dark green above and white beneath and have revolute margins. It is very delicately formed and resembles a slender trailing vine far more than a shrub, which latter word we are accustomed by common usage to apply only to tall, stout, or bushy plants. The four or five tiny, narrow, pink divisions of the nodding corolla are spread wide open and reveal the anthers converging into a cone, which is extremely prominent when the flower is expanded. The fruit is a round red juicy acid many-seeded berry. This Cranberry grows chiefly in marshy places and swamps, also along the margins of lakes and pools.