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Vaccinium myrtillus - L.
                 
Common Name Bilberry, Whortleberry
Family Ericaceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards High tannin content may cause digestive disorders - avoid prolonged use or high doses. Avoid in pregnancy. Avoid if on anticoagulant therapy (e.g. warfarin) [301].
Habitats Heaths, moors and woods on acid soils to 1250 metres[17, 186].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Iceland south and east to Spain, Macedonia, the Caucasus and N. Asia
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Summary

Vaccinium myrtillus Bilberry, Whortleberry


commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Kallerna
Vaccinium myrtillus Bilberry, Whortleberry
commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:203_Vaccinum_myrtillus_L.jpg
   
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of shrub
Vaccinium myrtillus is a deciduous Shrub growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 0.3 m (1ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower from Apr to June, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, lepidoptera, self.The plant is self-fertile.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Synonyms
Vaccinium myrtillus oreophilum, Vaccinium oreophilum

Habitats
Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Fruit.
Edible Uses: Tea.

Fruit - raw or cooked[183]. Sweet and very tasty[2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 13], they make an excellent preserve, their small seeds making them suitable for jam[4]. A slightly acid flavour when eaten raw[4]. The fruit can be dried and used like currants[12]. The fruit is up to 10mm in diameter[200]. A tea is made from the leaves[4, 177, 183].
Medicinal Uses


Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antidiarrhoeal;  Antiemetic;  Antiseptic;  Astringent;  Diuretic;  Hypoglycaemic;  Kidney;  Ophthalmic;  
Tonic.

The dried leaves of bilberries are used in the treatment of a variety of complaints[4]. These leaves should be harvested in early autumn, only green leaves being selected, and then dried in gentle heat[4]. The leaves should not be used medicinally for more than 3 weeks at a time[254]. A tea made from the dried leaves is strongly astringent, diuretic, tonic and an antiseptic for the urinary tract[4]. It is also a remedy for diabetes if taken for a prolonged period[4]. Another report says that the leaves can be helpful in pre-diabetic states but that they are not an alternative to conventional treatment[254]. The leaves contain glucoquinones, which reduce the levels of sugar in the blood[238]. A decoction of the leaves or bark is applied locally in the treatment of ulcers and in ulceration of the mouth and throat[4]. A distilled water made from the leaves is an excellent eyewash for soothing inflamed or sore eyes[7]. Whilst the fresh fruit has a slightly laxative effect upon the body, when dried it is astringent and is commonly used in the treatment of diarrhoea etc[4, 7, 254]. The dried fruit is also antibacterial and a decoction is useful for treating diarrhoea in children[254]. The skin of the fruits contains anthocyanin and is specific in the treatment of hemeralopia (day-blindness)[7]. The fruit is a rich source of anthocyanosides, which have been shown experimentally to dilate the blood vessels[238], this makes it a potentially valuable treatment for varicose veins, haemorrhoids and capillary fragility[254].
Other Uses
Dye;  Ink.

A green dye is obtained from the leaves and the fruit and is used to colour fabrics[7]. A blue or black dye is obtained from the fruit[100, 141]. This can be used as an ink[66].
Cultivation details
Requires a moist but freely-draining lime free soil, preferring one that is rich in peat or a light loamy soil with added leaf-mould[11, 200]. Prefers a very acid soil with a pH in the range of 4.5 to 6, plants soon become chlorotic when lime is present. Succeeds in full sun or light shade though it fruits better in a sunny position[17, 200]. Dislikes root disturbance, plants are best grown in pots until being planted out in their permanent positions[200].Tolerates some shade, succeeding in light woodland. Very tolerant of wind and exposure[186]. Plants do not always do well in sheltered positions and they fruit better in an exposed position[115]. They can also form the ground layer in acid woods[186]. A freely suckering shrub when growing well[182]. Plants quickly regenerate from below ground level if they are burnt and also tolerate some grazing[186]. One report says the plant is self-sterile[3], another that it is self-fertile[17]. The fruits are relished by wildlife and the plants provide food for a number of insect species[186]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].
Propagation
Seed - sow late winter in a greenhouse in a lime-free potting mix and only just cover the seed[78]. Stored seed might require a period of up to 3 months cold stratification[113]. Another report says that it is best to sow the seed in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe[200]. Once they are about 5cm tall, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, August in a frame[78]. Slow and difficult. Cuttings of mature wood in late autumn. Layering in late summer or early autumn[78]. Another report says that spring is the best time to layer[200]. Takes 18 months[78]. Division of suckers in spring or early autumn[113].
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Vaccinium alaskaenseAlaska Blueberry20
Vaccinium amoenumLarge-Cluster Blueberry20
Vaccinium angustifoliumLow Sweet Blueberry, Lowbush blueberry31
Vaccinium angustifolium laevifoliumLow Sweet Blueberry30
Vaccinium arboreumFarkleberry21
Vaccinium arbusculaDwarf bilberry10
Vaccinium arctostaphylosCaucasian Whortleberry30
Vaccinium asheiRabbiteye Blueberry20
Vaccinium bracteatumSea Bilberry11
Vaccinium brittonii 10
Vaccinium caesarienseNew Jersey blueberry20
Vaccinium caespitosumDwarf Bilberry31
Vaccinium ciliatum 10
Vaccinium constablaeiHillside Blueberry30
Vaccinium corymbosumHigh-Bush Blueberry, American Blueberry, Swamp Blueberry, Blueberry41
Vaccinium crassifoliumCreeping Blueberry20
Vaccinium cylindraceum 20
Vaccinium darrowiiDarrow's blueberry10
Vaccinium deliciosumAlpine Blueberry, Cascade bilberry30
Vaccinium duclouxii 30
Vaccinium elliottiiElliott's blueberry10
Vaccinium erythrocarpumSouthern Mountain Cranberry30
Vaccinium formosumSwamp Highbush Blueberry, Southern blueberry30
Vaccinium fuscatumBlack Highbush Blueberry30
Vaccinium hirsutumHairy Huckleberry30
Vaccinium hirtum 10
Vaccinium japonicum 20
Vaccinium koreanum 10
Vaccinium leucanthum 10
Vaccinium macrocarponAmerican Cranberry, Cranberry31
12
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Expert comment
 
Author
L.
Botanical References
1117200
Links / References
For a list of references used on this page please go here
Readers comment
 
Elizabeth H.
J.Gray - Re: Vaccinium myrtillus website Tue Jul 25 2006
Hello, I am wondering if you might know where I can find a Vaccinium myrtillus seedling supplier that can sell with a phytosanitary certificate? My email is quatesh@slingshot.co.nz Thank you J.Gray
Elizabeth H.
Jackie Read Wed May 9 2007
Hello I am looking to source Vaccinium Myrtillus plants of local provenance, I am based in North wales if anyone can help me, my email is jacrea@ceh.ac.uk Thank-you Jackie
Elizabeth H.
Webster Tue May 29 2007
Anyone know of a source for Vaccinium myrtillus? I Would love to grow it from seedling not from seed. I live in Eastern USA Thank you!
Elizabeth H.
Harold Hudson Fri Dec 7 2007
hello I would like to find the Bilberry (vaccinium myrtillus)I would like to find the plants not the seed. If any one knows where to find them please let me know.I live in Louisiana.my email is heh1220@aol.com thanks Harold Dec.7-07
Elizabeth H.
Davida Mon Dec 10 2007
I would like to find the Bilberry Plant(vaccinium myrtillus). I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Any information would be helpful. Thank you.
Elizabeth H.
Björn Leidersdorff Fri Feb 13 2009
Hello Could anybody help me find seedlings or seeds from Vaccinium myrtillus. the provenience must be like south-middle Sweden, Thank you. My e mail is info@alnarp.com
Elizabeth H.
david Fri Feb 13 2009
You could try b-and-t-world-seeds.com
Elizabeth H.
Karen Tue Apr 21 2009
I am trying to locate Vaccinium myrtillus plants in the UK. Could someone please let me know where I could buy them thanx khubbard@btinternet.com
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