Florida native blueberries and their use in breeding

P.M. Lyrene
Three Vaccinium sections are represented in the Florida native flora. Batodendron (diploid V. arboreum), and Polycodium (diploid V. stamineum), each have one species in Florida, and Cyanococcus has seven. In Cyanococcus, diploid V. darrowii and tetraploid V. myrsinites are low-growing, rhizomatous evergreen species, adapted to frequently-burned forests. Diploid and tetraploid V. fuscatum are highbush species adapted to swampy areas with moist, organic soils. Diploid V. elliottii is a tall, deciduous, crown-forming species with small leaves, a very short style, and small berries. It is adapted to riverbanks and sandy uplands in north Florida. The hexaploid species (one or more depending on taxonomic philosophy), include the vigorous, polymorphic rabbiteye blueberry (V. virgatum). Another hexaploid, with shorter stature, more rhizomatous habit, and small, black fruit, I separate as V. amoenum. Rabbiteyes appear to have evolved and spread independently from several distinct points of origin in the southeastern United States. Tetraploid V. fuscatum occurs from Gainesville north in the northern peninsula. Of all the Florida blueberries, it most nearly resembles the highbush cultivars, with which it crosses readily. Clones of cultivar quality can be selected from seedlings of the first backcross. Diploid V. fuscatum grows as far south as Lake Okeechobee. It resembles the tetraploid but has smaller leaves, flowers, and berries, and plants from south Florida are nearly evergreen. Diploid V. fuscatum makes vigorous hybrids with tetraploid highbush, but only a few, because of the ploidy difference. V. elliottii is very hard to cross with highbush cultivars, apparently making very few unreduced gametes. Its tetraploid hybrids with highbush produce dark, soft berries that taste good and ripen extremely early. Tetraploid plants of V. arboreum and V. stamineum, produced with colchicine, can be crossed with highbush cultivars. The hybrids vary in vigor and fertility. Backcrosses to highbush may introduce useful characteristics, but commercial cultivars are unlikely before the second backcross generation.
Lyrene, P.M. (2017). Florida native blueberries and their use in breeding. Acta Hortic. 1180, 9-16
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1180.2
polyploidy, interspecific hybridization, ecology, Vaccinium darrowii, V. myrsinites, V. fuscatum, V. elliottii, V. virgatum, V. amoenum, V. arboreum, V. stamineum, blueberry breeding

Acta Horticulturae