Wild Vietnamese relatives of blueberries
From October 25 to November 14, 2015, wild relatives of cultivated blueberry were collected during a Vietnamese-US cooperative expedition in northern Vietnam. The exploration involved representatives of the Plant Resources Center, Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, in Hanoi and the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon. The exploration was supported through the US National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) Plant Exploration/Exchange Program. Permissions for collecting were obtained from the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the administration of four Vietnamese National Parks. Preliminary identification indicates that 33 accessions of 19 species of Agapetes, Gaultheria, and Vaccinium were collected. Ericaceous species were plentiful at high elevations of Hoang Lien Son National Park on Fansipan Mountain as reported previously. Ericaceous species observed in Tam Dao, Phja Oac-Phja Den, and Ba Be National Parks were not previously reported from those locations. Root samples for propagation and seeds were collected from 1,200 to 3,100 m elevation. Chilling hours in these habitats were estimated to be 50 to 160 h year-1. Growth habits varied from terrestrial to lithophytic (epipetric) and epiphytic. Most terrestrial species were vigorous, crown-forming, and exceeded 3 m in height; two species were rhizomatous subshrubs of 0.3 m. Infructesences of Agapetes contained immature and mature solitary fruit; Gaultheria had ›50 flowers/fruit panicle-1; Vaccinium ranged from solitary flowers/fruit to 10 raceme-1. Flowering phenologies of these genera were not synchronized with their counterparts of the temperate zone. In October-November after the rainy season ended, these species simultaneously displayed all stages of phenology from bud break to fruit development. Past-ripe fruits were persistent on V. bracteatum var. thysanocalyx and G. fragrantissima. Fruit colors of these blueberry wild relatives included pink, bright red, fuchsia, as well as purple to black. The wealth of diversity of the ericaceous species in the high elevation regions of Vietnam suggests floristic similarities with highland areas in Taiwan, southern China (Yunnan), and the Himalayas. This plant material will be established and evaluated for descriptive characters in Vietnamese and US genebanks.
Hummer, K.E., Oliphant, J., Thi T. Hoai, T. and Nguyen, K.V. (2017). Wild Vietnamese relatives of blueberries. Acta Hortic. 1180, 415-422
plant exploration, plant genetic resources, Vaccinium, Agapetes, Gaultheria, crop wild relatives, Indochina, Fan Xi Pan