Blueberry with greenflowers

I was waiting for these flowers to open before photographing them, then realised this seems to be as good as 灯台越桔 gets.

灯台越桔 is the common name given to Vaccinium bulleyanum in the Flora of China, and that species determination is also as good as we can get for this potted plant in our Melbourne Garden nursery.

Our horticultural botanist Roger Spencer isn't entirely happy with the way the blueberry genus Vaccinium is separated from others in the heath family Ericaceae, nor for that matter what distinguishes this particular species from things like Vaccinium venosum

All 450 or so species of Vaccinium have small cylinder-like or urn-shaped flowers, not as showy as the Papua-New Guinean species from the same family I featured a few months ago but often more so than this!

The blueberry you eat, or don't eat, is usually from Vaccinium corymbosum but a handful of other species also produce fruits we would call blueberries. Cranberries, should you eat them, typically come from either Vaccinium marcocarpon (in America) or Vaccinium vitis-idaea (in Europe).

Only 52 of the Vaccinium species are native to China, where this plant was collected by Bob Cherry in 2012. So that narrows it down a little.

Based on advice from a botanical visitor some time ago we had originally filed this specimen under Vaccinium kachinense but that species doesn't have leaves with these jagged edges, or arranged in an apparent whorl of 7 to 10 like this one.

That number of leaves remains a problem when we look at the other 51 species. According to Roger, the couplet in the identification 'key' asks us to choose between 5 to 6 or 9-10. If you head down the latter pathway other characteristics don't make sense, so for now we are assuming we have slightly innumerate Vaccinium bulleyanum which typically at least has leaves in whorls of 5 to 6.

Roger concludes that his identification is 'dubious', based on information to hand, but the best we can do for now. If it is indeed this species, it hails from shaded mountain valleys in the west of Yunnan province. 

It was described in 1912 by Friedrich Diels, in the journal of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, as a species of Agapetes, a related small genus of mostly climbing plants. The description was based on material collected by the Scottish botanist George Forrest in 1905, and the number of leaves per whorl is not specified.

Forrest named the species after his patron, Arthur Bulley, who ran a nursery and public garden in Ness. Whether Mr Bulley appreciated being honoured by this drab-flowered species, I don't know.


Boris said…
Very nice blog post, thank you! In Slovenia (Europe), we mostly eat vaccinium myrtillus
Tim Entwisle said…
Thanks Boris, that's interesting.
Tim Entwisle said…
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