© Denzil Green
Lowbush is a term used by plant breeders and growers to describe one of three groupings of cultivated blueberries. The other two groupings are Highbush and Rabbiteye.
Lowbush Blueberries are very small, generally about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) in size, but very sweet, with a powdery bloom on the skin.
The bushes grow only 10 to 40 cm (4 to 16 inches) tall. This makes them cold hardy, because their low height allows them to get extra protection by being covered with snow.
They have shiny, smooth leaves with toothy edges, and spread through rhizomes (underground shoots.) This allows them to form a concentrated ground cover where they grow in the wild. They don’t, however, reproduce or spread as willingly under cultivation. Consequently, for the most part, these blueberry bushes are essentially managed wild crops rather than cultivated. For this reason, you may see them being sold as “wild blueberries.”
In alternate years, the bushes are often burned down to promote growth.
They are native to the northeastern US and eastern parts of Canada.
Lowbush Blueberries are used for processing because they are so small and delicate, making them hard to ship. You will find only a small amount in fresh markets, particularly in Quebec where they are preferred for their greater flavour over larger, cultivated blueberries.