Genetic variation was surveyed within and among 5 Vaccinium species and several hybrid taxa for 6 aspects of flower size and shape. Sufficient variation was found to allow radical changes in flower architecture through breeding. The goal is a flower that pours pollen directly from the anthers onto the stigma without the assistance of pollinating insects. The flowers of V. elliottii had very short styles (mean in mm 5.3 compared to 10.2 for rabbiteye cultivars and 8.5 for highbush cultivars), and certain short-style recombinants from highbush cultivar × V. elliottii crosses came close to the desired positioning of stigmas relative to anthers. The distance (in mm) from the anther pore to the stigma averaged: V. ashei 2.7; V. corymbosum 2.4; V. darrowi 2.3; and V. elliottii 1.0. Compared to highbush cultivars, rabbiteye cultivars tended to have long corollas and narrow corolla apertures, two features believed to be related to poor honeybee pollination. These features were much more favorable in V. ashei × V. constablaei hybrids, with values averaging close to those for highbush cultivars.
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