Variation was studied within and among five Vaccinium taxa for the flower parameters corolla length, corolla aperture diameter, stigma location relative to the apex of the corolla tube, position of the anthers relative to the stigma and to the apex of the corolla, and style length. The objective was to determine whether there was enough genetic variation to breed cultivars with flower shapes that might favor pollination by a wider range of bee species. The taxa studied were cultivated rabbiteye (V. ashei Reade), cultivated southern highbush (mainly V. corymbosum L. with up to 30% introgression from V. darrowi Camp), F1V. ashei × V. constablaei A. Gray hybrids, V. darrowi, and V. elliottii Chapm. Vaccinium elliottii flowers differed from all others in having short styles that were not exserted from the corolla tube. Vaccinium elliottii was also unusual in that the end of the anther tube extended nearly to the stigmatic surface. Vaccinium ashei corollas were longer and had smaller apertures than those of southern highbush, possibly making them less suitable for honeybee (Apis) pollination. For corolla length and aperture diameter, F1V. ashei × V. constablaei hybrids were similar to southern highbush, indicating that V. constablaei introgression could be used to breed hexaploid cultivars with shorter, more open flowers. Large clone-to-clone variation within taxa for each flower characteristic indicates much potential for changing the shape of the blueberry flower by breeding, if the shape that maximizes fruit set can be determined.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.