Blueberries only grow on bushes. If you find berries that are blue growing on a tree, this is not a blueberry plant. It may be a Japanese blueberry tree, which does grow berries that are blue. However, it does not grow blueberry fruits. The berries from Japanese blueberry trees are inedible. This is true of many blueberry lookalike plants. They tend to not bear ripe fruits and the berry production results in inedible fruit.
What Do Blueberry Plants Look Like?
Blueberry plants are bushes with about 15-18 canes (individual stalks) that blueberries grow on. Blueberry canes, unlike blackberry canes, are thornless and smooth. These bushes grow 6–12 feet tall (2–3 meters) or up to 2 feet tall (60 cm) as a dwarf variety. Blueberry leaves tend to be slightly oval-shaped and have a glossy green color. However, this color can take on light blue shades in summer and redder shades in autumn. Blueberry leaves will fall off in winter.
- Blueberry bushes tend to be 6-12 feet tall (2–3 meters) with smooth, thornless canes.
- Blueberries grow out of white flowers in early spring, they start out green then turn blue when they become ripe fruits.
Blueberries sprout from teardrop-shaped flower buds. These buds will sprout into white flowers in early spring and begin bearing green berries which will slowly turn red. Ripe berries eventually take on a blue color.
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How Tall Do Blueberry Plants Get?
Blueberries can reach a height of 12 feet tall (4 meters) if they are of the tallest varieties such as the northern highbush. Dwarf blueberry varieties generally only grow 8–12 inches (20–30 cm). Generally, blueberry bushes reach their full height very quickly.
- At their tallest, blueberry bushes reach up to 12 feet (4 meters).
- Dwarf blueberries may grow up to 2 feet tall (60 cm), but are commonly much smaller.
Whether or not a blueberry bush reaches its full height depends on its growing conditions. Soil moisture, acidic soils, and the presence of organic fertilizers. In the wild, blueberry bushes are often much smaller than cultivated blueberries.
Do Wild Blueberries Grow on Trees?
Wild blueberries grow on bushes. You will not find them growing on trees. If you see a berry that is blue growing on a tree, it’s not a blueberry plant. Wild blueberries can be fine to eat and they do have some useful health properties. However, you should not eat any wild berries you find until an expert has verified they are edible berries. Toxic and poisonous berries can often resemble seemingly edible berries. Do not risk your health by consuming berries if you aren’t 100% certain what they are.
5 Trees that have Berries that Look Like Blueberries
While blueberries don’t grow on fruit trees, there are blueberry look-alikes that do. Never eat a wild berry that has not been identified as edible by an expert. Here are some of the most common blueberry mimics:
Serviceberries are delicious berries that grow on trees throughout North America. They are edible and are prized for their sweet flavor. Serviceberry trees are notable for gray bark which is very smooth.
- Serviceberries grow on trees and are darker and larger in color than blueberries.
- These berries are edible.
Serviceberries grow out of flowers with a whitish bloom that can resemble blueberry flowers in color. However, serviceberry flowers fully bloom into five-petaled figures where blueberries don’t fully unfurl. The ripe fruits of the serviceberry look like larger berries of a blueberry bush. They start green but quickly turn a bright shade of reddish-pink, and gradually ripen to a deep, dark purple.
Deerberries are another type of edible blue-colored berry that grows on bushes. These bushes are even more similar to blueberries than serviceberries are. Deerberry bushes sprout woody canes and a mature bush can reach 10 feet (3 meters) in height. They also have bell-shaped flowers with a whitish bloom that resemble blueberry flowers.
- Deerberries grow on bushes which can be best distinguished from blueberry bushes by leaf shape and texture.
- Blueberries have oval leaves with smooth edges.
- Deerberries have sharper leaves with coarse edges.
- Like blueberries, deerberries are edible.
Deerberries themselves are black-blue in color when fully ripe. The main way to tell this bush apart from blueberry bushes is by their leaves. Where blueberry bushes have smooth, oval leaves, deerberries have coarse leaves with a sharper point. The texture of a deerberry leaf can range from papery to leathery but it will never be smooth and glossy.
Farkleberries (also known as sparkleberries and sometimes huckleberries) are edible. However, people don’t enjoy eating them because of their unusual flavor. These berries can grow on both shrubs and trees that reach heights of 12–15 feet (4–5 meters).
- Farkleberries grow on shrubs or trees but have thinner and more pliable stems than blueberry plant.s
- Farkleberries are edible but are disliked for their extreme bitterness.
Farkleberry shrubs can be best distinguished by their stems. These berries do not have woody canes like blueberries. Instead, they have what look more like traditional tree branches. These branches grow white flowers that bear the berries.
Experimental Grafted Blueberry Tree
This is the toughest lookalike to tell apart because it is a blueberry bush. However, it has been grafted onto a bush or plant that may or may not be a blueberry bush. Blueberry bushes can be easily grafted onto sibling plant types. This results in a blueberry bush growing out of another type of bush. There is no easy way to tell this apart from a blueberry plant. Early studies seem to indicate that these trees produce fruit that is safe to eat. However, it’s better to play it safe for now until further studies can be conducted.
Japanese Blueberry Tree (Elaeocarpus decipens)
This tree does not grow edible blueberries and these berries should not be consumed. These are blue-colored berries, in that they are berries that are blue, but they are not blueberry fruit. These trees can grow up to 60 feet (18 meters) in height under ideal circumstances. They have broad, flat leaves that are much larger than blueberry bush leaves.
- Japanese blueberry trees are ornamental evergreen trees with broad leaves.
- A Japanese blueberry tree may grow up to 60 feet (18 meters) tall.
- Berries from this tree are not edible.
Physically, the tree doesn’t resemble a blueberry bush at all and its flowers are wispier in appearance. However, the berries it grows match the shade of blueberries. The major difference between the berries is in shape. Japanese blueberries resemble olives. They are long and oval. In comparison, blueberries are round.
Are There Any Poisonous Berries that Look Like Blueberries?
The extremely poisonous nightshade plant grows berries that resemble blueberries. The plant toxicity of nightshade is hard to overstate. Just a handful of ripe berries from the nightshade plant can kill a person. 2 ripe berries can kill a small child and 10–20 can kill an adult. Worse yet, nightshade is very sweet so it can be mistaken for delicious fruit easily.
- Nightshade and Virginia creeper are two toxic plants that resemble blueberry bushes.
- Never eat a wild berry that has not been vetted by an expert.
The Virginia creeper is another extremely toxic plant. While its ripe fruits are enjoyed by birds, humans will die if they eat any of these berries. Virginia creeper isn’t quite as quick to kill as nightshade but it does have other issues. The surface of this plant produces chemicals that irritate the skin. This makes it similar to poison ivy and poison oak.
Do Blueberries Grow on Trees or Bushes?
Edible blueberries only grow on bushes. If you see what look like blueberries growing on a tree, they’re not blueberries. The best way to tell a blueberry bush from lookalikes is to learn to recognize the traits of a blueberry bush. Here are some key tips to remember about blueberries and their lookalikes:
- Learn to recognize what blueberry bushes look like (woody canes, 6-10 feet tall, white flowers, glossy leaves)
- Avoid eating any wild berries that haven’t been identified by an expert
- Watch out for blueberry lookalikes (serviceberries, deerberries, farkleberries, and Japanese blueberries)
- Be aware that some blueberry lookalikes are poisonous (nightshade and Virginia creeper, for instance)
Be sure to only eat berries that you 100% know what they are. The risk of eating unknown berries is too large to risk.