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Pollination And Breeding System Of Lowbush Blueberries, Vaccinium Angustifolium Ait. And V. Myrtilloides Michx. (Ericacaeae), In The Boreal Forest

Masayuki Usui, Peter G. Kevan, Martyn Obbard

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Breeding systems and pollination requirements of two wild lowbush blueberries, Vaccinium angustifolium and V. myrtilloides, in the Canadian boreal forest in the Chapleau Crown Game Preserve, Ontario, were tested. Fruit production, size and seediness were significantly higher in samples exposed to natural pollination than in those cross- or self-pollinated by hand. There were no significant differences among artificial treatments (variously hand-pollinated and bagged) except when cross-pollination (xenogamy) was done by insect pins. In V. angustifolium, the density of flowering varied with forest age (canopy closure). It was most in open areas and least in the sites with the most mature forest. Although fruit-set and seediness varied among forest habitats of different ages, there were no significant differences between sites in forests of different ages. Thus, pollination seems to be similarly effective no matter the age of the forest. In both species, fruit-set in 1992, which had severe June frosts, was markedly poorer than that in 1993 when the flowers suffered little frost damage. The combined number of complete and incomplete seeds from the fruit among the breeding and pollination systems tested were similar; however, the ratio of complete seeds to total seeds was greater from cross-pollinated than from self-pollinated flowers. Our observations indicate that there is little natural fruit-set without insect-mediated cross-pollination and that cross-pollination provides much better fruit and seed-set than does self-pollination.