Common Name: Kamchatka Bilberry
Vaccinium praestans is a perennial plant with short stems that become more or less woody and persist. Growing from a creeping rhizomatous rootstock, it sends up short stems up to 15cm tall, forming in time a mat of growth[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, and is also sold in local markets. It is sometimes grown as an ornamental in gardens, where it can be used to form a ground cover.
E. Asia - Russian Far East, northern and central Japan
Mossy bogs, swampy woods (often on rotting fallen tree trunks), elevated places and slopes[
]. Lowland areas in northern Japan, but at higher elevations in subalpine conifer forests; at elevations from 1,300 - 2,000 metres in S. Japan[
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Inured as it is to severe cold in winter, Vaccinium praestans grows best in the colder regions of the temperate zone. In order to thrive in warmer regions it requires a damp, peaty soil and a position where it gets abundant light but little direct sun[
Requires a moist but freely-draining lime free soil, preferring one that is rich in peat or a light loamy soil with added leaf-mould[
]. Prefers a very acid soil with a pH in the range of 4.5 to 6, plants soon become chlorotic when lime is present. Succeeds in full sun or light shade though it fruits better in a sunny position[
]. Requires shelter from strong winds[
Dislikes root disturbance, plants are best grown in pots until being planted out in their permanent positions[
Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[
Fruit - raw or cooked[
]. The taste is sweet and fragrant, somewhat like a strawberry[
]. A delicious flavour[
]. The bright glossy red berries are around 10 - 12mm in diameter[
There are very conflicting reports concerning the use of the berries for food[
A good ground cover plant for cool moist shady areas[
Seed - sow late winter in a greenhouse in a lime-free potting mix and only just cover the seed[
]. Stored seed might require a period of up to 3 months cold stratification[
]. Another report says that it is best to sow the seed in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe[
]. Once they are about 3cm tall, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, August in a frame[
]. Slow and difficult.
Layering in late summer or early autumn[
]. Another report says that spring is the best time to layer[
]. Takes 18 months[
Division of suckers in spring or early autumn[
]. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, but we have found that in general it is best to pot up smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a greenhouse or cold frame until they are growing away well. Plant them out in the summer or the following spring.