By Dane Castle, Fall Creek Grower Support Southern Africa.

In this first column of our South Africa new Insider insights and Technical Tips series, we are focusing on the terminology and physiology of the blueberry plant.

Blueberry Physiology 101


  • Blueberries have fine, shallow root systems that can fill an area of 30-40cm below the surface and about 30cm wide, from the centre of the plants.
  • The root zone is colonised by mycorrhizal fungi, helping the plant to absorb nutrients.
  • The roots are very sensitive to environmental factors, fertilisation, irrigation and pH levels.


  • The crown of the blueberry is located in the middle of the plant where the roots meet the canes.
  • Energy is transferred from the roots to rest of the plant.
  • The crown is planted level with the soil or substrate, otherwise it will result in rot.
  • It is the main storage area for carbohydrates as most of the starch is found in the crown.


There are three types of shoots in a blueberry plant that grow in flushes through the season:

  • Suckers develop from the buds on roots.
  • Whips are thin unbranched shoots that develop at the crown on older wood from latent buds. Whips can also develop from older wood higher up on the plant.
  • Lateral shoots branches that develop from vegetative buds on 1-year-old wood or as a result from topping.


  • Vegetative buds contain approximately six leaf primordia and they have a rosette shape.
  • Flower buds are differentiated, large and round and located at the end of the first-year shoots.
  • Auxiliary buds form at the nodes where leaf axils join the stem.
  • The blueberry fruits develops on one-year-old wood and are tip-bearing plants.

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