Other names: Bilberry; whortleberry; whinberry; wimberry
Latin name: Vaccinium myrtillus
Height: 20 - 60cm
Where: Oak woodlands; open heather moorland, for example at David Marshall Lodge; Duke’s Pass; Inchcailloch
When:All year round but fruiting July to September
Perhaps more than any other wild fruit, blaeberries can bring out the primitive hunter-gatherer in us. People have been picking the purply-black fruit since prehistoric times. But the pea-sized blaeberries are surprisingly hard to find among the bright green leaves, and you sometimes see walkers on hands and knees hunting for their sweet-sharp prizes.
The plants love the acid soils of peaty moorland and pine woods. The leaves appear on the low, scrubby bushes in spring, followed by pinky-green, bell-shaped flowers that bloom from April to June. You can find the fruits from July, when they first ripen, to September – if others haven’t got there first! Blaeberries have all kinds of health-giving properties. They can protect against cancer and heart disease, infections and viruses, even upset stomachs.
If you decide to go picking, remember not to completely clear an area or damage the bushes. Other animals, like red grouse and ptarmigan, also enjoy feasting on the fruit and shoots, while the beautiful green hairstreak butterfly often lays its eggs deep among the foliage, ready to provide the caterpillars with their first meals when they emerge.