Highbush Blueberry Bog Thicket

Highbush blueberry bog thicket
Troy Weldy

Open Peatlands
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Vulnerable in New York - Vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors (but not currently imperiled); typically 21 to 80 populations or locations in New York, few individuals, restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or recent and widespread declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.


Did you know?

Of the temperate fruits, highbush blueberries have one of the highest concentrations of iron. Medicinal research suggests blueberries can relieve fevers, prevent cataracts, improve short term memory loss, reverse loss of balance and coordination, and treat varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and peptic ulcers. They are also known to benefit eyesight, be good blood cleansers, and improve circulation.

State Ranking Justification

There are several hundred occurrences statewide. There are some documented occurrences that have good viability and several are protected on public land or private conservation land. This community has statewide distribution, and includes a few, large, high quality examples. The current trend of this community is probably stable for occurrences on public land, or declining slightly elsewhere due to moderate threats related to development pressure or alteration to the natural hydrology.

Short-term Trends

The numbers and acreage of highush blueberry bog thickets in New York have probably remained stable in recent decades as a result of wetland protection regulations.

Long-term Trends

The numbers and acreage of highush blueberry bog thickets in New York probably declined moderately from historical numbers likely correlated with the onset of agricultural and residential development.

Conservation and Management


Highbush blueberry bog thickets are threatened by development and its associated run-off (e.g., agriculture, residential, roads), recreational overuse (e.g., hiking trails, campgrounds) and habitat alteration in the adjacent landscape (e.g., mining, logging, utility ROWs, pollution). Alteration to the natural hydrology is also a threat to this community (e.g., ditching, blocked culverts, beaver). Trash dumping is a threat to a few bog thickets. Several examples of highbush blueberry bog thicket are threatened by invasive species, such as reedgrass (Phragmites australis ssp. australis) and purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Because highbush blueberry bog thickets are relatively acidic and low in nutients, they are susceptible to alteration by elevated nutrient inputs. Bog thickets may require larger buffers than other wetland types because of their high suceptibility to changes in nutrient concentrations.

Where practical, establish and maintain a natural wetland buffer to reduce storm-water, pollution, and nutrient run-off, while simultaneously capturing sediments before they reach the wetland. Buffer width should take into account the erodibility of the surrounding soils, slope steepness, and current land use. Wetlands protected under Article 24 are known as New York State "regulated" wetlands. The regulated area includes the wetlands themselves, as well as a protective buffer or "adjacent area" extending 100 feet landward of the wetland boundary (NYS DEC 1995). If possible, minimize the number and size of impervious surfaces in the surrounding landscape. Avoid habitat alteration within the wetland and surrounding landscape. For example, roads and trails should be routed around wetlands, and ideally should not pass through the buffer area. If the wetland must be crossed, then bridges and boardwalks are preferred over filling. Restore highbush blueberry bog thickets that have been unnaturally disturbed (e.g., remove obsolete impoundments and ditches in order to restore the natural hydrology). Prevent the spread of invasive exotic species into the wetland through appropriate direct management, and by minimizing potential dispersal corridors, such as roads.

Development and Mitigation Considerations

When considering road construction and other development activities minimize actions that will change what water carries and how water travels to this community, both on the surface and underground. Water traveling over-the-ground as run-off usually carries an abundance of silt, clay, and other particulates during (and often after) a construction project. While still suspended in the water, these particulates make it difficult for aquatic animals to find food; after settling to the bottom of the wetland, these particulates bury small plants and animals and alter the natural functions of the community in many other ways. Thus, road construction and development activities near this community type should strive to minimize particulate-laden run-off into this community. Water traveling on the ground or seeping through the ground also carries dissolved minerals and chemicals. Road salt, for example, is becoming an increasing problem both to natural communities and as a contaminant in household wells. Fertilizers, detergents, and other chemicals that increase the nutrient levels in wetlands cause algae blooms and eventually an oxygen-depleted environment where few animals can live. Herbicides and pesticides often travel far from where they are applied and have lasting effects on the quality of the natural community. So, road construction and other development activities should strive to consider: 1. how water moves through the ground, 2. the types of dissolved substances these development activities may release, and 3. how to minimize the potential for these dissolved substances to reach this natural community.

Inventory Needs

Survey more occurrences and collect plot data that may support splitting this community into inland and Coastal Plain types. Inventory examples with little to no highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) and resolve the classification of those types.

Research Needs

Future research on highbush blueberry bog thickets should explore the role of fire, frost, and coastal storms on the vegetation composition. Plot data and regional studies suggest basins supporting shrub swamps may be tightly related to Atlantic white cedar-dominated wetlands (Motzkin 1991). Highbush blueberry bog thickets may have previously been cedar-dominated wetlands, and may shift to cedar-dominated wetlands in the future. Understanding the role of disturbance in forming this community may help long-term planning and conservation of the variety of vegetation expressed within these sites. Lastly, it may be desirable to critically compare statewide plot data for highbush blueberry bog thicket to justify the creation of a new state community type (MacDonald and Edinger 2000).

Rare Species

  • Aeshna clepsydra (Mottled Darner) (guide)
  • Aeshna subarctica (Subarctic Darner) (guide)
  • Carex collinsii (Collins' Sedge) (guide)
  • Carex venusta (Dark-green Sedge) (guide)
  • Carex wiegandii (Wiegand's Sedge) (guide)
  • Cuscuta cephalanthi (Buttonbush Dodder) (guide)
  • Neottia bifolia (Southern Twayblade) (guide)
  • Platanthera ciliaris (Orange Fringed Orchid) (guide)
  • Salix pyrifolia (Balsam Willow) (guide)


New York State Distribution

This community is currently known from the lower Hudson Valley within the Hudson Highlands and Shawangunk Mountains. Highbush blueberry bog thickets are also known from across the High Allegheny Plateau, the Eastern Ontario Lake Plain, and the Lake George Valley. Coastal plain variants of this community are known from eastern Long Island.

Global Distribution

This somewhat broadly-defined community may be widespread throughout the eastern United States. Examples with the greatest biotic affinities to New York occurrences are suspected to span north possibly to southern Canada, west to Minnesota, southwest to Indiana and Tennessee, southeast to Georgia, and northeast to southern Maine.

Best Places to See

  • Bare Mountain, Sterling Forest State Park (Orange County)
  • Maple Swamp County Park (Suffolk County)
  • Whitney Point Multiple Use Area
  • Minnewaska State Park Preserve (Ulster County)

Identification Comments

General Description

An ombrotrophic or weakly minerotrophic peatland dominated by tall, deciduous, ericaceous shrubs and peat mosses; the water is usually nutrient-poor and acidic. The dominant shrub is usually highbush blueberry. At least three regional variants are recognized in New York. The first is found throughout central and western New York, the second is primarily a northern variant, and the third is a southern variant with coastal plain species.

Characters Most Useful for Identification

A peatland that is dominated by tall (2 m) highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) shrubs.

Elevation Range

Known examples of this community have been found at elevations between 5 feet and 1,876 feet.

Best Time to See

Summer and fall are great times to visit these thickets. Beginning in late June, highbush blueberries produce many large and delicious berries. In the fall their foliage turns from the green tones of summer to brillant shades of red and orange.

Highbush Blueberry Bog Thicket Images


International Vegetation Classification Associations

This New York natural community encompasses all or part of the concept of the following International Vegetation Classification (IVC) natural community associations. These are often described at finer resolution than New York's natural communities. The IVC is developed and maintained by NatureServe.

  • Highbush Blueberry - Black Huckleberry - Black Chokeberry / Water Arum Acidic Peatland (CEGL005085)
  • Highbush Blueberry / Peatmoss species Acidic Peatland (CEGL006190)

NatureServe Ecological Systems

This New York natural community falls into the following ecological system(s). Ecological systems are often described at a coarser resolution than New York's natural communities and tend to represent clusters of associations found in similar environments. The ecological systems project is developed and maintained by NatureServe.

  • Eastern Boreal-Sub-boreal Acidic Basin Fen (CES201.583)
  • North-Central Interior and Appalachian Acidic Peatland (CES202.606)

Characteristic Species

  • Trees > 5m

    • Acer rubrum var. rubrum (common red maple)
    • Pinus strobus (white pine)
  • Shrubs 2 - 5m

    • Ilex mucronata (mountain holly)
    • Ilex verticillata (common winterberry)
    • Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
  • Shrubs < 2m

    • Aronia melanocarpa (black chokeberry)
    • Chamaedaphne calyculata (leatherleaf)
    • Kalmia angustifolia var. angustifolia (sheep laurel, sheep-kill)
    • Rhododendron viscosum (swamp azalea)
  • Herbs

    • Carex trisperma (three-fruited sedge)
    • Hypericum virginicum (Virginia marsh St. John's-wort)
    • Maianthemum trifolium (three-leaved Solomon's-seal)
    • Osmundastrum cinnamomeum var. cinnamomeum (cinnamon fern)
    • Sarracenia purpurea (purple pitcherplant)
    • Thelypteris palustris var. pubescens (marsh fern)
  • Nonvascular plants

    • Sphagnum spp.

Similar Ecological Communities

  • Pine barrens shrub swamp (guide)
    Tall-shrub-dominated communities on Long Island with shallow peat deposits (<20 cm) are treated as pine barrens shrub swamps. The two natural communities are separated by the fact that highbush blueberry bog thicket maintains a persistent hydrological regime, supports peat development, and often lacks "edge species" that are found in pine barrens shrub swamp, such as staggerbush (Lyonia mariana), gallberry (Ilex glabra), and bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica).
  • Pitch pine-blueberry peat swamp (guide)
    An open canopy conifer swamp occurring in shallow depressions in sandplains that is dominated by pitch pine, grey birch, and red maple with a dense shrub layer dominated by highbush blueberry. Pitch pine-blueberry peat swamps have a canopy layer that is dominated by pitch pine and associated hardwoods; highbush blueberry bog thicket is a shrub-dominated community.
  • Rich shrub fen (guide)
    Rich shrub fens are dominated by shrub species other than highbush blueberry. These fens are fed by mineral rich water with higher pH values (generally from 6.0 to 7.8) than those of highbush blueberry bog thickets.
  • Shrub swamp (guide)
    Shrub swamps are mineral soil wetlands that are dominated by shrub species other than highbush blueberry.


Trees > 5m
Shrubs 2 - 5m
Shrubs < 2m
Nonvascular plants

Percent cover

This figure helps visualize the structure and "look" or "feel" of a typical Highbush Blueberry Bog Thicket. Each bar represents the amount of "coverage" for all the species growing at that height. Because layers overlap (shrubs may grow under trees, for example), the shaded regions can add up to more than 100%.

Additional Resources


Cowardin, L.M., V. Carter, F.C. Golet, and E.T. La Roe. 1979. Classification of wetlands and deepwater habitats of the United States. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Washington, D.C. 131 pp.

Damman, A.W.H. and T.W. French. 1987. The ecology of peat bogs of the glaciated northeastern United States: a community profile. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Report 85(7.16). 100 pp.

Edinger, G. J., D. J. Evans, S. Gebauer, T. G. Howard, D. M. Hunt, and A. M. Olivero (editors). 2014. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke’s Ecological Communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY. https://www.nynhp.org/ecological-communities/

Edinger, Gregory J., D.J. Evans, Shane Gebauer, Timothy G. Howard, David M. Hunt, and Adele M. Olivero (editors). 2002. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke's Ecological Communities of New York State. (Draft for review). New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 136 pp.

MacDonald, Dana and Gregory Edinger. 2000. Identification of reference wetlands on Long Island, New York. Final report prepared for the Environmental Protection Agency, Wetland Grant CD992436-01. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 106 pp. plus appendices.

Motzkin, G. 1991. Atlantic white cedar wetlands of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Massachusetts. Research Bulletin 731. 53 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 1995. Freshwater Wetlands: Delineation Manual. July 1995. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources. Bureau of Habitat. Albany, NY.

Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Aissa Feldmann

Information for this guide was last updated on: February 5, 2024

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Highbush blueberry bog thicket. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/highbush-blueberry-bog-thicket/. Accessed May 26, 2024.