USDA Creates Hawaiian Berry Variety

HILO, Hawaii, Sept. 24 (UPI) — U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists have released the first cultivated variety of a small native Hawaiian shrub of the cranberry family, officials said.

Ohelo (Vaccinium reticulatum Smith), commonly found at high elevations on the islands of Maui and Hawaii, produces berries that are highly prized for jam, jelly and pie filling, a USDA release says.

But as people scour the landscape to harvest this berry, they unfortunately disrupt the fragile habitats where the plant grows, the release said.

To reduce damage to the environment and meet consumer demands, USDA horticulturist Francis T.P. Zee in Hilo, along with other scientists, has developed a variety of ohelo for small farm production and ornamental use.

Dubbed “Kilauea,” the variety produced by selective breeding does well in pots and can easily be transplanted from greenhouse to fields, the researchers say.

Sixteen-month-old plants Zee successfully transplanted to fields produced berries just one year later.

The new variety can also be used as an ornamental, and older potted plants can be trained into a bonsai and readily adapt to home or office environments, the USDA says.

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