How to harvest wild blueberries in Michigan’s Hiawatha National Forest


Photo via U.S. Forest Service


GLADSTONE, MICH. -- Wild blueberries await like delicious little summertime jewels hidden in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — you just have to know where to look for them.

This week Hiawatha National Forest, which encompasses nearly 900,000 acres across the U.P., reminded its Facebook readers that the best spots for wild blueberry picking are often in recently burned areas, since blueberry bushes evolved to withstand and even grow better after periodic fires.

According to earlier information from the U.S. Forest Service, USFS land managers use low-intensity prescribed fire to mimic natural wildfire patterns, which benefit native species and promote berry production by eliminating competing vegetation and removing worn-out blueberry bush branches to make room for new branches with lots of flowers.

Management is methodically planned to encourage productive blueberry bushes, with different parts of the National Forest treated each year to benefit the blueberries and meet other management objectives.

While summer weather signals the start of blueberry season, late July and August are the best time to find this fruit.

To help you find a good patch for picking berries, the Forest Service keeps track of recently prescribed-burn treatment areas that should lead to higher blueberry production. You can find those maps by region here.

Additionally, if you head out to go berry picking, remember to follow “leave no trace” principles and to recreate responsibly (more on that here) and keep in mind the following rules and guidelines:

Berries must be picked for personal use only, not marketed commercially; commercial gathering requires a permit.

Know how to properly identify the berries you plan to pick and eat; never eat plants you can’t confidently ID. Consuming wild plants may cause serious illness or death, so forage at your own risk.

Download a map onto your cell phone for use if you lose service.

Don’t drive on roads that aren’t identified as open on the Forest Service’s Motor Vehicle Use Map.

Dress appropriately, bring a map, compass, water, bug spray, sunscreen and other essentials.

Find printable maps for Hiawatha National Forest, and more information, here.


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