Vaccinium cespitosum
Dwarf bilberry
Image of Vaccinium cespitosum

Photo by Susan R. Crispin 

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Key Characteristics

Very low prostrate shrub of open habitat in the Upper Peninsula; forming circular clones in dense mats up to several meters in diameter; small, roundish deciduous leaves have bristle-tipped teeth; single, pinkish, bell-shaped flowers are borne in the leaf axils.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: T
  • State Rank: S1S2
  • Global Rank: G5


County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Distribution map for Vaccinium cespitosum

Updated 5/15/2018. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Dwarf bilberry occurs in open or semi-open habitats in the Upper Peninsula on dry, sandy soil. It is also found in seasonally wet, meadow-like areas intermixed with dry northern forest and dry sand prairie.

Specific Habitat Needs

Edge needed in Mesic northern forest

Natural Community Types


For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Associated Plants

Big bluestem, little bluestem, Pennsylvania sedge, tower mustard, whorled milkweed, Ohio horse mint, old field balsam, hairy hawkweed, dwarf dandelion, rough blazing star, cylindrical blazing star, blue toadflax, wild lupine, horsemint, racemed milkwort, panic grass, Venus looking glass, grasses, and sedges.


This species is the larval host plant for the state threatened northern blue butterfly. Disturbances to the sod should be avoided. Fire may play an important role in maintaining habitat, but never burn an entire site all at once. Active management to limit canopy closure may be needed if fire is not an option. The habitat of this species has been severely degraded and diminished.

General Survey Guidelines

Random meander search covers areas that appear likely to have rare taxa, based on habitat and the judgment of the investigator.

Survey Methods

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at [Accessed Sep 22, 2018]

More Information

See MNFI Species Abstract


Survey References

Technical References

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