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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Hilo, Hawaii » Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center » Tropical Plant Genetic Resources and Disease Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #260600

Title: ‘Kilauea’ and ‘Red Button’, Ohelo, Vaccinium reticulatum, cultivars from Hawaii

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/30/2012
Publication Date: 4/5/2013
Citation: Zee, F.T., Strauss, A.J., Arakawa, C.N., Follett, P.A., Bassil, N.V., Hummer, K.E. 2013. ‘Kilauea’ and ‘Red Button’, Ohelo, Vaccinium reticulatum, cultivars from Hawaii. HortScience.

Interpretive Summary: ‘Kilauea’ and ‘Red Button’ are the first two new ornamental-edible berry ohelo cultivars selected and released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) in Hilo, HI. Ohelo, Vaccinium reticulatum (Smith), is a native Hawaiian shrub, less than 1 m tall, and grows between 640 and 3700 m elevation on disturbed volcanic sites on the islands of Maui and Hawaii. In the wild, ohelo berries are most abundant during late August to September, and are gathered by locals for processing into jam, jelly and pie filling. Concerns have arisen about human impacts to the environment during the wild gathering, which may include spreading of exotic weeds, damaging native vegetation, and reducing a food source of the endemic nene goose, Banta sandvicensis (Vigor). Our research objectives were to identify, evaluate, select and demonstrate the potential in small scale production of ohelo cultivars as ornamental and edible berries in Hawaii.

Technical Abstract: Two new ohelo cultivars were selected from an open pollinated seedling population and released by USDA/ARS. ‘Kilauea’ has a low spreading canopy with light green leaves, bright crimson shoots and buds, and orange to salmon berries. Average monthly berry production of ‘Kilauea’ was 14 grams per plant from 1 year old plants. ‘Red Button’ was selected for the more circular leaves with red margin, bright crimson buds and orange-yellow berries with red speckles. One year old ‘Red Button’ yields an average of 37 grams of berry per plant per month, and is significantly higher than most ohelo seedlings. Specific microsatellite (SSR) markers were identified with the two cultivars. Ohelo is a native of Hawaii with excellent ornamental qualities, and the berry is a unique ingredient for jam and jelly. We demonstrated that ohelo berries can be cultivated and produced in a sustainably manner in container and in field. The reliable sustainable supply of berries will reduce the need for wild gathering, and may encourage further development of products that are unique to Hawaii.