Plants frequently crown-forming, suckering when disturbed, forming small or extensive colonies; twigs of current season variously colored, most often green or glaucous, glabrous to densely hairy, sometimes pilose or glandular (not verrucose). Leaf blades usually pale green or glaucous abaxially, green adaxially, elliptic, 20-80 × 9-32 mm, ± membranous, margins usually entire, inrolled on more-coriaceous blades, surfaces glabrous or densely hairy, rarely glandular. Inflorescences 2-7-flowered, sometimes flowers solitary. Pedicels subtended by leaflike bract (ca. as long as flower). Flowers: corolla lobes spreading at anthesis, white to greenish white, sometimes purple veined, 4-8 mm; filaments glabrous or hairy. Berries green, yellow-green, yellow, purple, or black, often lightly glaucous, 7-18 mm diam., sometimes hairy and sparsely glandular. 2n = 24. Flowering spring(-early summer). Sandy, well-drained soil, xeric communities such as dry oak woods, pine barrens, savannas, dry pine ridges, sparsely wooded bluffs, sand hills, thickets, clearings (usually on acidic substrates, sometimes on limestone); 0-1700 m; Ont.; Ala., Ark., Conn., Del., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Kans., Ky., La., Md., Mass., Miss., Mo., N.J., N.Y., N.C., Ohio, Okla., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Tex., Va., W.Va.; Mexico (Hidalgo, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí). Vaccinium stamineum has been subject to an inordinate amount of splitting, especially by E. L. Greene and W. W. Ashe (see S. P. Vander Kloet 1988).
Deciduous shrub to 1.5 m, glabrous to densely hairy; lvs thin, oblong or elliptic to obovate, 3-10 cm, acute or acuminate, entire, petioles 2-3 mm; fls in racemes or panicles on specialized branches subtended by leafy bracts like the foliage lvs but usually much smaller; sep half-orbicular to ovate or deltoid, 1-2.5 mm; cor obconic, open even in bud, greenish or suffused with purple, eventually 4-6 mm, 5-lobed nearly to the middle; stamens exsert, the conspicuous terminal tubules long-exsert, much longer than the dorsal spurs; style prematurely exsert; fr yellowish or greenish to blue, to 1 cm, palatable to more often scarcely edible; 2n=24. Dry woods; Me. to Ind. and Mo., s. to Fla., Tex., and Mex. May, June. (Polycodium s.; P. candicans; V. caesium; V. melanocarpum; V. neglectum) Highly variable, some of the numerous segregates perhaps worthy of taxonomic notice.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.