The Nocturne cultivar was developed by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists at the Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory.
The new variety came from a blueberry cross made by ARS plant geneticist Mark Ehlenfeldt in 1993, and the plant was subsequently selected and evaluated from 1996 to 2011.
Nocturne, tested under the name ‘US 1056′, is a cross between a mixed species hybrid called US 874 and commercial rabbiteye blueberry Premier. This cross incorporates germplasm from three different blueberry species, including one with ‘extreme cold-hardiness’.
“Nocturne is a vigorous, winter-hardy, black-fruited blueberry,” an ARS release said. This variety is intended to be a specialty market plant for home, landscape, and ornamental use, according to Ehlenfeldt.
“Nocturne is especially notable for having winter hardiness comparable to northern highbush blueberry cultivars and for being slow to break dormancy in spring, making it unlike any other rabbiteye blueberry hybrids currently available,” the ARS said.
The blueberry is said to bear fruit reliably in the state of New Jersey, averaging 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms) per plant. Although it is self-pollinating, it has been advised yields and size would likely be improved by cross-pollination.
Unripe fruit is vivid and red-orange, while ripe fruit is black, sweet and medium-sized, with a flavor atypical of either rabbiteye or highbush blueberries.
Fruit ripens in late midseason to late season. The scar quality – how cleanly the fruit separates from the stem – is said to be fair, and the fact that Nocturne has only moderate firmness means it is not recommended for storage or shipping.
The ARS said Nocturne plants may be available to growers ‘within a year or two’.
Photo: Nocturne, from the Agricultural Research Service
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