Wild berries normally grow in xeric, sub-xeric or mesic heath forests or in barren types of bogs where mainly pine or spruce trees grow. Forests are home to, for example, the lingonberry, bilberry, raspberry, common crowberry and cranberry. Bogs are a typical environment of the cloudberry, bog bilberry, crowberry and cranberry. Varieties found on fells include the crowberry, alpine bearberry, lingonberry and bog bilberry.
Finnish bilberry growing wild in Finnish forests, has been gathered and used for centuries. The cultivation of the highbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifoloium , V. corymbosum) is popular in North America. Highbush blueberry has been often called Wild Blueberry. Often consumers and industry think that the cultivated and forest berries are the same species - but they differ rather much.
Finnish bilberry is growing wild in Finnish forests. Compared the cultivated highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), the berries of the Finnish bilberry are smaller, 6-8 millimetres in size. Bilberries grow individually on the branches of a ramified shrub plant 10-40 cm tall. The skin of Finnish bilberries is dark blue, waxy and soft and it breaks quite easily. The inside of Finnish bilberry is also dark blue. Because of the high anthocyanin content its flesh is fruity and dark blue or purple. The water-soluble colour of Finnish bilberry takes very easily on the skin or clothes. Highbush blueberry is a non-staining.
The anthocyanin levels of Finnish bilberry are high when compared to other berries. It contains anthocyanins at a level that is 3-5 higher than that in highbush blueberry. Anthocyanins are bioactive compounds, which give the Finnish bilberry its characteristic dark blue or purple colour inside and out. The difference in the colour of flesh between the bilberry and blueberry is visible, since the flesh of highbush blueberry is white.