Huckleberry – Ericales Ericaceae Vaccinium parvifolium


Identification & Description:
A decidious shrub growing to 1.8m by 1.8m . It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from May to June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. We rate it 3 out of 5 for usefulness.
The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid soils and can grow in very acid soil. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

Huckleberry is native to California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia in alpine meadows and subalpine coniferous woods at elevations from 2,000 to 6,000 feet. The plants grow six to thirty-six inches tall, although the procumbent canes can be six feet long or longer). The large, bright blue, glaucous berries have outstanding flavor and aroma due to high concentrations of esters and ketones. Yield potential may be low due to the fruit being borne only at the ends of the canes, although this problem should be manageable through occasional pruning.

Adapted to wet soils and often found at edges of ponds, Cascade huckleberry also grows on drier upland soils and can form dense heaths covering hundreds to thousands of square feet. The berries are very popular for commercial use, but the small, scattered populations limit available volumes.

Habitats and Possible Locations
Woodland, Sunny Edge, Dappled Shade.

Edible Uses
Fruit; Tea.
Fruit – raw or cooked and used in making jams, pies, jellies etc. The fruit can also be dried for later use. An acid flavour, but it is very palatable. The fruit makes a very superior jelly. The fruit is about 12mm in diameter.

A tea is made from the dried fruit and leaves.

Leaves: Coarse and leathery (sclerophyllous), ovate, evergreen leaves with serrated edges all the way around. The leaves are glossy above and have sparse glandular hairs on the paler underside. The veins are not prominent. The leaves are arranged alternately along the stem. Ovatum refers to the oval or egg shape of the leaves.

Flowers: Urn-shaped, white or pinkish fragrant flowers with 5 petals to its corolla, about 1cm long. V. ovatum’s anthers are often short-awned (Jepson 1993). It has 5 sepals fused at the base of the calyx and yellowish stamens that do not protrude (Becking 1982).

Twigs: The twigs are slender, reddish-brown, and smooth, and they are covered with short hairs. The buds have bright red scales.

Fruit: Bluish- purple, edible berries, 5-7 mm in diameter that form in large clusters at the end of the branches. They appear similar to blueberries although a little smaller. Inside the berries are numerous brown seeds 1mm long (Jepson 1993). Once ripened, the fruit remain on the bush for one month or so. Young berries tend to be a little tart, however mature berries are sweet to the taste.