Vaccinium ovatum – Evergreen huckleberry
A spreading-to-upright shrub with small shiny green evergreen leaves and small clusters of pink bell-shaped flowers which grows in coniferous forests.
At a glance
- Family: Ericaceae
- Plant Type: Evergreen shrub.
- Distribution: This shrub grows from British Columbia to California, growing west of the Cascades crest and along the coast.
- Height: This plant grows approximately 2 to 13 feet (0.5 to 4 m) in height.
- Flowers: Flowers are bright pinkish in color, narrowly bell-shaped and less than half an inch (approximately 7.5 mm) in length. The flowers are axillary and grow on racemes in clusters of 3 to 10. Each flower has 5 lobes which are short and spreading. The filaments are densely pubescent and the anthers are long, straight pore-bearing tubes without awns. The ovary is inferior.
- Leaves: Leaves are alternate and aligned horizontally along the stem, leathery and bright gloss-green on the upper surface and lighter underneath. Additionally, the leaves are egg-shaped, sharp-toothed, and 1 to 2 inches (2 to 5 cm) in length.
- Fruits: The flowers produce deep purplish-black, or blue, berries with a shiny surface less than half an inch (4 to 7 mm) in diameter.
- Notable features: This is the only Vaccinium species that has leathery, evergreen leaves, and flowers that grow in racemes. The young stems are pubescent.
The flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies. The berries are eaten by birds.
Many Pacific Northwest tribes (Costanoan, Hesquiat, Hoh, Karok, and others) have eaten the berries raw (alone and with oil) and cooked the berries making it into jam and jelly. The berries have also been stored with water in jars, stewed and made into a sauce, canned, stored in baskets, dried into cakes, and used in pies, dumplings, puddings, and toppings. The leaves have been used to cover plants in an earth oven. A decoction of leaves has been taken for diabetes.
- CNPS Calscape: https://calscape.org/loc-California/Vaccinium%20ovatum%20(Huckleberry)
- Native American Ethnobotany Database: http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=Vaccinium+ovatum
- Oregon State University Dept. of Botany & Plant Pathology – OregonFlora. https://oregonflora.org/taxa/garden.php?taxon=9018
- Pojar, J and MacKinnon, A. 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska. Vancouver (BC): Lone Pine Publishing.
- Starflower Foundation Image Herbarium and Landscaping Pages, 2007.
- WTU Image Herbarium: https://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection/taxon.php?Taxon=Vaccinium%20ovatum
This article was written by Gerald B. Stanley. For questions regarding the EERC Native Plant Guided Tour, contact Sarah Verlinde-Azofeifa at email@example.com.