Vaccinium ovatumCalifornia Huckleberry
Vaccinium ovatum. Photo by James Gaither
California's redwood forests have a unique community of plants which grow in the sun-dappled shade at the base of the towering trees. It is a special ecosystem within the coastal fog belt where sword ferns, rhododendrons, salal, huckleberries and many other shrubs, trees and wildflowers thrive under the dark, moist grandeur of the redwoods.
In spring, Vaccinium ovatum produces dainty urn-shaped, pale pink flowers, similar to those of the manzanita. With a careful search in early fall, visitors can be rewarded with sweet purple berries hidden under the leafy branches. The berries make fantastic additions to any recipe calling for blueberries although some consider huckleberries more tart and intense in flavor. Huckleberries are covered with a whitish bloom containing yeasts that make them extra sweet. The shiny leaves are evergreen, toothed, and densely arranged in an alternate pattern on the twigs.
Vaccinium parviforum, or red huckleberry, is native to the wet coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest. It is a faster grower than V. ovatum, covering logs and stumps, and its leaves are deciduous instead of evergreen. Huckleberries are in the same genus as cranberries and blueberries.
||Needs regular watering, full sun to light shade, well drained acidic soil with lots of organic material
||Spring: clusters of bell shaped flowers
Fall: edible, deep blue berries
||Berries can be used in jam, jelly, pies, syrup
Vaccinium ovatum is harvested commercially, not for its berries, but for the use of its foliage in the floral arrangements.
New foliage is reddish tinged.
Can be grown in containers. Potting soil designed for azaleas and rhododendrons work well. Must have good drainage.
Huckleberries are prime deer food.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Text by Kathy McNeil. Plant profile by Joanne Taylor. Photos by Joanne Taylor, John Kipping and James Gaither.