Huckleberry

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Scientific name: Vaccinium, Vaccinium parvifolium, Gaylussacia

Local Name:

General Details

Huckleberry is a name used in North America for several plants in the family Ericaceae, in two closely related genera: Vaccinium and Gaylussacia. The huckleberry is the state fruit of Idaho.

Nomenclature

The name 'huckleberry' is a North American variation of the English dialectal name variously called 'hurtleberry' or 'whortleberry' (/ˈhwɜːrtəlbɛri/) for the bilberry.[1] In North America the name was applied to numerous plant variations all bearing small berries with colors that may be red, blue or black.[2] It is the common name for various Gaylussacia species, and some Vaccinium species, such as Vaccinium parvifolium, the red huckleberry, and is also applied to other Vaccinium species which may also be called blueberries depending upon local custom, as in New England and parts of Appalachia.[2]

Taxonomy

Gaylussacia


Wild huckleberry at Golden, British Columbia

Four species of huckleberries in the genus Gaylussacia are common in eastern North America, especially G. baccata, also known as the black huckleberry.[2]

Vaccinium

From coastal Central California through Oregon to southern Washington and British Columbia, the red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) is found in the maritime-influenced plant community. In the Pacific Northwest and mountains of Montana and Idaho, this huckleberry species and several others, such as the black Vaccinium huckleberry (V. membranaceum) and blue (Cascade) huckleberry (V. deliciosum), grow in various habitats, such as mid-alpine regions up to 11,500 feet (3,500 m) above sea level, mountain slopes, forests, or lake basins.[2] The plant grows best in damp, acidic soil having volcanic origin, attaining under optimal conditions heights of 1.5 to 2 m (4.9 to 6.6 ft), usually ripening in mid-to-late summer or later at high elevations.[2] Huckleberry was one of the few plant species to survive on the slopes of Mount St. Helens when the volcano erupted in 1980, and existed as a prominent mountain-slope bush in 2017.[3]

Where the climate is favorable, certain species of huckleberry, such as V. membranaceum, V. parvifolium and V. deliciosum, are used in ornamental plantings.[2] The 'garden huckleberry' (Solanum scabrum) is not a true huckleberry, but is instead a member of the nightshade family.

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