Monthly Archives: February 2016

Oval-leaved Blueberry, Vaccinium ovalifolium

Oval-leaved Blueberry         The Heath Family– Ericaceae

 Vaccinium ovalifolium Sm.

(Vax-IH-nee-um oh-val-ih-FOAL-ee-um)

Names: Oval-leaved Blueberry is also known as Oval-leaved or Black Huckleberry or Early Blueberry.  Ovalifolium means oval-leaved.

Oval leaved Blueberry bush

Relationships: There are about 450 species of Vaccinium worldwide, about 40 in North America with about 15 in the Pacific Northwest.  The genus Vaccinium includes Blueberries, Huckleberries, Cranberries, Lingonberries, Whortleberries, Bilberries and Cowberries.

Distribution of Oval-leaved Blueberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Oval-leaved Blueberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: This species is found from southern Alaska to Oregon in the west, including the Idaho Panhandle and Montana. In the eastern United States it is found only in Upper Michigan. It is found in all the Canadian provinces and territories, excluding Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Nunavut Territory.  It is also found stretching across much of the Pacific Rim from the Aleutians to Japan and parts of the eastern mainland of Asia.

 

Vaccinium ovalifolium bushGrowth: Oval-leaved Blueberry grows from 3-9ft. (1-3m), and grows a maximum of 12 inches (30cm) a year.

Habitat:  It grows in open forests, clearings and bogs, preferring moist soils; from sea-level to the timberline.  Plants in arctic and subarctic zones are often low and broom-like; repeated browsing produces the same effect.  Wetland designation: UPL, Obligate Upland, it occurs in wetlands in other regions but almost always occurs in non-wetlands in the northwest.

Oval leaved Blueberry berryDiagnostic Characters: The young twigs of Oval-leaved Blueberry are brownish or reddish to yellowish, angled and grooved.  Flowers are urn-shaped and pink; they usually appear before or with the oval-shaped leaves.  Berries are blue-black with a bluish bloom—very much like commercial blueberries.

 

In the Landscape: Oval-Leaved Blueberry is attractive in a woodland garden, especially when grown along with Red Huckleberry.  Their similar architecture and foliage shapes create an enchanting visual harmony; their berries, contrasting, blue vs. red.

Phenology: Bloom time:  April-July; Fruit ripens: June-August.

Propagation: Oval-leaf Huckleberry regenerates naturally by sprouting from basal buds and rhizomes.  Seeds germinate best when exposed to warm temperatures (~15 days), then cold temperatures (~15 days).  Germination is typically between 50-60%, but may be over 90% under optimal conditions.  Division, layering and cuttings are also possible.

Use by People: Natives ate the tart, flavorful berries fresh, dried, or mixed with oil or oolichan grease.  The berries also make excellent jelly or wine.

Use by Wildlife: As with other huckleberries, Oval-leaved Blueberry is an important food for both Black and Grizzly Bears.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

Mountain Huckleberry, Vaccinium membranaceum

Mountain Huckleberry          The Heath Family– Ericaceae

 Vaccinium membranaceum Douglas ex Torr.

(Vax-IH-nee-um mem-brain-uh-SEE-um)Names

Mountain HuckleberryNames: Mountain Huckleberry is also known as Thin-leaf Huckleberry (membranaceum = thin, like a membrane). It is also known as Big, Black, or Blue Huckleberry.  It is Idaho’s State Fruit.

Relationships:  There are about 450 species of Vaccinium worldwide, about 40 in North America with about 15 in the Pacific Northwest.  The genus Vaccinium includes Blueberries, Huckleberries, Cranberries, Lingonberries, Whortleberries, Bilberries and Cowberries.

 

Distribution of Mountain Huckleberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Mountain Huckleberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: This species is found in the west from the Yukon Territory to Northern California, mostly in the Cascade Mountains; eastward through the Rocky Mountain States and Provinces; reaching to Minnesota, Upper Michigan, and Ontario, on the east side of Lake Superior.

 

 

 

Growth: Mountain Huckleberry grows from 1 to 4’ (30-150 cm).

Habitat: It sometimes grows as an understory shrub in dry to moist coniferous forests but is most numerous on open subalpine slopes.  In the Cascades, it is frequently found with Beargrass, Xerophyllum tenax.  Roots may penetrate to a depth of 40” (100cm); rhizomes grow at between 3 to 12” (8-30cm) of the soil profile.  After low to moderately severe fires, Mountain Huckleberry resprouts from the rhizomes. Fire exclusion reduces Black Huckleberry populations over time as they are overtaken by larger shrubs and trees.  Wetland designation: FACU+, Facultative upland, it usually occurs in non-wetland but is sometimes found in wetlands

Mountain Huckleberry3.

Mountain Huckleberry berriesDiagnostic Characters: Mountain Huckleberry has thin leaves with finely toothed margins that are pointed at the tip.  Flowers are urn-shaped and creamy-pink.  The berries are purplish or reddish-black, without a waxy bloom.

In the Landscape: This species is prized for its delicious berries.  Its leaves turn a spectacular red to purple in the fall. Mountain Huckleberry does best when it has little competition from other plants and is ideal for a rock garden or on a slope with plenty of organic matter.  Plant it together with its natural companion, Beargrass, to reproduce the look of a subalpine hillside.  Soil moisture will affect the quality and quantity of berry production, although it still will fruit even after 4-6 months with no rain.

Phenology:  Bloom time:  Late spring to June. Fruit ripens: Mid-summer to late August.

Propagation:  In nature, Mountain Huckleberry propagates mostly vegetatively by slow expansion via adventitious buds on its rhizomes.  Although seed reproduction is reportedly rare in nature, seeds can be propagated with about a 42% germination rate.  It is best to plant seeds as soon as they are ripe in a cold frame.  Stored seed may require a 3 month stratification period.  Cuttings are difficult but possible from half-ripe wood taken in August, with a heel.  More success is likely with division of the rhizomes.

Use by People: The flavorful, juicy berries were collected by natives, eaten fresh or cooked, mashed and dried into cakes.  Today, many families make special trips to the mountains to pick huckleberries.  They go back to the same patch every year, unofficially claiming it as their own– hesitant to share the location with others. This is the species of huckleberry most commonly used in huckleberry Jams, syrups and other products marketed to tourists.

Use by Wildlife: Huckleberry flowers are pollinated by bees.  Mountain Huckleberry is the dominant species of huckleberry consumed by Grizzly Bears and Black Bears; they eat the berries, leaves, stems and roots.  Elk, moose and deer will also browse on the foliage.  Small mammals, grouse and other birds also eat the berries as well as use the shrub as cover.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet 

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

Red Huckleberry, Vaccinium parvifolium

Red Huckleberry                                       The Heath Family– Ericaceae

Red Huckleberry Vaccinium parvifolium Sm.

(Vax-IH-nee-um parv-IH-foal-ee-um)

Names: Red Huckleberry is also known as Red Whortleberry or Red Bilberry.  Parvifolium means small-leaved.

Relationships: There are about 450 species of Vaccinium worldwide, about 40 in North America with about 15 in the Pacific Northwest.  The genus Vaccinium includes Blueberries, Huckleberries, Cranberries, Lingonberries, Whortleberries, Bilberries and Cowberries.

 

Distribution of Red Huckleberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Red Huckleberry from USDA Plants Database

 

 

Distribution: It is found along the Pacific Coast from southeast Alaska to central California. Mostly in the lowland forests west of the Cascades in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon; the California coast, and the Sierra Nevadas.  It is the most common Vaccinium in the Oregon coast mountain ranges.

 

 

 

Vaccinium parvifolium bush

 

Growth: Red Huckleberry grows slowly up to 12 ft. (4m), usually growing only 3-6 ft. (1-2m).  It is often found growing on top of decaying logs and stumps in open to fairly dense coniferous forests.

 

 

Beautiful new spring leaves.

Beautiful new spring leaves.

Red Huckleberry leaves

 

 

 

Diagnostic Characters: It is most easily recognized when berries are ripe, being the only native upright Vaccinium with red berries.  Its stems are finely branched, angular and usually bright-green but sometimes red.  Its dainty leaves are small, oval and not toothed, some occasionally persist through winter.  The greenish or creamy-pink urn-shaped flowers arise singly in leaf axils.

 

 

 

Red Huckleberry woodland

 

In the Landscape: Red Huckleberry performs best in a woodland garden which duplicates its native habitat in partial shade with rich, humusy soil.  It is delicate-looking with an attractive branching pattern.  In fall, its reddish leaves create an interesting visual contrast next to its green branches. Rhododendrons, Salal, Evergreen Huckleberry and ferns are good companions. Many attempt to duplicate the natural look of this charming plant perched on top of a rotting stump or log.  The establishment phase of this endeavor is critical—the transplant must receive the proper amount of moisture; too much or too little will lead to certain death!

 

Creamy-pink, urn-shaped flowers.

Creamy-pink, urn-shaped flowers.

 

 

 

Phenology: Bloom time:  April-June; Fruit ripens: July-August.

 

 

It is the only native upright Vaccinium with red berries.

It is the only native upright Vaccinium with red berries.

 

Vaccinium parvifolium berriesPropagation:  Seeds require no special treatment, but in nature the digestive processes of animals may hasten germination. After sowing on a peaty, high-acid soil, seedlings begin emerging after one month and may continue germinating for a long time thereafter.  Warm days (14 hours @ 82ºF (28ºC)) and cool nights (10 hours @ 56ºF (13ºC)) enhance germination success.  Seedlings are small and may take a few seasons to mature before plants are large enough to plant out in the garden.  Softwood cuttings may be taken in June, treated with IBA and stuck in a peat moss/sand media (2:1).

 

 

 

 

Use by People: Red Huckleberries were eaten fresh by all native tribes. The berries were often combed off the twigs and then the leaves were separated from the berries by rolling them down a rough, wet plank.  Some tribes dried them singly or mashed them into cakes or stored them in oil.  The berries, resembling salmon eggs, were used as fish bait in streams. Red Huckleberries are a good source of Vitamin C and many prefer their flavor over cranberries. The berries are sometimes used in pies, jellies, jams or preserves.    Hikers consider them a great treat for a quick snack on the trail.  The delicate twigs are sometimes used by florists.

Red Huckleberry2

Use by Wildlife: As with all the other huckleberries and blueberries, Red Huckleberry is a favorite food of a variety of birds and mammals including thrushes, pigeons, towhees, ptarmigans, and grouse; and bears, raccoons, chipmunks, foxes, skunks and deer mice.  The twigs and foliage are also an important browse for deer, mountain goat, and elk.  Small mammals will also browse Red Huckleberry.  It is a preferred food of Mountain Beaver.

 Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

 

Deciduous alpine ericads

Related ericads often found together in subalpine areas:

Rhododendron albiflorumCascade Azalea, Rhododendron albiflorum Hook.  Also known as White-flowered (the meaning of albiflorum) Rhododendron, it has showy cup-shaped flowers.  The upper surface of the leaves are covered with fine rusty hairs, the underside has white hairs only on the mid vein.  Unfortunately, horticulturists have had very little success taming this subalpine gem in a cultivated garden.  People continue to try; but for now only hikers can enjoy this beautiful rhododendron!

 

 

Links:

Distribution of Cascade Azalea from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Cascade Azalea from USDA Plants Database

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

Copperbush, Elliottia pyroliflora (Bong.) S.W. Brim & P.F. Stevens. Previously known as Cladothamnus pyroliflorus, Copperbush has been reclassified into the genus Elliottia, due to its more recently discovered relationship to Georgia Plume, E. racemosa. Cladothamnus means branching bush, pyroliflora refers to flowers that resemble pyrola (wintergreen) flowers. Copperbush refers to either its copper-colored flowers or its coppery peeling bark.  Its leaves are hairless, covered in a waxy powder.  Copperbush often grows along the edges of streambanks and bogs.  It can be propagated by seed.  Although some references state that it is “easily found in nurseries,” I have never seen it and can only find a couple of nurseries in BC that list it in their inventories.

Distribution of Copperbush from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Copperbush from USDA Plants Database

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

Menziesia*False Azalea, Menziesia ferruginea Sm.  False Azalea is also known as Fool’s Huckleberry, Mock Azalea, Rusty Menziesia, Rusty Leaf or other similar combinations.  It is named after botanist and explorer, Archibald Menzies.  Ferruginea (ferrous=iron) refers to the rusty-colored, glandular hairs on the leaves and twigs (although they are sometimes white). The bluish-green leaves are sticky with the mid-vein protruding slightly at the tip.  They turn brilliant orange-red in the fall.  The bell-shaped flowers are similar to huckleberry flowers, but are usually salmon-colored.  It produces dry, 4-valved capsules instead of berries. Unlike, the previous two species, False Azalea is easier to grow and find in native plant nurseries. Many now lump it in with Rhododendrons, synonym: Rhododendron menziesii.

Distribution of False Azalea from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of False Azalea from USDA Plants Database

 

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn