A day trip to the Hoverter and Sholl Box Huckleberry Natural Area in the Tuscarora State Forest was a delight for this first-time visit. Access is about a half-mile down Huckleberry Road from Route 34, just south of New Bloomfield, Perry County, Pennsylvania.
Near the entrance path there were several Rattlesnake-Weed plants as noted by their heavy purple-veined leaves at the base of a long flower stalk. At the top of the two feet long stalk are several bright yellow flowers in daisy-like fashion indicating that rattlesnake-weed, Hieracium venosum, is a member of the composite family.
We were greeted by a nice display of Mountain Laurel on entering the easy half-mile trail. Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia, is an evergreen shrub or small tree having large oval leaves that remind one of a rhododendron and is a member of the heath family.
Mountain laurel blossoms vary from nearly all white to pink. Each stamen appeared to be placed in a pocket of the blossom where some maroon color was transferred from the anther to the petals producing a deep red spot on the blossom. A most unusual flower!
Check out these buds waiting to open – they look like beautiful dremel tool tips! Each has ten stamens wrapped inside the 10-parted flower.
The rear of the Mountain Laurel flower has a unique shape.
The Box Huckleberry is also a member of the heath family and is a low-growing evergreen shrub. The leaves are about an inch long, oval in shape and have a glossy, leathery appearance, much like the boxwood that it is named after.
The Box Huckleberry has evergreen, leathery leaves and blue fruit.
Huckleberries can be mistaken for blueberries as their flowers and fruit are similar in appearance. The blossoms are white and bell-shaped. The box huckleberry fruit is small and contains several large seeds that make the fruit undesirable, except by grouse, turkey, and other wild creatures.
The blossom of the Box Huckleberry reminds one of blueberry blossoms, a close relative.
An interesting feature of this box huckleberry is that it is a single plant approximately 1,300 years old! The plant grows via rhizomes at a rate of only six inches per year. The size of the plant tells its age. A separate plant in the next county was estimated to be 13,000 years old – easily the oldest organism on the planet! Unfortunately, most of that large box huckleberry was destroyed in a road-building project for Route 22/322. Remnants of the original plant are said to be located on private property.
Part of the Box Huckleberry colony in the Tuscarora State Forest in Pennsylvania.
Box huckleberry is an endangered species that can only be found in 9 US states, with a most recent find of a new box huckleberry plant in the mountains of North Carolina.
As a matter of fact the Hoverter and Sholl Box Huckleberry Natural Area is designated as a natural landmark.
Natural Landmark Register Plaque on Monolith
This little piece of land was set aside to protect the rare Box Huckleberry in 1967!