Huckleberries On the Mountain Ridge Are Lowbush Blueberries

We made an interesting discovery this year in our wooded acres on the mountain ridge. A lot of undergrowth is present near the wood’s edge. That’s not too surprising because the deer population has a lot of choice of what to eat around here in the country. We see them crossing our property as they go into or out of the crop field next door, so to speak.

We did plant some goldenseal one year that didn’t flourish and I blamed their lack of growth and eventual disappearance on the local deer population. Perhaps so.

Anyway, I was surprised that we had these little low-growing shrubs flower this year. In overall appearance, these shrubs look similar to the deerberry that we’ve seen flower many times. This year was the most spectacular display of deerberry blooming so far!

I’m told by the local farmer that they call the plant “huckleberry”. It’s like a wild low-growing blueberry. Indeed, Newcomb’s description for the Early Low Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium, fits it like a glove. Peterson’s Medicinal Plants Guide calls this species the Late Lowbush Blueberry with its blueberry fruit ripening in August or September. Our lowbush blueberry is probably the early variety as its fruit was already turning from light green to pink in late June before turning blue.

Pink lowbush blueberry fruits.
Pink lowbush blueberry fruits. Photo taken 26 Jun 2011.

Flowers dangle in clusters at the tips of stems. Urn-shaped with five flaring tips, blueberry blossoms are typically white with shades of pink. The flowers of huckleberries and blueberries are very similar.

Leaves of the blueberries, Vaccinium spp., are soft to the touch and no where as near as leathery as the leaves of the Box Huckleberry, Gaylussacia brachycera.

Lowbush blueberries are about a foot tall, with green stems that terminate in oval-shaped, pointy-tipped leaves. Flower clusters are borne on the green stems between leafy side branches.

Green stems support several flowers clusters in between the leafy stems.
Green stems support several flowers clusters in between the leafy stems. Photo taken 13 May 2011.
Flower cluster of lowbush blueberry showing blossoms of different ages. The petals of the early flowers have fallen away, while others are blooming or not yet opened.
Flower cluster of lowbush blueberry showing blossoms of different ages. The petals of the early flowers have fallen away, while others are blooming or not yet opened. Photo taken 13 May 2011.
Flowers of a Duke Blueberry, V. corymbosum, are quite similar to the lowbush blueberry, except that these highbush blueberry blossoms are pure white. The stems attain their woody character with age.
Flowers of a Duke Blueberry, V. corymbosum, are quite similar to the lowbush blueberry, except that these highbush blueberry blossoms are pure white. The stems attain their woody character with age. Photo taken 13 May 2011.

A week or more later, other huckleberries were seen blooming in the woods. Some of the flowers were more pink than white.

Pink cluster of lowbush blueberry flowers. Note that the flower clusters arise on the previous year's new growth, which has become woody.
Pink cluster of lowbush blueberry flowers. Note that the flower clusters arise on the previous year's new growth, which has become woody. Photo taken 23 May 2011.

Fruits are small and ripen into the familiar blue berries in early to mid July. One can just see the remnants of the flower blossom’s five tips on the bottom of the berry.

Huckleberries ripening from green to pink to blue.
Huckleberries ripening from green to pink to blue. Photo taken 2 July 2011.
Huckleberry or Lowbush Blueberry fruit gets bigger as it matures from pink to blue.
Huckleberry or Lowbush Blueberry fruit gets bigger as it matures from pink to blue. Photo taken 4 July 2011.

I tasted the lowbush blueberries, but I didn’t think they had much flavor, at least not compared to the highbush blueberries we planted a few years back. We’ll leave the small berries for the birds and chipmunks in hopes that they’ll leave us our delicious blueberries.

2 thoughts on “Huckleberries On the Mountain Ridge Are Lowbush Blueberries

  1. My Grandmother Lovell,and myself when I was a little girl growing up in a small town of Wiley Georgia…Located in Rabun County…She knew when it was time every year to pick the Wild Huckleberries…And we did..She always wore her straw hat…Her Overalls .Supply of bug spray was a must.At least two milk jugs with a rope tied around her waist.For the berries…And a hoe for the snakes..We picked Huckleberries…I lOVED IT VERY MUCH…Grandma would always pick more than me.Because I would eat more than I ever put in my bucket…So sweet and good.But at the end of the day…Grandma would wash the berries.Pick them through of the trash and all.Wash them again…And cook them.And prepare them for Jam And JeLLey.O.M.G…She would then put them in baby food jars..And try to store them away where us kids could not find the jars.She would only allow it to be eaten on a special occasion,,,Me and my SISTER,one day we were little.But old enough to no better…Grandma had went to the chicken lot to gather the eggs…And she told us to not go into Grandpa’s room.To bother that Jelley…O.K. Grandma we promised we wouldn’t…We waited until she was out of sight..And we found the Jelley..Between us we ate 2 jars a piece…And out of no where..We felt the hickory switch real hard.As we ran away with the evidence all over our faces and hands..But it was way worth it..Putting it on a hot bisquit.Or stealing it from Grandma…This Jam And Jelley was the best ever.Though my Grandma has been passed away now for many years…I still remember the taste of the Wild Huckleberry Jam And Jelley she made..And I Loved it……Brings back so many loved and cherished Memories of me and my Little Grandma..What I would give for a baby jar full of it now made by my Little Grandma Lovell.I LOVE YOU GRANDMA LOVELL VERY MUCH.

  2. Voncyle, what a lovely story! Thank you so much for sharing it. I have fond memories of making red raspberry jam with my mother and now that the red caps are in season I think of her every time I eat one. 🙂

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