Vaccinium parvifolium – Red huckleberry

At a Glance

  • Family: Ericaceae
  • Plant Type: deciduous shrub
  • Distribution: Pacific Coast from southeast Alaska through central California, mostly in lowland forests
  • Habitat: partial to deep shade, organic-rich substrates
  • Height: average of 3-6′, max 12’
  • Reproduction: red berries appear from July-August, seed spreads through animal consumption
  • Flowers: green-pink color, small bell shape, solitary arrangement in leaf axils
  • Flowering season: April-June
  • Leaves: small oval leaves, thin angular branches (green colored when young)
  • Generation: perennial
  • Notable features: often grows on decaying logs or stumps, frequently appears on old stumps in conjunction with Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) seedlings

Restoration/Conservation

  • Berries are eaten by many songbirds, chipmunks, foxes, bears, and other mammals
  • Twigs and foliage provide browse for deer, mountain goat, elk, and mountain beaver

Ethnobotany/Commercial Use

  • Berries were eaten by all tribes in the region. They could be eaten fresh, mixed into cakes, or stored for the winter.
  • The Skagit boiled the bark to make tea
  • Huckleberries resemble salmon eggs, and were therefore used as fish bait by tribes
  • Berries are widely used in preserves, jellies, or for baking, and the leaves can be dried and pressed for juice or tea
  • Huckleberry tea has been taken to help alleviate glycosuria and hyperglycemia

Resources

For questions regarding the St. Edward State Park EERC Native Plant Guided Tour, contact Sarah Verlinde-Azofeifa at severlin@uw.edu.