Gaylussacia baccata (Black Huckleberry)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Gaylussacia
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:native
Status:
  • State Threatened
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; sandy or rocky soil; oak or pine forest, sandstone outcrops, savanna, bogs
Bloom season:June
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Short racemes of 3 to 9 nodding flowers from leaf axils of one-year-old branch twigs. Flowers are narrowly urn or bell shaped, ¼ to 1/3 inch long and half as wide, 5 fused petals, deep red with some mottled green, the triangular lobe tips curled up. Inside the tube is a single style barely extending past the mouth opening, and 10 shorter stamens. The calyx is green with 5 appressed, triangular lobes. The flower stalk is about as long as the flower with a small, lance-linear bract that often withers away before fruit sets. The calyx and stalk may be covered in short hairs and yellow resinous dots.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of yellowish leaves] Leaves are simple and alternate, toothless, elliptical or widest above the middle (obovate), 1¼ to 2 inches long, ½ to 1 inch wide, rounded or blunt at the tip, tapered at the base to a short, hairy stalk. The upper surface is yellowish to dark green and shiny with golden resinous dots, the lower surface paler green, more densely resin dotted, with fine hairs along the midrib. New twigs are green and hairless turning reddish brown, older stems becoming gray.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of developing fruit] The fruit is a round berry, ¼ to 1/3 inch diameter, ripening to dark blue or nearly black, and is similar in appearance and flavor to blueberry, but with hard nutlets inside.

Notes:

A common and widespread understory shrub of eastern forests, Black Huckleberry's westward range barely enters a few of Minnesota's most eastern counties. While there are only a few known locations remaining in our state, it is a colonial species that can produced thousands of above ground stems from a common root system. It is somewhat similar to the Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) that may be found in the same habitat, but Black Huckleberry is generally taller, has larger leaves with the distinctive resinous dots, and the hard nutlets quickly distinguish its fruit. While a number of related Vaccinium species share the common name of huckleberry, it has no relationship to the garden huckleberry, which is in the tomato family. Due to its rarity in the state and dwindling amount of suitable habitat, much of which has succumbed to agriculture and development, Black Huckleberry was listed as a Minnesota Threatened species in 2013.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.

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