Vaccinium caespitosum (Dwarf Bilberry)

Plant Info
Also known as: Dwarf Huckleberry
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry to moist sandy or rocky soil; meadows, rocky ridges, pine woods, pine barrens
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:4 to 8 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC 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

[photo of flowers] Nodding flowers are single in the axils of the lowest leaves on a branch, about ¼ inch long, urn-shaped to nearly round, with 5 short, spreading lobes. Color is pink to nearly white. Inside the tube are 8 to 10 stamens surrounding a stout style that barely extends out of the tube. The calyx cupping the flower is pale green, bowl-shaped with 5 small lobes that shrink with age. Flower stalks are short, smooth and relatively stout.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, up to about 1 inch long, to ½ inch wide, usually broadest above the middle, sometimes elliptic, blunt to rounded at the tip, tapering to a stalkless base, and hairless. Edges are finely serrated with rounded teeth; teeth on the tip half typically have a small gland at the tip.

[photo of gland-dotted leaf underside] The upper leaf surface is light to dark green, the lower is pale and gland-dotted. Branches are yellowish-green to brownish or reddish-brown, the bark becoming somewhat flaky. New branches are minutely hairy, sometimes glandular. Stems are mostly prostrate. Plants may create dense mat from spreading rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of developing fruit] Fruit is a round berry, ¼ to 1/3 inch in diameter, that ripens to dark blue-violet and is covered with a waxy bloom.


While researching Dwarf Bilberry, I came upon a number of images showing deep pink, hot pink, or pink and white striped flowers, some oval to nearly round. Those we encountered in Minnesota were much paler, the color reminiscent of pink-tinged frosted glass, and more narrowly urn-shaped. Natural variations abound! The flowers are very similar to Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), which has toothless leaves and bright red berries. Dwarf Bilberry is rather smaller than both Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) and Velvet-leaf Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides) and is further distinguished by having single flowers in the axils rather than clusters, and serrated leaves with gland-tipped teeth. The leaves also distinguish it from the rare Alpine Bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum).

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lake County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Janet - Harriet Lake, Lake Co. MN
on: 2016-07-28 16:27:56

I usually find the fruit of this plant not worth picking because it dries up on the plant so easily, however, I found it in plump abundance today (as well as V. angustifolium and V. myrtilloides).

Posted by: gary - Lake County
on: 2017-10-26 23:34:19

I found this one time many years ago in the strangest place. It was growing along the edges of an old concrete foundation of what was once a building by a railroad grade in the SNF.

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