Throwback Thursday: Blueberry or Huckleberry

Unripe fruit graced the dwarf huckleberry (Gaylussacia dumosa) when we visited Cypress Bend Community Preserve on May 5, 2018.  The Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) is home to shiny blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinities) but not huckleberry.

What is the difference between huckleberry and blueberry?  Blueberries contain a variable number of seeds, and these seeds are loose in the berry.  Huckleberries always have 10 seeds per fruit, and each seed is contained in a tiny hard case.

The genus name, Gaylussacia, honors Joseph Gay-Lussae (1778 – 1850), a French chemist. The species name, dumosa, means bushy or shrubby.

Dwarf huckleberry occurs in dry, sandy soils throughtout the eastern U.S. and Canada.  In more northern places, this plant is decidedly deciduous with red fall foliage.  In Indian River County, dwarf huckleberry is likely to be tardily deciduous as is live oak (Quercus virginiana):  Leaves are shed at the same time that new, fresh leaves emerge.

Its leaves are opposite leaves are about 1″ long.

Its flowers are urceolate (urn-shaped), a characteristic of members of the heath family, Ericaceae.  Its small fruits ripen to be blue-black.

Plants in the heath family prefer acidic soils and include fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), coastalplain staggerbush (Lyonia fruticosa), tarflower (Bejaria racemosa), and shiny blueberry, all of which grow at ORCA.  The opposite leaves of shiny blueberry are tiny.

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Its flowers are urn-shaped (urceolate).

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Its tiny fruits are blue-black, smaller than huckleberries, and delicious to wildlife (and humans), show below at ORCA on 5-21-2017.

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