Oval Leaf Huckleberry is a Northwest native shrub with delicious and healthy berries. In our humble opinion (and the bears), this plant rivals Black Huckleberry for best wild berry in the West!
Oval Leaf Huckleberry, also known as Oval Leaf Blueberry, is a native food similar to the Black Huckleberry. It produces a sweet blue berry, highly prized for both fresh eating and cooking/preserving. Berries can be made into jams, frozen berries, fruit leathers, and dried huckleberry "raisins". They are high in vitamins A, B, and C. They are also rich in antioxidants and can improve blood circulation!
NOTE: Being a wild plant, fruit production and growth speed is significantly lower than a cultivated Blueberry bush. Grown from wild seed, they have a wide genetic diversity, and are known to be variable in their flavor, production, and site preferences.
Some do fine at lower elevations, others prefer higher elevation for fruiting. Some reports indicate that lower elevation fruits have less flavor. Research is underway to cultivate a highly-productive, fast-growing, low-elevation cultivar, but it is still many years out. We'll definitely carry it when it's ready!
The Oval Leaf Huckleberry has elegant, thin leaves that are more rounded and flattened than that of their close relative the Black Huckleberry. The deciduous leaves emerge and evolve from a translucent spring green into glowing reds and purples in the fall. They have modest, urn-shaped, creamy pink flowers that bloom in the late spring. Their bark is yellow-green when young, maturing into a shredded grayish coloration with age.
They can be grown under the partial shade of any native tree, such as the California Foothill Pine or Oregon White Oak. They will also grow well paired with any of the acid loving ferns like The Ostrich Fern or The Spreading Wood Fern. For an ornamental companion, consider the acid loving Blue Blossom Ceanothus - just make sure that it doesn’t block too much your Blueberries' sunshine.
Environment and Culture
The Oval Leaf Huckleberry can be found in moist, conifer-pine dominated forests, as well as alpine and sub-alpine meadows across the Northern USA and Canada. They spread primarily from rhizomes, patches living over one hundred years old. When young, however, they are a favorite snack for deer, as well as an important food source for many mammals and birds. To secure some berries for you, they need to be protected from browsing with fencing or netting. Once established in a favorable location they are very hardy and drought tolerant.
The Oval Leaf Huckleberry was and is a culturally significant plant to many Native Americans, who carefully cultivated it in the wild. They use the berries in every possible way including fresh, dried, mashed, cooked and added to soup, frozen, pressed into cakes, or canned for winter use. Despite great cultural losses, they continue to work towards stewarding and restoring wild populations of Vacciniums throughout the region, both strengthening the integrity of the ecology and sustaining their cultural heritage and wisdom. These strong and recovering peoples and plants deserve our respect, gratitude, and reparations. (Learn more & how to help on our Charitable Giving page.)
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
Wild vacciniums are notoriously challenging to grow, but many of us can't help but try anyway! They are slow-growing and need careful attention during establishment. The roots of the huckleberry are sensitive to compaction. Plant them away from pathways, and keep soil mulched. They thrive in acidic, well drained soils, and taste and produce best in 60-70% sunshine.
Summer watering will produce bigger berries. Harvest the berries in late summer-fall when they have fully ripened from purple to dark blue. They will be firm, but with a little give. Due to lower yields than cultivated berries, expect to need 3 to 4 times the bushes for the same harvest.
If you have a large bird population, plants can be covered with netting to keep the birds from eating all the berries. The berries are superior to cultivated blueberries in taste, although they are slightly smaller and less productive. Use them in anyway you might use a cultivated blueberry - fresh, frozen, dried, in jams, cobblers, crisps, leathers, and more.
Native Range: CA, OR, WA, BC, ID, AK
USDA zones: 5-9
Ease of Care: Difficult
Deer Resistance: Low
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Part-Shade
Soil Type: Light-Medium, needs acidic, well drained soils
Water Requirements: Dry-Moist, very drought hardy after establishment.
Bearing Age: 2-4 years from establishment
Size at Maturity: 3-6 Feet
Plant Spacing: 3-5 Feet
Bloom Time: April-May
Harvest Time: July-August
Pot Sizing Guide
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