Red Huckleberry

Vaccinium parvifolium

APPEARANCE

Red huckleberry is a shrub that can grow up to four meters tall, and has bright green branches and small (up to three centimetres long) oval leaves.

RANGE & HABITAT

Red huckleberry is found growing in coastal coniferous forests, and often grows out of rotting logs and stumps. In B.C., this plant grows in the Coast and Mountains and Georgia Lowlands ecoprovinces.

LIFE CYCLE

Red huckleberry will sometimes keep its leaves over winter. Its greenish-yellow bell-shaped flowers turn into bright-red, round berries.

ANIMAL USES

Many different birds and animals eat the red berries. Red huckleberry is often found growing on rotting logs and stumps where birds, who after having eaten the berries, have stopped to perch and while doing so, spread the berry seeds through their droppings.

TRADITIONAL FIRST NATIONS USES

Red huckleberries have long been eaten by many coastal First Nations peoples. Sometimes wooden combs were used to rake the berries off the branches. The berries can be eaten fresh, or mashed, dried, and then made into cakes for winter use. Gargle infusion of leaves and bark are effective to soothe a sore throat. Red huckleberries are a good source of Vitamin C and are considered an anti-aging food and can be made into a dietary supplement.

A few groups, such as the Kwakwaka’wakw, boiled the berries with salmon spawn in cedar boxes and then sealed the tops of the boxes with eulachon (a type of fish) and skunk cabbage (another plant) leaves; this preserved the berries for many months.

MODERN USES

Many people today pick the berries to freeze, can or make into jam.

STATUS

COSEWIC: Not at Risk
CDC: Yellow

MORE INFORMATION

www.linnet.geog.ubc.ca

Photo: Hobson