Wild Huckleberry - Vaccinium membranaceum
Wild Huckleberry, also known as Mountain Huckleberry or Thinleaf Huckleberry, has been cultivated, consumed, and enjoyed for thousands of years. Native to the woodland areas of the western United States, Wild Huckleberry has a wide variety of habitats and thrives in many conditions. The plant grows into attractive bushes with a maximum height of approximately five feet but most reach about two to three feet. New leaves on the plant are red in color and turn into a rich shade of green as they mature. The bushes are deciduous, and leaves turn a red purple color in the fall. Wild Huckleberries prefer a strongly acidic soil that is consistently moist but established plants can tolerate brief periods of drought. They grow well in either sun or shade but will yield much better harvests if located in shady areas. It does best in USDA hardiness zones five to nine. The plants produce white, solitary flowers that occur in clusters throughout the bush around mid-spring. Huckleberry berries are a quarter to a half inch in size and can be black, purple, or red in color. Berries typically begin red and ripen to a rich purple-black color. Each bush is a prolific producer, with branches weighted to the ground with fruit by harvest time. The fruit ripens in late summer to early fall and can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, preserved, dried, or baked in pies. Propagation can be through seeds but the plant dominantly reproduces via shoots from its extensive root system. Fires are beneficial to Wild Huckleberries as the bushes will reemerge from roots if the fire is not too severe. Native Americans frequently set fire to areas rich in Wild Huckleberry bushes in order to rid the area of other plants and encourage huckleberry growth. The huckleberry is Idaho’s official state fruit.