Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Vaccinium ovatum


SPECIES: Vaccinium ovatum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Tirmenstein, D. 1990. Vaccinium ovatum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : VACOVA SYNONYMS : Metagonia ovata Vaccinium lanceolatum Vitis-idaea ovata SCS PLANT CODE : VAOV2 VAOVO VAOVS COMMON NAMES : evergreen huckleberry box huckleberry evergreen blueberry shot huckleberry California huckleberry box blueberry black huckleberry TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of evergreen huckleberry is Vaccinium ovatum Pursh [31,60]. The following varieties have been recognized on the basis of vegetative and floral morphology [31]: V. ovatum var. ovatum V. ovatum var. saporosum Jepson LIFE FORM : Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Vaccinium ovatum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Evergreen huckleberry occurs along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to central California [8,21,58].  It is rare in the Cascades but grows throughout the Coast Ranges and the central Sierra Nevada [9,21].  Evergreen huckleberry occurs sporadically in the higher mountains of southern California [9,28].  The variety saporosum is restricted to portions of California [8]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES20  Douglas-fir    FRES23  Fir - spruce    FRES24  Hemlock - Sitka spruce    FRES26  Lodgepole pine    FRES27  Redwood STATES :      CA  OR  WA  BC BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     1  Northern Pacific Border     3  Southern Pacific Border     4  Sierra Mountains KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K001  Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest    K002  Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest    K003  Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest    K004  Fir - hemlock forest    K006  Redwood forest    K012  Douglas-fir forest    K029  California mixed evergreen forest SAF COVER TYPES :    218  Lodgepole pine    223  Sitka spruce    224  Western hemlock    225  Western hemlock - Sitka spruce    227  Western redcedar - western hemlock    229  Pacific Douglas-fir    230  Douglas-fir - western hemlock    231  Port Orford cedar    232  Redwood    234  Douglas-fir - tanoak - Pacific madrone SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Evergreen huckleberry grows as an understory dominant or codominant in certain mature Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and western redcedar (Thuja plicata) forests of the Northwest.  It also occurs in coastal headland shrub communities codominated by species such as Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum), poison-oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum), and salal (Gaultheria shallon). Evergreen huckleberry also occurs as an understory dominant in humid coastal Port-Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), Douglas-fir, and in redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) communities which develop on broad alluvial flats [12,41,54,55,62,64].  It is a characteristic understory component of western hemlock-Sitka spruce communities which occur along the coast of northern Oregon [26].  Evergreen huckleberry grows in pygmy forests of California beneath species such as lodgepole pine (P. contorta), Monterey cypress (Cupressus pygmaea), bishop pine (P. muricata), and Monterey pine (P. radiata) [63,65].  It commonly assumes a dwarfed, nearly herblike growth form in these forests [63,65]. Evergreen huckleberry persists on cutover sites in many areas where it forms brushfields [18,34]. This shrub is a prominent component of California and Oregon mixed evergreen forests dominated by species such as tanoak (Lithocarpus densiflora), canyon live oak (Quercus chrysolepis), sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), Douglas-fir, and Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii).  It commonly grows as an understory dominant on north-facing slopes or along rocky streamside terraces [50]. Understory associates:  Common understory associates include salal, red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium), western swordfern (Polystichum munitum), Oregon oxalis (Oxalis oregana), Pacific rhododendron, hazel (Corylus cornuta), thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus), bog Labrador tea (Ledum glandulosa), ovalleaf huckleberry (V. ovalifolium), deer fern (Blechnum spicant), and annual grasses [26,50,54,55,62,66]. Thimbleberry, salal, salmonberry (R. spectabilis), vine maple (Acer circinatum), and hazel are particularly common brushfield associates [18]. Publications listing it as an indicator or codominant species in community types or plant associations are presented below. Preliminary plant associations of the Siskiyou Mountain Province [1] The tanoak series of the Siskiyou Mountain Province [2] Vegetation and habitats [14] Natural vegetation of Oregon and Washington [15] Ecoclass coding system for the Pacific Northwest plant associations [20] Plant association and management guide: Siulaw National Forest [25]


SPECIES: Vaccinium ovatum
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Browse:  Evergreen huckleberry is considered an important elk browse in parts of the Coast Ranges of southwestern Oregon [3].  In many other areas, it is described as poor forage for both elk and deer [21,52]. Evergreen huckleberry provides at least some browse for domestic sheep and goats [12,49].  In certain locations, sheep use may be fairly heavy in late summer, fall, and winter [12,49].  In parts of California, domestic goats and deer may utilize 30 to 40 percent of the current year's twigs and leaves [49]. Fruit:  Berries of evergreen huckleberry are eaten by a wide variety of birds and mammals [21].  Thrushes, ptarmigans, towhees, ring-necked pheasant, and spruce, ruffed, blue, and sharp-tailed grouse readily consume the fruit of many huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) [38,61]. Mammals such as the black bear, chipmunks, red fox, squirrels, gray fox, and skunks, also eat the berries of many Vacciniums [38,61].  Grizzly bears along the coast of British Columbia relish the fruits of many species of huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.) [22]. PALATABILITY : Palatability of evergreen huckleberry browse varies but is generally rated as low to moderate [29].  Fruit is highly preferred by many birds and mammals.  Palatability of evergreen huckleberry browse in California has been rated as follows [49]:  Cattle          poor-useless  Sheep           fair-poor  Horses          useless  Domestic goats  fair-poor  Deer            fair-poor NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Browse:  Huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.) foliage is relatively high in carotene, manganese, and energy content [10,23]. Fruit:  Huckleberry fruits are sweet and contain high concentrations of both mono- and disaccharides [53].  Berries are rich in vitamin C and energy content but low in fats [30,46].  Berries of evergreen huckleberry contain 24.5 percent water, 2,658 kcal per kg, and 3.85 mg of ascorbic acid per gram [30].  Specific nutrient content has been documented as follows [42]:                    nutrient content /g dry weight         calories   protein  carbo-    ash    lipid    Ca    Fe    Mg    Zn                    (g)      hydrate   (g)    (g)     (g)   (g)   (g)   (g)                             (g) fresh    3.60      0.08     0.89      0.01    0.01   1.56  0.02  0.59   0.01 dried    3.52      0.06     0.92      0.02    0.00   1.74  0.02  0.20   0.01                   ascorbic acid (mg) fresh         3.46 dried         3.84 COVER VALUE : Evergreen huckleberry presumably provides cover for a variety of wildlife species.  It commonly forms dense thickets [57,61] which may serve as hiding, resting, or nesting sites for many birds and mammals. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Evergreen huckleberry can be propagated through hardwood cuttings or by seed [34,51].  Cleaned seed averages approximately 3,000,000 per pound (6,608/g) or 10,784 seeds per pound (24/g) of fruit [9].  Huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.) seedlings grown in the greenhouse can be transplanted onto favorable sites 6 to 7 weeks after emergence [9].  Wild seedlings rarely survive when transplanted [34].  Seed collection and storage techniques have been described [9]. Evergreen huckleberry was used for revegetating riparian areas in the Santa Clara Valley of California [17]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Fruit of the evergreen huckleberry is sweet, delicious, and edible, although somewhat mealy, and with a "fairly strong musky flavor" [8,21,28,40].  Large amounts of this berry are picked annually [51,58]. Berries are relatively large but vary greatly in color and quality [28]. Fruit of the variety saporosum reportedly has a better flavor than fruit of the variety ovatum [40,61].  Berries are made into wine, eaten fresh, cooked, and canned or frozen by home users and commercial processors [19,51].  Most commercially processed fruit is used as pie filling [51]. Berries are not considered as desirable for fresh fruit as those from some other species of huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.) [39] Fruit of the evergreen huckleberry was traditionally used by many native peoples of the West Coast.  The Capella Indians reportedly traveled up to 20 or 30 miles annually to harvest the fruit [57].  Berries were eaten fresh, mashed, or dried and made into cakes [21].  Preserved berries provided essential vitamin C during the winter months [30]. Foliage of the evergreen huckleberry is used by florists for fillers and for background foliage in flower arrangements [39].  It is also occasionally used to make Christmas decorations [49].  Large amounts of evergreen huckleberry foliage are harvested annually and shipped throughout the United States [51].  During the early 1970s, an estimated $1 million worth of brush was harvested annually in western Washington [39]. Evergreen huckleberry is an attractive evergreen shrub with striking reddish bark and evergreen leaves which remain a deep green in winter [51].  This shrub has many horticultural uses and can be planted as a hedge plant or ground cover [28,49,51,57].  Evergreen huckleberry may also have value for developing commercially important fruit-producing cultivars [11,51]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Chemical control:  Huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) exhibit variable susceptibility to herbicides such as 2,4-D, 2,4,5-T, glyphosate, karbutilate, and picloram [5]. Mechanical removal:  Large amounts of evergreen huckleberry foliage are harvest annually for use in floral arrangements.  Gratkowski [18] observed that shrubs produce new growth after pruning and are not significantly reduced by these activities.  However, Kruckeberg [34] reports that in some areas, evergreen huckleberry "has been exploited by brush-pickers." Timber harvest:  Evergreen huckleberry often persists after logging [3]. It is a particularly common constituent of brushfields which develop after timber harvest in the Coast Ranges of Washington and Oregon and in the foothills of the Washington Cascades [18,24].  Evergreen huckleberry is frequently dwarfed to 3 to 5 feet (0.9-1.5 m) in height on cutover lands because of excessive exposure to sun [34]. Conifer regeneration:  Evergreen huckleberry, western swordfern (Polystichum munitum), beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), and salal can provide some initial competition for regenerating conifers after timber harvest on certain sites [1]. Wildlife considerations:  Huckleberries are an extremely important food source for grizzly bears [37].  Both black and grizzly bears typically exploit areas with dense concentrations of berries.  The habitat value of huckleberry shrubfields to grizzly bears can be increased by permanent or at least seasonal road closures, by coordinating timber harvest dates to have minimal impact on habitat use patterns, and by considering the cumulative effects of habitat modification across a broad area.  In general, site preparation should include minimizing soil compaction, using broadcast burns rather than hot slash burns, or by eliminating site preparation entirely wherever possible.  Grizzly use is favored where hiding cover is retained by treating small, irregular patches instead of large contiguous areas, and by leaving stringers of timber within larger cuts [67].  In many areas, bear human conflicts are most likely to occur during years of huckleberry crop failure [37,47] when wide-ranging hungry bears encounter recreationalsts or wildland home owners.  Damage to crops and beehives, and livestock losses also typically increase during poor huckleberry years [47].


SPECIES: Vaccinium ovatum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Evergreen huckleberry is a much-branched, stout erect, or semispreading evergreen shrub [28,40,51] which reaches 1.5 to 15 feet (0.5-4.6 m) in height [34,39].  Plants often become spindly and clambering with extremes of either moisture or shade [28].  Twigs are reddish-brown and covered with short hairs [21,39].  Stem morphology has been examined in detail [43].  Plants often possess a "massive" root crown which comprises up to 15.4 percent of the total belowground biomass [65].  Belowground biomass is distributed as follows [65]:               root crown         15.4 percent               lateral roots       5.0 percent               taproot            79.6 percent Numerous, alternate leaves are thick, leathery, and ovate to oblong-lanceolate [21,27,51].  Leaves are rounded at the base but acute at the apex [40].  The upper surface is shiny, glossy, and dark green, whereas the underside is dull and paler [34,40,51].  Leaves typically have serrate margins [27]. The fragrant, bell-shaped flowers are pink to whitish [34,51,57]. Flowers are borne at the leaf axils in clusters of 3 to 10 and are primarily pollinated by long-tongued bees such as bumblebees [21,27,39]. Floral morphology has been examined in detail [44].  Fruit is a small, broadly ovoid to spherical berry [39,40,49,51].  Berries of evergreen huckleberry are shiny, purplish to black and generally lack bloom [9,27,57].  Berries are borne in large clusters located close to the branches [21,39] and contain numerous small seeds [34]. The variety saporosum is distinguished by fruit which is glaucous, pear- shaped, and more flavorful than that of the variety ovatum [40]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :    Phanerophyte    Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Evergreen huckleberry is capable of reproducing through seed or by vegetative means.  However, vegetative regeneration appears to be of primary importance in most western huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) [37]. Seed:  Evergreen huckleberry, a cluster-fruited Vaccinium, can produce 10 to 20 times more fruit than single-fruited huckleberries of similar size [39].  Fruit is typically produced in great abundance whenever conditions are favorable [51,57].  Seeds of most Vaccinium spp. are not dormant and require no pretreatment for germination [9].  Seedlings first emerge in approximately 1 month and continue to emerge for long periods of time in the absence of cold stratification [9].  However, seedlings of most western huckleberries are rarely observed in the field [37].  Seeds of evergreen huckleberry usually exhibit fairly good germination under laboratory conditions, but early growth is generally very slow [34].  Berries are widely dispersed by birds and mammals [21]. Vegetative regeneration:  Sprouting has been well-documented in evergreen huckleberry [32,34], but specific details are lacking.  Most species of Vaccinium regenerate from basal sprouts or underground regenerative structures such as roots or rhizomes [48].  Root [29] or rhizome sprouting is probable in the evergreen huckleberry.  However, Westman and Whittaker [65] report that unlike most other western huckleberries, evergreen huckleberry lacks rhizomes.  It reportedly possesses a well-developed root crown [65] and sprouts from this structure after aboveground vegetation is damaged. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Evergreen huckleberry grows on dry slopes, in canyons, and on barren ridges near the Pacific Coast [40,41,51].  It occurs on well-drained microsites on both stabilized and active dunes of the northern Oregon Coast and on steep slopes which face the ocean [15,26].  It commonly forms dense thickets on open ridges in the fog belt of California [57]. Evergreen huckleberry is tolerant of both sun and shade [61]. Soil:  Huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) require acidic conditions and can thrive where pH ranges from 4.3 to 5.2 [33].  These shrubs require relatively small amounts of many essential elements and are capable of growing on many relatively infertile soils [33].  Evergreen huckleberry commonly occurs on nitrogen-poor soils [70].  It grows on well-drained sandy and gravelly soils, and on silty loam [21,56], but generally reaches greatest abundance on sandy soils [61].  Evergreen huckleberry occurs on soils derived from a number of parent materials including diorite, granodiorite, gabbro, and olivine-gabbro [50,66].  In the Klamath Mountains, it typically occurs on soils derived from granitic or metamorphic parent materials [50]. Climate:  Evergreen huckleberry grows across a wide range of moisture regimes [66].  Many sites are droughty, or are characterized by summer soil moisture stress [19,21].  In coastal British Columbia, evergreen huckleberry occurs in mesothermal climatic zones characterized by wet, cool summers [70]. Elevation:  Evergreen huckleberry occurs from near sea level to 3,000 feet (0-914 m) [51].  Generalized elevational ranges are as follows [40,56]:                  < 2,500 feet (762 m) in CA                  from 0 to 300 feet (0-91 m) in western Oregon SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Evergreen huckleberry is tolerant of shade and persists in many climax stands but also grows in early seral communities.  In parts of Oregon and Washington, it occurs in climax forests dominated by western hemlock and Douglas-fir [15,32].  Evergreen huckleberry is also a common constituent of both dry and moist old growth redwood communities of southwestern Oregon [15]. In coastal forests of southwestern Oregon, it is most abundant in disturbed stands [3].  Cover of evergreen huckleberry by successional stage, has been documented as follows in a rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.)-Oregon grape (Berberis spp.) habitat type [3]:                      mean percent cover                              (years)                 1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8-9    10-15 undisturbed    15     2     6     11   13     1     5      9       1 disturbed       3     +     _     +    +      1     -      +       + SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Evergreen huckleberry generally flowers from March to July or August [9,27].  Fruit ripens from July to September [9,61].  Seasonal development by geographic area is as follows [9,21,40,49,56]:          location               flowering       fruiting                   CA                     March-May       July-October          Mason Co., WA          May-June        ----          Pacific Northwest      April-August    ----          w OR                   April-August    ----


SPECIES: Vaccinium ovatum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : The role of fire in moist coastal forests, of which evergreen huckleberry is an integral understory component, is poorly known [69]. Many sites currently occupied by this shrub are believed to have burned at relatively infrequent intervals during presettlement times [54]. Consequently, specific adaptations to fire may be poorly developed in this species.  Evergreen huckleberry often sprouts after disturbances such as fire, but sprouting may primarily represent an adaptation to herbivory or mechanical damage. Evergreen huckleberry can sprout from structures such as roots or root crowns after aboveground vegetation is destroyed by fire [29,65]. Limited seedling establishment may occasionally occur as birds and mammals disperse seed from offsite.  However, it is important to note that seedling establishment is rare in most western huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) [37]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown    Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil    Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Vaccinium ovatum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Although aboveground foliage is commonly killed by fire, underground portions of evergreen huckleberry often survive [32,34].  Most western huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) appear to be particularly vulnerable to hot, duff-consuming fires [37].  However, older, decadent individuals can sometimes be rejuvenated by light fires which do not damage underground regenerative structures [37,39].  Seeds of most huckleberries are susceptible to heat and are presumably killed by fire [37]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Vegetative response:  Evergreen huckleberry commonly sprouts after aboveground foliage is damaged or destroyed by fire [29,32,34].  Most species of huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.) regenerate from basal sprouts or from underground structures such as roots or rhizomes [48].  Westman and Whittaker [29] report that evergreen huckleberry has a "massive root crown" rather than rhizomes.  However, Hooven [29] notes that postfire sprouting from roots can also occur.  Recovery of evergreen huckleberry can be relatively rapid wherever sprouting occurs.  Evergreen huckleberry, Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), vine maple, trailing blackberry (Rubus ursinus), Oregon grape (Berberis spp.), and bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) dominated within 1 year after a large August fire in a Douglas-fir forest of western Oregon [29]. Seed:  Seed banking does not appear to represent an important regenerative strategy in western huckleberries.  Some seed may be brought onto the site by bird and mammal dispersers.  Reestablishment by seed, if it occurs at all, is likely to be slow. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : The Research Papers (Hamilton 2006a, Hamilton 2006b) and Research Project Summary of Hamilton's studies provide information on prescribed fire and postfire response of many plant species, including evergreen huckleberry. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Wildlife:  Evidence suggests that fire suppression may be having an adverse impact on bear habitat in some areas [59,67].  Once productive seral berry fields are now being invaded by conifers.  Since plants beneath a forest canopy generally produce few berries, fruit production has been steadily declining [39].  Logging treatments which include severe soil scarification or slash burns may also reduce berry yields. Even where timber harvest favors berry production, lack of cover in early years can limit bear use.  However, wildfires often create diverse habitat mosaics [67] which incorporate elements of hiding cover and favor bear use. Prescribed fire:  Flower buds tend to be more numerous on new shoots, and periodic removal of old shoots can increase flower and fruit production in many species of huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.) [37]. Prescribed fire has long been used to rejuvenate commercial low sweet blueberry (V. angustifolium) fields and to increase fruit yield [37,39]. Spring burns, conducted when the soil is moist, are generally most effective in promoting huckleberry fruit production [37,68]. Berry production:  Berry production in most western huckleberries is generally delayed for at least 5 years after fire [37].  On some sites, production may be reduced for 20 to 30 years or longer [37].


SPECIES: Vaccinium ovatum
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Portland, OR:        U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest        and Range Experiment Station: 17-34.  [6219]  15.  Franklin, Jerry F.; Dyrness, C. T. 1973. Natural vegetation of Oregon        and Washington. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-8. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Forest and Range        Experiment Station. 417 p.  [961]  16.  Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others].        1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range        ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of        Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p.  [998]  17.  Goldner, Bernard H. 1984. Riparian restoration efforts associated with        structurally modified flood control channels. In: Warner, Richard E.;        Hendrix, Kathleen M., eds. California riparian systems: Ecology,        conservation, and productive management: Proceedings of the conference;        1981 September 17-19; Davis, CA. Berkeley, CA: University of California        Press: 445-451.  [5852]  18.  Gratkowski, H. 1974. Brushfield reclamation and type conversion. In:        Cramer, Owen P., ed. Environmental effects of forest residues managment        in the Pacific Northwest: A state-of-knowledge compendium. Gen. Tech.        Rep. PNW-24.Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest        Service, Pacific NorthwestForest and Range Experiment Station: I-1 to        I-31.  [6418]  19.  Hall, Frederick C. 1974. Prediction of plant community development and        its use in management. In: Black, Hugh C., ed. Wildlife and forest        management in the Pacific Northwest: Proceedings of a symposium; 1973        September 11-12; Corvallis, OR. 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