Black huckleberry shrub

Black huckleberry in autumn. Photo: M. Talabac, University of Maryland Extension

Updated: July 12, 2022

About black huckleberry

Gaylussacia baccata
Deciduous shrub
Heath family (Ericaceae)

Maryland distribution: occurs throughout the state in dry, acidic forest habitat
Height:  1.5 to 3 feet tall, 4 to 5 feet wide
Flowers: dangling clusters of small, delicate red to pink urn-shaped flowers with flared tips; April to May
Fall color: ranges from orange to red to purplish-red
Sun: sun to partial shade
Soil: often found in acidic, sandy or rocky soils; drought-tolerant once established

Garden uses: Black huckleberry's shallow, spreading root system helps stabilize sandy or rocky slopes and can form thickets. Young stems are yellow-green to reddish-brown; older stems are almost black. The delicate branches become brittle with age. The alternate leaves are 1 to 2 1/4 inches long and 1/2 to 1 inches wide. The underside is covered with fine resinous yellow dots and delicate hairs. Edible, sweet berries ripen around July or later and look like a small, bluish-black blueberry.

Wildlife: Blooms support bees (honeybees, bumble bees, mason bees, and others), butterflies, and syrphid flies. The foliage hosts the caterpillars of several moth species. Songbirds and mammals eat the fruit.

Blooms of native shrub black huckleberry.
Blooms of black huckleberry. Photo: Rob Routledge, Sault College,