Vaccinium ovatum, also known as the California Huckleberry or Evergreen Huckleberry, is an elegant evergreen shrub that offers multiple seasons of interest. This slow-growing and long-lived shrub is native to the Pacific coastal region and features small, oval, leathery leaves that emerge reddish or bronzy in the spring before maturing to a lustrous dark green. Attractive racemes of urn-shaped, white, or pinkish flowers hang under the foliage through spring, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. These blooms are followed by a profusion of edible blue or black berries in late summer, which are a delight for birds, wildlife, and humans alike! These berries can be used in jams, pies, syrups, or jellies.
Vaccinium ovatum is quite adaptable and versatile, making it suitable for a variety of growing conditions. It can be grown in sun, part shade, or shade and can tolerate both dry and moist soil. However, it prefers poor, acid, and well-drained soil. This shrub is also low-water use and has low CaCO3 tolerance.
Aside from its ornamental and culinary uses, Evergreen Huckleberry has medicinal properties as well. Its leaves are antiseptic, astringent, carminative, and hypoglycemic. An infusion of the leaves and sugar has been given to a mother after childbirth to help her regain her strength, while a decoction of the leaves has been used to treat diabetes.
Vaccinium ovatum also benefits wildlife and attracts birds, making it a great addition to any garden or landscape. So whether you’re looking for an attractive ornamental shrub, a tasty addition to your recipes, or a medicinal plant, Vaccinium ovatum is a great choice.
Slow-growing. May become spindly with extremes of moisture and shade.
General: Upright, spreading shrub; stems 0.5-3 m tall, young stems minutely hairy.
Leaves: Alternate, evergreen, leathery, in “horizontal” rows on stems, egg- to narrowly egg-shaped, 2-5 cm long, tips pointed, bright glossy green on the upper surfaces, paler beneath, margins thickened and sharply toothed.
Flowers: In 3- to 10-flowered axillary clusters; corollas bright pinkish, narrowly bell-shaped, about 7.5 mm long, the lobes short, spreading, and triangular; calyx lobes red, triangular; filaments densely hairy; anthers with long, straight tubes above the pollen sacs, not awned.
Fruits: Berries, globe-shaped, 4-7 mm wide, deep purplish-black with bloom, or blackish and shining; sweet and edible, but musky flavour.