Blueberry and Huckleberry (Vaccinium species)
Other Names: great bilberry; whortleberry, dyeberry, wineberry, moorberry, Mother’s Day flowers (Vaccinium species); alpine blueberry, bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum); dwarf blueberry (V. caespitosum); Alaskan blueberry (V. alaskensis); oval-leaf or early blueberry (V. ovalifolium); red huckleberry (V. parvifolium).
Heath Family: (Ericaceae).
BLUEBERRY: Vaccinium species; a: Oval-leaf blueberry (V. ovalifolium) can grow up to 15 feet high; b: Leaves are oval with smooth margins; c: Fruits are purple to blue-black, very sweet and tasty; d: Oval-leaf blueberry flowers early; e: Dwarf blueberry (V. caespitosum) grows to 1 foot high; f: Leaves of dwarf blueberry are glossy green on both sides; g: V. uliginosum flowers with the leaves; h: Bell-shaped flowers are typical of Vaccinium species; color varies from pink to white; i: Dwarf blueberry is a short, tufted shrub. Fruits have a whitish bloom, and leaf edges are densely serrated.
HUCKLEBERRY: Vaccinium parvifolium (illustrated); j: Shrub to 10 feet high; k: Fruits are bright red; l: bell-like flowers vary in color from pinkish to yellow or green; m: leaves are roundish to oval in shape; n: branches and twigs are ridged.
Habitat and Range: Blueberry habitat varies with species; it ranges from thickets, woods, and moist meadows to bogs and tundra. Huckleberries are common in Northwestern woods, roadsides, and rocky slopes. Pacific Northwest Vaccinium species commonly referred to as blueberry include V. uliginosum and V. caespitosum also known as V.nivictum (Alaska and the Yukon to California); V. ovalifolium and V. alaskensis (Alaska to Oregon); V. occidentale (British Columbia to California). V. ovatum, V. membranaceum, and V. scoparium (Alaska Panhandle to California) are all commonly called huckleberries.
Blueberry and Huckleberry: Popular Fruits and Dye Source: According to the Alaskan Flower Essence Project, an infusion of the flowers of bog blueberry, V. uliginosum, helps and individual become more receptive to life. A flower essence is an infusion of fresh flowers in pure water.
Harvest Calendar: Spring to early summer: leaves; early to late summer: fruits. Harvest time varies with species and local conditions.
MEDICINAL USE: The regular use of blueberry leaf-alfalfa tea helps maintain a stable blood sugar level. Medical studies have registered decreases in blood sugar levels after administration of the leaf extracts. Huckleberry leaf tincture is used to treat hypoglycemia. Blueberry fruits are high in iron and mineral salts. Use the fruit with milk for convalescents and tubercular patients. Eating the fresh berries has been observed to regulate bowel action, stimulate appetite, end intestinal putrefaction (which produces gas and flatulence), and expel ascarids. Blueberry juice is a good mouthwash and is reported helpful for sore throat and inflamed gums. Leaf and bark decoctions are recommended as a gargle for mouth and throat sores; sip the astringent decoction if you are troubled by diarrhea. Leaves are also antiseptic and used in teas for urinary disorders.
CAUTION: An excess of blueberry and huckleberry leaf tea is said to spark minor symptoms of poisoning. Normal doses are generally quite harmless. As always, proceed slowly until you’re familiar with how your own system reacts.