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Gaylussacia brachycera

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Plant types and subtypes: Trees & Shrubs, Ground Covers, Shrubs, Subshrubs, Evergreens

Light Requirements: part-shade

Water Use: medium

Soil Moisture: dry, moist

Soil Description: acid, rich, sand

Height: 6"-18"

Bloom Time: May, June

Bloom Color: white, pink

Leaf Color: green

Hardiness Zone: 6, 7

Additional Tags: attracts bees, attracts birds, berries, clumping, colonizing, creeping, edible, evergreen, fall interest, mat-forming, ornamental foliage, rare, shade garden plant

Gaylussacia brachycera (box huckleberry)
  • Gaylussacia brachycera (box huckleberry)
  • Gaylussacia brachycera (box huckleberry)

Pricing & Availability

Description

Gaylussacia brachycera

Also known as:

box huckleberry

,

Scientific Synonyms:

Buxella brachycera

Description

Gaylussacia brachycera is a rare and distinctive species. It is low growing, forming dense mats no taller than 18". The leaves are unusual for a huckleberry: they are evergreen, turning bronze in winter, small, glossy, and in most ways resembling those of boxwoods, hence the common name "box huckleberry". It produces clusters of small urn-shaped, whitish to pinkish flowers that emerge from the leaf axils in early summer. These are followed by dark blue berries that ripen by mid to late summer. Though perfectly edible and sweet, the fruit are rather bland.

Cultivation

Box huckleberries require highly acidic, rich, moist but very well-drained sandy soil. Part-shade is best, and native populations are usually found growing on slopes with northern exposures, often associated with native rhododendrons and mountain laurels. These strict requirements are one of the reasons this species is very rare in the wild. It has also suffered from habitat destruction and the introduction of alien invasive species. However, under ideal conditions, this species will slowly spread by rhizomes to form dense colonies, and will provide a very attractive evergreen groundcover. Flowering occurs in May and June, fruit production in July and August. Zones 6-7

Propagation

The best way to propagate this species is by softwood cuttings taken from May to July.

Additional Notes

Plants are self-sterile, meaning flowers cannot be pollinated by another one from the same plant. As an adaptation to this particular trait, plants reproduce vegetatively by creeping rhizomes, forming large colonies that are a clone of a single parent, and constitute a single organism. One such colony in Pennsylvania is about a mile long, estimated to be between 5,000 and 12,000 years old, and is considered one of the largest and oldest single organism in the world. There are only about 100 recorded populations of this species, meaning there exists only about 100 individual plants in the wild.

Native Range & Classification

Recorded County Distribution: USDA data

Native Range:
DE, KY, MD, PA, TN, VA

USDA Endangered Status:

  • Endangered: MD, PA

Classification

Kingdom Plantae Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
Subclass Dilleniidae
Order Ericales
Family Ericaceae Heath family
Genus Gaylussacia huckleberry
Species Gaylussacia brachycera box huckleberry