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Of the four hundred fifty or so species of fruiting shrubs that come under the genus Vaccinium and found throughout North America and mountainous regions of South America, about a dozen are native to parts of the Pacific Northwest, including Oregon.
Known by many common names including sparkleberry, whortleberry, huckleberry (though not “true” huckleberries), crowberry and several others, the majority of the fruiting varieties require similar care and growing conditions as their most well-known relatives, the common blueberry: acidic, well-drained soil, sun to partial shade, regular water.
Essentially pest and disease free, and not requiring much pruning other than occasional light pruning to shape, Vacciniums are a great addition to the garden. The berries are edible to both humans and birds, so they are an asset to both the wildlife and wild fruit gardens. The species we most commonly see, and that have great garden potential are: (click photos to enlarge)
Some of the other deciduous, native Vaccinium species are V. ovalifolium, V. alaskense, V. deliciosum, V. oxycoccus and V. uliginosum.
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Common: Huckleberry, Cranberry, Blueberry, Whortleberry
Origin: The NW Native species are found in the western portion of United States and Canada
Characteristics: Native Vaccinium species vary widely: ranging from three feet to nearly twelve feet tall; evergreen and deciduous; soft green, rounded leaves to smaller, pointed leathery dark green leaves. All have tiny pinkish white, bell-shaped flowers, producing edible berries from bright red to blue-black.
Culture: Grows in conditions from full sun to partial shade, moist to dry conditions. All require fast-draining, acidic soil.
Diseases/Pests: Relatively disease and pest free, though sometimes fall prey to root weevil.