This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - White and pink, pale or deep, small, cylindric, bell-shaped, 5-parted, borne in i-sided racemes from the sides of the stiff, grayish branches. Stem: A shrub 1 to 3 ft. high. Leaves: Alternate, oval to oblong, firm, entire edged, green on both sides, dotted underneath with resinous spots, especially when young. Fruit: A round, black, bloomless, sweet, berry-like drupe, containing 10 seed-like nutlets, in each of which is a solitary seed. Ripe, July - August.
Preferred Habitat - Moist, sandy soil, thickets, open woods.
Flowering Season - May - June.
Distribution - Newfoundland to Georgia, west to Manitoba and Kentucky.
This common huckleberry, oftener found in pies and muffins by the average observer fhan in its native thickets, unfortunately ripens in fly-time, when the squeamish boarder in the summer hotel does well to carefully strutinize each mouthful. For the abundant fruit set on huckleberry bushes, as on so many others, we are indebted chiefly to the lesser bees, which, receiving the pollen jarred out from the terminal chinks in the anther-sacs on their under sides as they cling, transfer it to the protruding stigmas of the next blossom visited. After fertilization, when the now useless corolla falls, the ten-celled ovary is protected by the encircling calyx, that grows rapidly, swells, fills with juice, and takes on color until it and the ovary together become a so-called berry, whose seeds are dropped far and wide by birds and beasts. " The name huckleberry, which is applied indiscriminately to several species of Vaccinium and Gaylussacia," says Professor L. H. Bailey, "is evidently a corruption of whortleberry. Whortleberry is in turn a corruption of myrtleberry. In the Middle Ages, the true myrtleberry was largely used in cookery and medicine, but the European bilberry or Vaccinium so closely resembled it that the name was transferred to the latter plant, a circumstance commemorated by Linnaeus in the giving of the name Vaccinium Myrtillus to the bilberry. From the European whortleberry the name was transferred to the similar American plants."
A common little bushy shrub, not a true blueberry, found in moist woods, especially beside streams, from New England to the Gulf States, and westward to Ohio, is the Blue Tangle, Tangleberry, or Dangleberry (G. frondosa). It bears a few tiny greenish-pink flowers dangling from pedicels in loose racemes, and corresponding clusters of most delicious, sweet, dark-blue berries, covered with hoary bloom in midsummer. The abundant resinous leaves on its slender gray branches are pale and hoary beneath. The caterpillars of several species of sulphur butterflies (Co/ias) feed on huckleberry leaves.
To a genus quite distinct from the huckleberries belong the true blueberries, however interchangeably these names are misused. Perhaps the first species to send its fruit to market in June and July is the Dwarf, Sugar, or Low-bush Blueberry (Vaccinium, Pennsylvanicuiu), sometimes six inches tall, never more than twenty inches. It prefers sandy or rocky soil from southern New Jersey far northward, and west to Illinois. Shortly after the small, bell-shaped, white or pink flowers, that grow in racemes on the ends or sides of the angular, green, warty branches of nearly all blueberry bushes, have been fertilized by bees, this species forms an especially sweet berry with a bloom on its blue surface. The alternate oblong leaves, smooth and green on both sides, are very finely and sharply saw-edged.
Another, and perhaps the commonest, as it is the finest, species, whose immature fruit is still green or red when the dwarf's is ripe, is the High-bush, Tall, or Swamp Blueberry (V. corymbosum), found in low wet ground from Virginia westward to the Mississippi, and very far north. Only the bees and their kind concern themselves with the little cylindric, five-parted, nectar-bearing flowers. These appear with the oblong, entire leaves, paler below than above. But thousands of fruit sellers and housekeepers depend on the sweet blueberries (with a pleasant acid flavor) as a market staple. In July and August, even in early September, the berries arrive in the cities. One picker in New Jersey claims to have filled an entire crate with the fruit of a single bush.
The Deerberry, Buckberry, or Squaw Huckleberry (V. sta-mineum), common in dry woods and thickets from Maine and Minnesota to the Gulf States, puts forth quantities of small greenish-white, yellow, or purplish-green, open bell-shaped, five-cleft flowers, nodding from hair-like pedicels in graceful, leafy-bracted racemes. Both the tips of the stamens and the style protrude like a fringe. No creature, unless hard pressed by hunger, could relish the greenish or yellowish berries. This is a low-growing, spreading shrub, with firm oval or oblong tapering leaves, dull above, and pale, sometimes even hoary, underneath.