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Vaccinium arboreum

Ericaceae

Winter huckleberry (Vaccinium arboreum) is also known as Tree Huckle Berry, Farkle Berry, Tree Sparkle Berry, Sparkle Berry, Whortle Berry, and Goose Berry. It is a large shrub to small tree that reaches up to 30 feet and usually gnarled. The bark is thin, gray to grayish brown, with narrow ridges, and shredding into large plates. The twigs are light brown to dark brown and glabrous to pubescent. The leaves are tardily deciduous to evergreen and the blades are oval to obovate, or elliptic, 1-3" long, 0.5-1" wide, apex acute to rounded, base cuneate, upper surface dark glossy green, lower surface dull green and often sparsely pubescent, and margins entire to slightly dentate. The winter weather turns the leaves from shiny green to deep maroon. The flowers are pink to white, bell-shaped, about 3/8" long, resembling Lily of the Valley and produced after the new leaves have been produced. The false berries are long-stemmed, shiny, globose, and 0.3-0.5" diameter. It has lots of seeds and is not very sweet but ripen in late summer to early fall and persist through the winter. In the past these false berries were highly sought after during the late fall and winter when no other fruits were available. And, the fruits probably tasted very good to humans or wild animals who had never tasted a snickers bar. The hard, very close-grained, brown wood weighs 48 lb per cu ft and is used for tool handles, tobacco pipes, woodenware, and novelties. The bark is used for tanning leather. The root bark is used to treat diarrhea. A number of plants of this species on Allen Acres including the state champion on the banks of the Ouiska Chitto on the adjacent Kistachie National Forest land. Photograph of flowers by Selena Dawn McMillian.