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"Purple gold" can be found in the mountains of Idaho during the late summer. The most common and popular is the black or thin-leaved huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum). Black huckleberries usually grow from 1 to 6 feet tall (taking up to 15 years to reach full maturity) with berries up to 1/2 inch in diameter. Black huckleberries produce single plump, dark purple berries in the axils of leaves on new shoots. That is the time huckleberries ripen. This small round fruit, which grows on shrubs two to six feet tall, is a delicious treat not only for humans but for bears as well. Fourth-grade students from Southside Elementary in Bonner County proposed the idea for a state fruit. The huckleberry, (Vaccinium membranaceum,) was adopted as Idaho's state fruit on February 13, 2000 after being signed by Governor Dirk Kempthorne . Several huckleberry species are native to Idaho, all belonging to genus Vaccinium section Myrtillus. It goes by many common names, including thin leaf or thin-leaved huckleberry, black huckleberry, mountain huckleberry, mountain billberry, tall huckleberry, big huckleberry, globe huckleberry, and even Montana huckleberry.
This slow-growing, evergreen shrub with copper-colored new growth has delicious blue berries in late summer, enjoyed by humans and wildlife alike. Huckleberries ripen with the return of the fall chinook. Evergreen huckleberry can reach 15 feet, but it can also be kept smaller with pruning & greater sun exposure. A handsome choice for woodland gardens, berry patches, and even containers. Part sun/shade, regular water, acidic soil.
The most common and popular is the black or thin-leaved huckleberry, (Vaccinium membranaceum). Plants grow slowly, taking up to 15 years to reach full maturity. Black huckleberries produce single plump, dark purple berries in the axils of leaves on new shoots. They depend on an insulating cover of snow for survival during winter and have not been successfully grown commercially. Black huckleberries grow at elevations between 2,000 and 11,000 feet with many productive colonies between 4,000 and 6,000 feet. Black huckleberries usually grow from 1 to 6 feet tall and produce berries up to 1/2 inch in diameter. Huckleberries are a favorite food of bears.
Vaccinium membranaceum is
an erect shrub growing up to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) in maximum height. The new twigs are yellow-green and somewhat angled. The deciduous leaves are alternately
arranged. The very thin to membranous, oval leaf blades are up to 5 centimeters long. The edges are serrated, with each tiny tooth tipped with a glandular
hair. Solitary flowers occur in the leaf axils. Each is around 6 millimeters long, urn-shaped to cylindrical, and pale pink to waxy bronze in color.
They are pollinated by bees. The fruit mature fruit ranges in colour from red through bluish-purple to a dark, almost black berry about a centimeter wide. Each fruit contains an average of 47 tiny seeds.
The plant rarely reproduces via seed, rather, it usually spreads by cloning itself from its rhizome or shoots. The seeds do germinate if dispersed by animals, however, as evidenced by populations of the plant growing on the recovering section of Mount St. Helens. Other than the study by Yang et al. (2008) reports of V. membranaceum sprouting from seed are quite rare with other scientists who have studied this species reporting only 6 seedlings observed during 18 years in the field.
The law designating the huckleberry as the official Idaho state fruit is found in the Idaho Statutes, Title 67, Chapter 45, Section 67-4510.
Idaho Statutes TITLE 67
TITLE 67 STATE GOVERNMENT AND STATE AFFAIRS
CHAPTER 45 STATE SYMBOLS
SECTION 67-4510. State fruit designated.
67-4510.State fruit designated.
The huckleberry is hereby designated and declared to be the state fruit of the state of Idaho.
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Huckleberry
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Family: Ericaceae - Heath family
Genus: Vaccinium L. - blueberry
Species: Vaccinium membranaceum Douglas ex Torr. - thinleaf huckleberry