Vaccinium stamineum

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: deerberry 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Ericaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to June
Bloom Description: Greenish white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Drought

Culture

Best grown in acidic, organically rich, sandy, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. May spread by underground runners to form clumps. Established plants have good drought tolerance.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Vaccinium stamineum, commonly called deerberry, highbush huckleberry or squaw huckleberry, is a loosely-branched deciduous shrub of variable size that typically grows to 3-6’ tall but may infrequently soar to as much as 15’ tall. It is native to dry rocky or sandy woods, ridges, upland slopes and glades in North America from Maine to southern Ontario to Kansas south to Florida and Texas.

Elliptic to ovate to oblong leaves (to 3” long and 1 1/4” wide) are rich green to glaucous blue-green. Red to maroon-purple fall color. Broad, open bell-shaped, greenish-white flowers (sometimes pink tinged) in leafy-bracted panicles bloom April-early June. Flowers give way to pale yellow to green to purple pear-shaped berries (each to 1/2” diameter) in loose dangling clusters. Sour fruit is largely inedible for humans unless sweetened. Fruits ripen from late summer to early fall.

Deer reportedly eat the ripe fruit off the shrub hence the common name of deerberry.

Genus name comes from an ancient Latin name apparently derived from a prehistoric Mediterranean language.

Specific epithet is in reference to the prominent stamen structure of plant flowers.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Birds love the fruit. Chlorosis (yellowing of leaves) may occur in high pH soils. Potential but infrequent disease problems include stem blight, root rot, anthracnose, cane cankers, mildew and botrytis. Disease problems are sometimes of lesser concern when plants are being primarily grown as ornamentals. Watch for azalea stem borer, fall webworm, scale, and tent caterpillars.

Garden Uses

Best naturalized as part of less formal shrub plantings in areas such as native plant gardens or open woodlands. Particularly effective planted in conjunction with rhododendrons and azaleas which share similar acidic soil requirements. Shrub borders. Hedge. Good source of food for wildlife (deer consume leaves and berries are loved by birds and a variety of animals).