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SPECIES:  Gaylussacia frondosa
Blue huckleberry. Image by Robert H. Mohlenbrock. Provided by USDA NRCS Wetland Science Institute (WSI).


SPECIES: Gaylussacia frondosa
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Carey, Jennifer H. 1994. Gaylussacia frondosa. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: On 11 July 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from: dangleberry to: blue huckleberry. Images were also added. ABBREVIATION: GAYFRO SYNONYMS: Gaylussacia tomentosa (Gray) Small Gaylussacia nana (Gray) Small [36] NRCS PLANT CODE: GAFR2 COMMON NAMES: blue huckleberry dangleberry hairy dangleberry TAXONOMY: The scientific name of blue huckleberry is Gaylussacia frondosa (L.) T. & G. (Ericaceae) [13,26]. The following three varieties are recognized: Gaylussacia frondosa var. frondosa Gaylussacia frondosa var. tomentosa Gray [5,6,14,15] Gaylussacia frondosa var. nana Gray [5,14,15] Wunderlin [36] considers the two nontypic varieties to be separate species. Gaylussacia f. var. tomentosa is distinguished by densely short-pubescent twigs and lower leaf surfaces. Gaylussacia f. var. nana is distinguished by its shorter stature, shorter branches, and columnar aspect, as well as short-pubescent stems [15]. LIFE FORM: Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Gaylussacia frondosa
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Blue huckleberry occurs in the eastern United States. The range of the typical variety extends from New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire south along the Atlantic Coastal Plain to South Carolina [15]. Although blue huckleberry occurs primarily east of the Appalachian Mountains, it has been reported in Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia [3,13]. Gaylussacia frondosa var. tomentosa occurs from South Carolina to central Florida and west to Alabama [14,26]. The range of G. f. var. nana extends from southern Georgia south to central Florida, and west to Mississippi and possibly Louisiana [15].
Distribution of blue huckleberry. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, July 11] [32].
   FRES12  Longleaf - slash pine
   FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine
   FRES14  Oak - pine
   FRES15  Oak - hickory

     AL  CT  DE  FL  GA  LA  MD  MA  MS  NH
     NJ  NY  NC  OH  PA  RI  SC  TN  VA  WV


   K100  Oak - hickory forest
   K110  Northeastern oak - pine forest
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest
   K114  Pocosin

    45  Pitch pine
    52  White oak - black oak - northern red oak
    70  Longleaf pine
    75  Shortleaf pine
    76  Shortleaf pine - oak
    80  Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
    81  Loblolly pine
    83  Longleaf pine - slash pine
    84  Slash pine
    97  Atlantic white-cedar
    98  Pond pine


Blue huckleberry is a common but rarely dominant shrub in the Atlantic and
Gulf coastal plains [12].  It occurs in dry and moist woods,
particularly in pine (Pinus spp.) flatwoods [7].

Blue huckleberry frequently occurs with other ericaceous shrubs including
highbush cranberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), hillside blueberry (V.
pallidum), Lyonia spp., sheep-laurel (Kalmia angustifolia), wintergreen
(Gaultheria procumbens), dwarf huckleberry (Gaylussacia dumosa), and
black huckleberry (G. baccata) [9,17,28,31].

At swamp and drainage margins, blue huckleberry is associated with red maple
(Acer rubrum), southern bayberry (Myrica cerifera), sweetbay (Magnolia
virginiana), sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), redbay (Persea
borbonia), loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), fetterbush (Leucothoe
racemosa), and Sphagnum spp. [8,9,18,34].

In longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) and slash pine (P. elliottii)
communities, blue huckleberry occurs with bitter gallberry (Ilex glabra),
wiregrass (Aristida stricta), and saw-palmetto (Serenoa repens)

Blue huckleberry is listed as a dominant species in the following

1.  The phytosociology of the Green Swamp, North Carolina [18]
2.  The ecology of southeastern shrub bogs (pocosins) and Carolina bays:
      a community profile [28]


SPECIES: Gaylussacia frondosa
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Blue huckleberry provides food, shelter, and cover for wildlife. Numerous birds including sharp-tailed grouse, greater prairie chicken, bobwhite quail, wild turkey, mourning dove, catbird, and scarlet tanager eat the berries. Black bear, gray fox, raccoon, and fox squirrel also eat the berries. White-tailed deer and cottontail rabbit browse stems lightly [16,33]. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE: NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: In Lehigh Gap, Pennsylvania, where soil is contaminated with heavy metals from a nearby smelter, blue huckleberry cover and density are lower than in uncontaminated areas [17]. OTHER USES AND VALUES: Blue huckleberry fruits are edible [33]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Ehrenfeld [7] determined shrub biomass and nitrogen concentrations of blue huckleberry foliage from the New Jersey pine barrens. Blue huckleberry produces small stems but abundant leaves, so it has low shrub biomass but high net biomass production [7,8]. Regression equations for predicting blue huckleberry biomass which relate stem diameter to dry weight are available [8].


SPECIES: Gaylussacia frondosa
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Blue huckleberry is a native, deciduous, freely branched slender shrub [26,33]. The typical variety grows to 6 feet (2 m) in height, G. f. var. tomentosa grows to 3 feet (1 m) in height, and G. f. var. nana grows to 2 feet (0.6 m) in height [14]. The fruit is a fleshy drupe containing around 10 seeds [13,33]. Aerial stems arise from extensively branched rhizomes to form clones [22]. The aerial stems are usually 3 to 72 inches (7.6-183 cm) apart on the rhizomes. The woody rhizomes are usually 0.13 to 0.38 inches (0.3-1.0 cm) in diameter. They are generally confined to the humus layer and the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the A1 soil horizon. Roots are generally confined to the same soil level as the rhizomes [20]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Blue huckleberry regenerates by vegetative reproduction and seed. Existing blue huckleberry colonies regenerate after disturbance primarily by sprouting from rhizomes. Destruction of aboveground stems stimulates sprouting [21,22]. Blue huckleberry probably colonizes new sites by animal-dispersed seed [12]. Blue huckleberry was present in the understory of an oak (Quercus spp.)-pine woods in the New Jersey pine barrens but absent from the seedbank [23]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Blue huckleberry occurs primarily on the southeastern United States coastal plains and is infrequent on the Piedmont. It grows in sandy and rocky woods and on the margins of shrub bogs and swamps [5,14,26]. Blue huckleberry grows on acidic, low-nutrient, poorly to well-drained soils [1,12,18,28]. It grows on both organic and mineral soils but prefers an intermediate soil type with a shallow organic layer [18]. At the outermost fringe of a bog in North Carolina, a tall shrub community which included blue huckleberry occurred on soil with a 10- to 12-inch (25-30 cm) organic layer [34]. Blue huckleberry is a facultative phreatophyte; its roots extend to the water table in lowland areas, but do not reach the water table in upland areas [20]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Blue huckleberry is probably intermediate in shade tolerance but may be more productive when grown in sunlight. It is an important component in older stands of the New Jersey pine barrens [29]. In Massachusetts, blue huckleberry occurs in a mid- to late-successional forest dominated by white oak (Quercus alba), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), and sassafras (Sassafras albidum) [24]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Blue huckleberry flowers March through May, and fruits mature July through August [26,35].


SPECIES: Gaylussacia frondosa
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Blue huckleberry is fire tolerant. Aboveground parts are destroyed by most fires, but dormant buds on rhizomes usually survive and sprout [4,21]. Blue huckleberry occurs in habitats that regularly experience fire, including oak scrub, oak-pine scrub, and longleaf pine-slash pine communities [4,31]. Low-severity fire encourages prolific vegetative growth of blue huckleberry [22]. However, severe fire that burns the humus layer, where many of the rhizomes are, can probably reduce or eliminate blue huckleberry from a site [20]. Frequent fire may decrease blue huckleberry cover [4], probably because of inadequate time between fires to replenish root resources. Blue huckleberry regeneration after fire is probably independent of aboveground, but not belowground, severity. Areas that burn frequently may have low levels of humus, so rhizomes must grow in the mineral soil and are less vulnerable to fire. For instance, blue huckleberry persists in the New Jersey pine barrens which historically burned by severe crown fire every 20 to 25 years [2,20]. In the Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia, an oak-pine scrub community with an understory of blue huckleberry, saw-palmetto, and Lyonia spp. has natural 20- to 30-year fire intervals. This community may support fire as often as every 5 years [31]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY: Rhizomatous shrub, rhizome in soil FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".


SPECIES: Gaylussacia frondosa
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Most fires kill aboveground portions of blue huckleberry [4,21]. Moderate-severity or severe fire that burns the humus layer may also kill many of the rhizomes, thereby killing the plant. PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Surviving rhizomes sprout from dormant buds following fire [4,21]. A single low-severity fire usually encourages prolific blue huckleberry growth. Vigorous thickets of blue huckleberry with high stem densities arise after low-severity fire [22]. Buell and Cantlon [4] investigated the effects of fire frequency on an upland oak forest in New Jersey with a well-developed shrub layer. Low-severity prescribed fires were conducted in winter at 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 10-, and 15-year intervals. Blue huckleberry showed long-term decline in percent cover at fire intervals of 5 years or less. Blue huckleberry had 14 percent cover on unburned control plots and 0.5 percent cover on plots burned annually for 10 years. FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: In the North Carolina Coastal Plain, the fuel load was 17.3 tons per acre for a tall shrub community averaging 8 feet (2.4 m) in height. Blue huckleberry contributed 10 percent of the total fuel load [34]. In frequently burned 16- to 30-year-old slash pine forests in southeastern Georgia, blue huckleberry attained peak production 3 years after prescribed burning. It produced no fruit the first postfire year, 32 grams of fruit per 100 square meters the second year, and 104.4 grams of fruit per 100 square meters the third year, accounting for 23 percent of the total fruit production in the forests during the third postfire growing season. Blue huckleberry fruit production decreased substantially the fourth postfire year. The authors conclude that prescribed fire at 3-year intervals optimizes blue huckleberry and other forest species fruit production, but longer intervals (more than 5 years) allow less fire-tolerant mast-producing species to mature as well [16]. Because Buell and Cantlon [4] showed that blue huckleberry declines at fire intervals of 5 years or less, a prescribed fire interval longer than 5 years is probably best for long-term blue huckleberry fruit production. In a longleaf pine forest in Florida, fire during the growing season synchronized the postfire flower production of understory species including blue huckleberry [25].


SPECIES: Gaylussacia frondosa
REFERENCES: 1. Best, G. Ronnie; Segal, Debra S.; Wolfe, Charlotte. 1990. Soil-vegetation correlations in selected wetlands and uplands of north-central Florida. Biol. Rep. 90(9). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 51 p. [18161] 2. Boerner, Ralph E. J. 1983. Nutrient dynamics of vegetation and detritus following two intensities of fire in the New Jersey pine barrens. Oecologia. 59: 129-134. [8648] 3. Braun, E. Lucy. 1961. The woody plants of Ohio. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press. 362 p. [12914] 4. Buell, Murray F.; Cantlon, John E. 1953. Effects of prescribed burning on ground cover in the New Jersey pine region. Ecology. 34: 520-528. [9262] 5. Clewell, Andre F. 1985. Guide to the vascular plants of the Florida Panhandle. Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Press. 605 p. [13124] 6. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1987. The Smithsonian guide to seaside plants of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts from Louisiana to Massachusetts, exclusive of lower peninsular Florida. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 409 p. [12906] 7. Ehrenfeld, Joan G. 1986. Wetlands of the New Jersey Pine Barrens: the role of species composition in community function. American Midland Naturalist. 115(2): 301-313. [8650] 8. Ehrenfeld, Joan G.; Culick, Martha. 1981. Structure and dynamics of hardwood swamps in the New Jersey pine barrens: contrasting patterns in trees and shrubs. American Journal of Botany. 68(4): 471-481. [22904] 9. Ehrenfeld, Joan G.; Schneider, John P. 1991. Chamaecyparis thyoides wetlands and suburbanization: effects on hydrology, water quality and plant community composition. Journal of Applied Ecology. 28(2): 467-490. [16958] 10. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905] 11. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998] 12. Gill, John D.; Healy, William M. 1974. Shrubs and vines for Northeastern wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-9. Upper Darby, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 180 p. [6207] 13. Gleason, Henry A.; Cronquist, Arthur. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York: New York Botanical Garden. 910 p. [20329] 14. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239] 15. Godfrey, Robert K.; Wooten, Jean W. 1981. Aquatic and wetland plants of southeastern United States: Dicotyledons. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 933 p. [16907] 16. Johnson, A. Sydney; Landers, J. Larry. 1978. Fruit production in slash pine plantations in Georgia. Journal of Wildlife Management. 42(3): 606-613. [9855] 17. Jordan, Marilyn J. 1975. Effects of zinc smelter emissions and fire on a chestnut-oak woodland. Ecology. 56: 78-91. [3461] 18. Kologiski, Russell L. 1977. The phytosociology of the Green Swamp, North Carolina. Tech. Bull. No. 250. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station. 101 p. [18348] 19. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 20. Laycock, William A. 1967. Distribution of roots and rhizomes in different soil types in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Geological Survey Professional Paper 563-C. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of of the Interior, Geological Survey. 29 p. [Hydrology and ecology, Pine Barrens, New Jersey]. [22934] 21. Matlack, Glenn R.; Gibson, David J.; Good, Ralph E. 1993. Regeneration of the shrub Gaylussacia baccata and associated species after low-intensity fire in an Atlantic coastal plain. American Journal of Botany. 80(2): 119-126. [20726] 22. Matlack, G. R.; Good, R. E. 1989. Plant-scale pattern among herbs and shrubs of a fire-dominated coastal plain forest. Vegetatio. 82: 95-103. [9829] 23. Matlack, Glenn R.; Good, Ralph E. 1990. Spatial heterogeneity in the soil seed bank of a mature coastal plain forest. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 117(2): 143-152. [22905] 24. Ogden, J. Gordon, III. 1962. Forest history of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. I. Modern and pre-colonial forests. American Midland Naturalist. 66(2): 417-430. [10118] 25. Platt, William J.; Evans, Gregory W.; Davis, Mary M. 1988. Effects of fire season on flowering of forbs and shrubs in longleaf pine forests. Oecologia. 76: 353-363. [9966] 26. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606] 27. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 28. Sharitz, Rebecca R.; Gibbons, J. Whitfield. 1982. The ecology of southeastern shrub bogs (pocosins) and Carolina bays: a community profile. FWS/OBS-82/04. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Biological Services. 93 p. [17015] 29. Stephenson, S. N. 1965. Vegetation change in the pine barrens of New Jersey. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 92(2): 102-114. [22903] 30. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 31. Turner, Sally; Bratton, Susan P. 1987. The recent fire history of Cumberland Island, Georgia. Castanea. 52(4): 300-303. [9753] 32. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: [34262] 33. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707] 34. Wendel, G. W.; Storey, T. G.; Byram, G. M. 1962. Forest fuels on organic and associated soils in the coastal plain of North Carolina. Station Paper No. 144. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 46 p. [21669] 35. Wofford, B. Eugene. 1989. Guide to the vascular plants of the Blue Ridge. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 384 p. [12908] 36. Wunderlin, Richard P. 1982. Guide to the vascular plants of central Florida. Tampa, FL: University Presses of Florida, University of South Florida. 472 p. [13125]

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