CPC Plant Profile: Box Huckleberry
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Plant Profile

Box Huckleberry (Gaylussacia brachycera)

The dwarf evergreen shrub, Gaylussacia brachycera, on the grounds of The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Photo Credit: Tom Ward
  • Global Rank: G3 - Vulnerable
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Ericaceae
  • State: DE, KY, MD, NC, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WV
  • Nature Serve ID: 132611
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 04/04/1991

The box huckleberry is a dwarf (1-4 dm) evergreen shrub that forms large, solid-mat, self-sterile colonies, each one appearing to consist of a single clone that may extend over 8 acres! One colony in Perry county Pennsylvania (the Amity-Hall area) is about a mile long. It appears to be a single clone that is over 12,000 years old, and has been labeled as the oldest living thing in the world. As of 1999, about other 100 sites, containing younger plants than the Perry County population, are known from six states in the eastern United States. Box huckleberry is a rare plant first found by Michaux in West Virginia in 1790, then by Kin and Pursh about 1805 (Coville 1919). In 1921, it was "rediscovered" by A. Gray and this time reported from 75 localities (Gray 1922). The box huckleberry belongs to a rather large genus of the New World embracing over 50 species, most of which occur in mountainous regions of South America. Five are found in the southeastern USA. All Gaylussacia are small shrubs (1-12 dm tall), either evergreen or deciduous, usually with rhizomes (Dirr 1998). G. brachycera is very different from other Gaylussacia species. In other Gaylussacia, leaves are deciduous, mostly entire, glandular, either on both surfaces or just beneath (which makes a difference from Vaccinium); stems not angled (Dirr 1998). In G. brachycera, leaves are evergreen, coriaceous, not resinous-glandular; stems are sharply angled (3-sided), bearing a conspicuous ridge below the base of each leaf.

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  • 09/12/2020
  • Propagation Research

Seed coll. mid-August; cleaned, one month warm followed by two months cold stratification. The germination rate is about 80%.

  • 09/12/2020
  • Propagation Research

Propagation from softwood cuttings: May-July, in sand-perlite 50/50, treated with 2,500-5,000 ppm K-IBA (rooting rate 60-80%). Hardwood cuttings are less successful

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Very few (<100) genetic individuals, although most clones of great size (many acres) and extremely persistent. Several sites adequately protected (at least in short term). The low number of genetic individuals is counterbalanced by the substantial size and extreme persistence of most clones (and therefore presumed wide within-clone tolerance for habitat and vegetation changes, normal pests and diseases, and even modest climate change).

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

Irresponsible development at coastal habitats; recreation; human Trampling Erosion after logging Overtopping by arboreal species or fast growing herbs or vines; Invasive species Habitats vanish due to natural plant succession

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

Around 100 sites known from 6 states in the eastern U.S. (Crable 1999)

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

There is no current research.

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

A formal management plan has not be designed.

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

Remaining populations need to be identified and monitored. Many aspects of this species biology and ecology need to be studied. Including reproductive biology and other plant and animal interactions, such as seed dispersal and herbivory.

Irina Kadis
  • 01/01/2010

Box huckleberry appears to grow successfully under rhododendrons and mountain laurels, in partial shade. Propagation from softwood cuttings: May-July, in sand-perlite 50/50, treated with 2,500-5,000 ppm K-IBA (rooting rate 60-80%). Hardwood cuttings are less successful. Seed coll. mid-August; cleaned, one month warm followed by two months cold stratification. The germination rate is about 80%.


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Taxon Gaylussacia brachycera
Authority (Michx.) Gray
Family Ericaceae
CPC Number 1999
ITIS 23661
Common Names box huckleberry
Associated Scientific Names Gaylussacia brachycera | Buxella brachycera | Vaccinium brachycerum | Adnaria brachycera | Decamerium brachycerum
Distribution G. brachycera is known from West Virginia and possibly Virginia. It has also been found in Pennsylvania, the ,coastal plain of Delaware, Kentucky and Tennessee (Gray 1922, Small 1933, Gleason 1952, T
State Rank
State State Rank
Delaware S1
Kentucky S2S3
Maryland S1
North Carolina S1
New Jersey
Pennsylvania S1
Tennessee S2S3
Virginia S1
West Virginia S2

G. brachycera can be found on wooded slopes, mostly facing north and on acid, well-drained (sandy) soil (Gray 1922,Small 1933, Tatnall 1946, Foote and Jones 1994).

Ecological Relationships

Honeybees are attracted to the flowers of this species, and are likely the primary pollinators. This species is probable an obligate outcrosser, requiring pollinators of some sort to transfer pollen from one individual to another. This is especially difficult for this plant, as populations can be extremely large, but are often a single clone. (Crable 1999)

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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