Gaylussacia brachycera (Michx.) A. Gray
Buxella brachycera (Michx.) Small
Box-huckleberry, box-leaved whortleberry
Box huckleberry is a North American native species. This species propagates clonally, producing expanding colonies by sending out roots. This appears to be its only means of propagation, and with remaining populations dwindling and a low rate of propagation, it is considered a critically imperiled species. A colony in Pennsylvania is estimated at up to 8,000 years old, making it at least a contender for oldest woody plant east of the Rocky mountains. Another colony, also in Pennsylvania, is about 1,300 year old. A New Jersey colony spans 3.8 hectares and is estimated at up to 10,000 years in age.
Identification: These low evergreen shrubs are 6-18" (15-45 cm) high. Leaves resemble boxwood leaves, the source of its common names. They do not have the resin glands found in other huckleberries (that is, huckleberries in the Gaylussacia genus; there are also some members of Vaccinium that are called huckleberries and lack resin glands.) Leaves are dark, glossy green, becoming bronze-colored or reddish-purple in the fall. They are ovate, with crenate or serrulate edges and leaf petioles (stems) ¹/₃₂-⅛" () long. Flowers are white or pinkish, urn-shaped, about ⅛" (4 mm) in size, appearing from May to June. Fruits resemble blueberries, but have fewer, larger seeds. They are about ⅜" (1.2 cm) in size.
This Gaylussacia and Vaccinium comparison chart com­pares these closely related genera, both of which contain plants called huckleberries.
Edibility: Berries are edible, but tasteless.
Gaylussacia brachycera on www.naturalheritage.state.pa.us (PDF)
Gaylussacia brachycera on Wikipedia
Gaylussacia brachycera at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Gaylussacia brachycera on Plants for a Future, a resource and information centre for edible and otherwise useful plants
Gaylussacia brachycera on eFloras
Gaylussacia brachycera description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.