1. Gaylussacia brachycera (Michaux) A. Gray, Mem. Amer. Acad. Arts, n. s. 3: 54. 1846.
Box huckleberry Box huckleberry
Vaccinium brachycerum Michaux, Fl. Bor.-Amer. 1: 234. 1803; Buxella brachycera (Michaux) Small
Plants 2-4 dm, forming small to extensive colonies; branches spreading or procumbent; twigs of current season pale green to grayish brown, (strongly angled), puberulent. Leaves persistent; petiole 0.5-3 mm; blade pale green abaxially, shiny dark green adaxially, ovate, 1-2.5 × 0.5-1.3 cm, coriaceous, base rounded, margins crenate or serrulate, (revolute), apex obtuse, without resinous dots, surfaces glabrous adaxially, glabrous or puberulent along midvein and near blade base. Inflorescences spreading, 2-5-flowered, sometimes flowers solitary, ebracteate, 0.5-1 cm, puberulent. Pedicels 0.5-3 mm, glabrous; bracteoles (early deciduous), 1-3, (ovate), 2-4 mm, (margins ciliate). Flowers: sepals 4-5, 0.3-0.5 mm, glabrous; petals 4-5, corolla white to pink, campanulate-urceolate, 4 mm, lobes broadly deltate to rounded, 0.5-1.5 mm; filaments 1-1.5 mm, glabrous; anthers included, 1-1.5 mm, thecae not divergent distally; ovary glabrous. Drupes juicy, sweet, light blue, 6-8 mm diam., glabrous. Seeds 1-1.5 mm.
Flowering late spring-early summer. Upland or montane woods; (10-)200-1000 m; Del., Ky., Md., N.C., Pa., Tenn., Va., W.Va.
Gaylussacia brachycera is a dwarf evergreen shrub that forms large, solid-mat, self-sterile colonies, each one appearing to consist of a single clone that may extend over more than one hectare. One colony in Perry County, Pennsylvania, is about 1.5 kilometers wide; 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.
SELECTED REFERENCES Pooler, M., R. Nicholson, and A. Vandergrift. 2008. Clonal fidelity in large colonies of Gaylussacia brachycera Gray (box huckleberry) assessed by DNA fingerprinting. N. E. Naturalist 15: 67-74. Wilbur, R. L. and S. Bloodworth. 2004. Notes on the box huckleberry, Gaylussacia brachycera (Ericaceae), and its unexpected presence in North Carolina. Rhodora 106: 371-377.