What’s the Difference between Huckleberries and Blueberries?
If you’re confused about the difference between huckleberries and blueberries, you’re not alone. Although these two berries look similar, you can notice subtle differences once you know the characteristics to look for. Huckleberries and blueberries grow around the world, and each of them has several varieties that display different features.
Unlike cultivated blueberries, several species of huckleberries grow in the wild. Huckleberries haven’t been cultivated for home growing like blueberries have. The following list describes a few of the different types of huckleberries that grow in North America, South America and Europe:
- Eastern Huckleberries – Black huckleberry (Gaylusaccia baccata) grows from eastern Canada and down to southeastern United States. Box huckleberry (G. brachycera) is found in the central Appalachians. Although these berries resemble blueberries and belong to the heath family, they don’t have much flavor.
- Western Huckleberries – Growing in western North America, these huckleberries are also known as bilberries and whortleberries. They grow on woody shrubs, require acidic soil and belong to the heath family. Western huckleberries belong to the same genus Vaccinium, as blueberries and have over 26 species. Unlike eastern huckleberries, western huckleberries have been cultivated in the northwest U.S. for centuries.
- Pacific Huckleberries – Evergreen huckleberry or Blackwinter huckleberry grow on the Pacific coast from southern California to the central part of British Columbia in coniferous areas. Because of their serrated leaves, Pacific huckleberry bushes are often used in floral arrangements. The black berries become ripe in the fall, but they produce few berries.
- Red Huckleberries – Also known as Red Bilberries (V. parvifolium), these red, waxy berries are native to western Washington, California, Oregon and British Columbia. They grow on bushes that can reach 20 feet. Native Americans used red huckleberries for jams and preserves. The berries have a sour flavor, and you can harvest them until early winter.
- Mountain Huckleberry – These berries grow in western Canada and northwestern U.S. You can also find them in Minnesota and Arizona. Mountain huckleberries grow in clearings found in coniferous forests. They grow up to 9 feet tall, producing red, black, blue or purple berries.
Blueberries not only grow in the wild, just like huckleberries, but they’re also cultivated for commercial purposes and home growing. The following are the four most common blueberry bushes, and each type of bush has many varieties:
- Hybrid half-high
Huckleberry and Blueberry Characteristics
Huckleberries and blueberries look alike, but blueberries are always blue. Most huckleberries are dark blue to black in color, but they can also be red or purple. Each huckleberry has 10 hard seeds. The vegetation on huckleberry bushes differs from blueberries in that the underside of the leaves have sparkly, yellow dots. Most blueberries have a sweet flavor, while huckleberries can be sweet or sour, depending on the variety.