Huckleberry oaks (Quercus vacciniifolia) are prostrate to low shrubs. They can be spreading or erect, growing up to 5 feet in height.
These evergreen shrubs grow on cliffs, ridges, rocky slopes and shallow soils, including serpentine soils, in montane and subalpine forests and chaparral. Huckleberry oaks can be found from about 500 feet to 10,000 feet in Southern Oregon, California and Western Nevada. They are shade intolerant and drought resistant.
Huckleberry oak leaves are alternate, leathery, simple and variable. The leaf margins are entire or occasionally displaying a few spiny teeth. The upper leaf surface is green and hairless while the lower blade surface is pale green and may be hairless or have a few sparse hairs. Leaf tips are pointed or rounded.
Huckleberry oak bark is grey and smooth.
Flowers and inflorescences are not considered much in identification. The acorns (fruit) mature in the second year and are very bitter. The nut is brown and egg shaped while the cup scales are flat, warty and have fine white hairs.
Mule deer browse huckleberry oak leaves. Wildlife, including deer, black bear, blue grouse, various rodents and mountain quail, eat the acorns.
Following fire or injury huckleberry oak sprouts vigorously. It will also hybridize with canyon live oak.
Q vaciniifolia is sometimes written as Q vacinifolia. Vaciniifolia, the species name, means “leaves like Vaccinium” in Latin. The genus Vaccinium is a member of the Heath Family and includes blueberries, cranberries, red huckleberries and ligonberries. Quercus is the Latin world for oak.
These specimens were photographed either in Lassen Volcanic National Park near Boiling Springs Lake or along Stony Creek Trail in the Six Rivers National Recreation Area, both in California.