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Ericaceae: Heath Family Plant Identification Characteristics.

Huckleberries.

Ericaceae
Plants of the Heath Family

      The Heath family is as exciting to know as blueberries and huckleberries (Vaccinium). This family includes mostly shrubs (some herbs and trees) with usually alternate, often evergreen leaves. The plants typically grow in poor, acidic soils or bogs. The bisexual and regular or nearly regular flowers typically have 5 sepals united at the base and 5 usually united petals (sometimes 4 of each or rarely more or less), often in a bell shape and white to pink or red in color. Expect to find the same number or twice as many stamens as petals. The ovary is positioned either superior or inferior and consists of usually 5 (sometimes 4, and rarely more or less) united carpels with the partition walls present, forming an equal number of chambers. It matures as a capsule, a berry, or rarely as a drupe (a fleshy fruit with a stony pit).

      Worldwide there are about 126 genera and 4,000 species. Taxonomists have expanded the family to include the Pyrola and Indian Pipe families as subfamilies of the Heath family. In addition, the Crowberry family has been folded into this family as a tribe of the Heath subfamily.

Key Words:
Mostly red or white bell-shaped flowers
with parts in fours or fives. Leaves often evergreen.


Subfamilies of the Heath Family
Heath Subfamily | White Heather Subfamily | Blueberry Subfamily
Madrone Subfamily | Pyrola Subfamily | Indian Pipe Subfamily

Please e-mail Thomas J. Elpel to report mistakes or to inquire about purchasing high resolution photos of these plants.


Heath Subfamily: Ericoideae
Taxonomists expanded the Heath subfamily to include the former Rhododendron subfamily, as well as the entire Crowberry family (formerly Empetraceae). The resulting mishmash is less intuitive than previous classification systems.

Ledum glandulosum. Labrador Tea.

Ledum glandulosum. Labrador Tea.

Ledum glandulosum. Labrador Tea.

Ledum glandulosum. Labrador Tea.

Phyllodoce empetriformis. Pink Mountain Heather.

Phyllodoce empetriformis. Pink Mountain Heather. Pine Creek Lake. Absaroka Mountains. Near Livingston, Montana.

Phyllodoce glandulifera. Creamy Mountain Heather.

Phyllodoce glandulifera. Creamy Mountain Heather.

Menziesia ferruginea. False Huckleberry.

Menziesia ferruginea. False Huckleberry.

Menziesia ferruginea. False Huckleberry.

Menziesia ferruginea. False Huckleberry.

Kalmia microphylla. Western Bog Laurel.

Kalmia microphylla. Western Bog Laurel.

Kalmia microphylla. Western Bog Laurel.

Kalmia microphylla. Western Bog Laurel. Tobacco Root Mountains, near Pony, Montana.

Calluna vulgaris. Common Heather.

Calluna vulgaris. Common Heather. Native to Europe. Invasive in New Zealand.

Rhododendron albiflorum. White Rhododendron.

Rhododendron albiflorum. White Rhododendron.

Rhododendron albiflorum. White Rhododendron.

Rhododendron albiflorum. White Rhododendron.

Rhododendron albiflorum. White Rhododendron.

Rhododendron albiflorum. White Rhododendron. Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana.


White Heather Subfamily: Cassiopoideae
Leaves are small and needlelike. Flowers are urn- or bell-shaped.

Cassiope mertensiana. White Mountain Heather.

Cassiope mertensiana. White Mountain Heather.

Cassiope mertensiana. White Mountain Heather.

Cassiope mertensiana. White Mountain Heather.

Cassiope tetragona. White Arctic Mountain Heather.

Cassiope tetragona. White Arctic Mountain Heather.

Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Botany in a Day


Blueberry Subfamily: Vaccinioideae
Members of the Blueberry subfamily typically have leaf buds that can be seen in winter. Flower petals are united into an urn- or bell-shape. The ovary is positioned inferior in berry-producing genera, but superior in genera that form seed capsules. Genera are grouped into tribes below to clarify relationships.

Gaultheria shallon. Salal.

Gaultheria shallon. Salal. Photographed in Oregon.

Gaultheria shallon. Salal.

Gaultheria shallon. Salal. Photographed in Washington.

Gaultheria humifusa. Alpine Wintergreen.

Gaultheria humifusa. Alpine Wintergreen. Photographed in Montana.

Vaccinium ovatum. California Huckleberry.

Vaccinium ovatum. California Huckleberry.

Vaccinium scoparium. Dwarf Huckleberry or Grouseberry.

Vaccinium scoparium. Dwarf Huckleberry or Grouseberry. Tobacco Root Mountains. Pony, Montana.

Vaccinium scoparium. Dwarf Huckleberry or Grouseberry.

Vaccinium scoparium. Dwarf Huckleberry or Grouseberry. Seven Devils Mountains, Idaho.

Vaccinium membranaceum. Thinleaf Huckleberry.

Vaccinium membranaceum. Thinleaf Huckleberry.

Vaccinium membranaceum. Thinleaf Huckleberry.

Vaccinium membranaceum. Thinleaf Huckleberry. Lava Lake Trail. Near Bozeman, Montana.

Vaccinium parviflorum. Red Huckleberry.

Vaccinium parviflorum. Red Huckleberry.

Vaccinium parviflorum. Red Huckleberry.

Vaccinium parviflorum. Red Huckleberry. Grows along the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska.

Vaccinium occidentale. Western Bog Blueberry.

Vaccinium occidentale. Western Bog Blueberry. Yellowstone National Park.

Vaccinium sp. Collecting huckleberries.

Vaccinium sp. Collecting huckleberries in a sprucebark berry basket.


Madrone Subfamily: Arbutoideae
Plants of the Madrone subfamily were formerly included within the Blueberry subfamily. The fruit is usually a berry, soft and mushy in Arbutus, but dry, mealy, and usually astringent in other genera..

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Kinnikinnick.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Kinnikinnick.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Kinnikinnick.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. Kinnikinnick. Humbug Spires Wilderness Study Area. Near Butte, Montana.

There are more
Heath Family pictures
at PlantSystematics.org.


Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Identify plants with
Botany in a Day
Foraging the Mountain West
Start feasting with
Foraging the Mountain West

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Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, andthe Blossoming of Human Spirit
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Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
Participating
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Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
Botany
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Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids
Shanleya's
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