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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Sunday - April 14, 2013

From: Vancouver, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Edible Plants, Shrubs, Vines
Title: Huckleberries and blueberries from Vancouver WA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can you plant a blueberry next to a huckleberry?

ANSWER:

Is this a trick question? Please read this webite: What is the Difference Between Blueberry and Huckleberry? Also read this article from GardenGuides.com and note especially this paragraph on "Origins."

"Origins

The blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) and huckleberry (Gaylussacia spp.) species familiar to Americans are native to North America, growing in moist acidic soils in forests and scrublands. The blueberries most often grown in the United States are native to either the eastern woodlands or the montane forests of extreme western North America from California to Alaska. Other Vaccinium species grow naturally in Asia and Europe. Huckleberries include 40 species of shrubs from both North and South America, but the few frequently grown for fruit in the United States are native to either eastern North America's woodlands or the western coastal ranges from California to southern Alaska."

We first searched our Native Plant Database on "blueberry," and found 18 plants with that word in their common name. Of that, there were 6 members of the Vaccinium genus, Ericacaceae family called blueberries native to Washington. When we searched on "huckleberry," we found 5 members of the Vaccinium genus, Ericaceae family native to Washington. Three, from both lists, were the same plant!

Vaccinium membranaceum (Mountain huckleberry)

Vaccinium ovatum (California huckleberry)

Vaccinium parvifolium (Red blueberry)

If you follow those plant links to the webpage on each plant, you will find that both common names are listed for each plant. Apparently, the genus Gaylussacia, also frequently with both common names, does not grow natively in Washington at all.

So, are you worried about the two species of the same genus hybridizing with each other? Since they grow natively in the wild, probably they already have, naturally. I would say they could be planted together, absolutely. In fact, you could plant two of the same plant from the list above, and STILL have a blueberry planted next to a huckleberry.

Just to make it more interesting, our Image Gallery had no pictures of the three plants we listed as dual named. Probably this means no one else could tell the difference, either.

 

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