• 59°

Wildflower of the Month: Deerberry furnishes food for birds, small critters

By Helen Hamilton

deerberryDeerberry

Vaccinium stamineum

Deerberry is a member of a large genus that includes blueberries and cranberries. This species is a tall (up to 10 feet) deciduous shrub with variable foliage, mostly egg-shaped. Leaves are thin and not toothed, typically whitish underneath.

Unlike the closed, tubular buds and flowers of blueberry, the flowers of deerberry are open, and dangling along the stem. The petals are flaring with the stamens and styles extending outside. Greenish-white, pink-tinged flowers appear May-June; in late summer and fall greenish-purple fruits, sometimes white-powdered, appear, furnishing food for birds and small mammals.

Found over eastern U.S. and Canada, deerberry is native to all counties in Virginia, growing in dry woods.

Vaccinium is the classic name for blueberries; stamineum refers to the prominent stamens. While edible, the berries are not as flavorful as those of other species.

HELEN HAMILTON is past president of the John Clayton Chapter, Virignia Plant Society. For more information about native plants, visit www.vnps.org.