CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Gaylussacia brachycera

Photographer:
Tom Ward

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CPC National Collection Plant Profile

Gaylussacia brachycera


Family: 
Ericaceae  
Common Name: 
box huckleberry
Author: 
(Michx.) Gray
Growth Habit: 
Subshrub, Shrub
CPC Number: 
1999

Distribution
Protection
Conservation
References


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Gaylussacia brachyceraenlarge
Photographer: Tom Ward
tomward[at]arnarb.harvard.edu


Gaylussacia brachycera is Fully Sponsored
Primary custodian for this plant in the CPC National Collection of Endangered Plants is: 
Irina Kadis contributed to this Plant Profile.

 
Gaylussacia brachycera


The box huckleberry is a dwarf (1-4 dm) evergreen shrub that forms large, solid-mat, self-sterile colonies, each one appearing to consist of a single clone that may extend over 8 acres! One colony in Perry county Pennsylvania (the Amity-Hall area) is about a mile long. It appears to be a single clone that is over 12,000 years old, and has been labeled as the oldest living thing in the world. As of 1999, about other 100 sites, containing younger plants than the Perry County population, are known from six states in the eastern United States.

Box huckleberry is a rare plant first found by Michaux in West Virginia in 1790, then by Kin and Pursh about 1805 (Coville 1919). In 1921, it was "rediscovered" by A. Gray and this time reported from 75 localities (Gray 1922). The box huckleberry belongs to a rather large genus of the New World embracing over 50 species, most of which occur in mountainous regions of South America. Five are found in the southeastern USA. All Gaylussacia are small shrubs (1-12 dm tall), either evergreen or deciduous, usually with rhizomes (Dirr 1998).

G. brachycera is very different from other Gaylussacia species. In other Gaylussacia, leaves are deciduous, mostly entire, glandular, either on both surfaces or just beneath (which makes a difference from Vaccinium); stems not angled (Dirr 1998). In G. brachycera, leaves are evergreen, coriaceous, not resinous-glandular; stems are sharply angled (3-sided), bearing a conspicuous ridge below the base of each leaf.

Distribution & Occurrence

State Range
  Delaware
Kentucky
Maryland
New Jersey
Pennsylvania
Tennessee
Virginia
West Virginia
State Range of  Gaylussacia brachycera
Habitat
  G. brachycera can be found on wooded slopes, mostly facing north and on acid, well-drained (sandy) soil (Gray 1922,Small 1933, Tatnall 1946, Foote and Jones 1994).

Distribution
  G. brachycera is known from West Virginia and possibly Virginia. It has also been found in Pennsylvania, the ,coastal plain of Delaware, Kentucky and Tennessee (Gray 1922, Small 1933, Gleason 1952, Tatnall 1946, Foote and Jones 1994).

Number Left
  Around 100 sites known from 6 states in the eastern U.S. (Crable 1999)

Protection

Global Rank:  
G3
 
2/1/2001
Guide to Global Ranks
Federal Status:  
RT
 
Guide to Federal Status
Recovery Plan:  
No
 

State/Area Protection
  State/Area Rank Status Date  
  Delaware S1 2/1/2001  
  Maryland S1 E 4/30/2001  
  Pennsylvania S1 PT 6/11/2002  
  Virginia S2 5/1/2002  
  West Virginia S2 6/1/2000  

Conservation, Ecology & Research

Ecological Relationships
  Honeybees are attracted to the flowers of this species, and are likely the primary pollinators. This species is probable an obligate outcrosser, requiring pollinators of some sort to transfer pollen from one individual to another. This is especially difficult for this plant, as populations can be extremely large, but are often a single clone. (Crable 1999)

Threats
  Irresponsible development at coastal habitats; recreation; human Trampling
Erosion after logging
Overtopping by arboreal species or fast growing herbs or vines; Invasive species
Habitats vanish due to natural plant succession

Current Research Summary
  There is no current research.

Current Management Summary
  A formal management plan has not be designed.

Research Management Needs
  Remaining populations need to be identified and monitored. Many aspects of this species biology and ecology need to be studied. Including reproductive biology and other plant and animal interactions, such as seed dispersal and herbivory.

Ex Situ Needs
  Box huckleberry appears to grow successfully under rhododendrons and mountain laurels, in partial shade.
Propagation from softwood cuttings: May-July, in sand-perlite 50/50, treated with 2,500-5,000 ppm K-IBA (rooting rate 60-80%). Hardwood cuttings are less successful.
Seed coll. mid-August; cleaned, one month warm followed by two months cold stratification. The germination rate is about 80%.

References

Books (Single Authors)

Bir, R.E. 1992. Growing and Propagating Showy Native Woody Plants. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press.

Dirr, M.A. 1998. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Champaign, Illinois: Stipes Publishing L. L. C.

Foote, L.E.; Jones, S.B., Jr. 1994. Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast. Oregon: Timber Press.

Gleason, H.A.; Cronquist, A. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Bronx: The New York Botanical Garden.

Small, J.K. 1933. Manual of the southeastern flora. New York, NY: Hafner Publishing Company. 1505p.

Tatnall, R.R. 1946. Flora of Delaware and the Eastern Shore. The Society of Natural History of Delaware. 313p.

Tucker, A.O.; Dill, N.H.; Broome, C.R.; Phillips, C.E.; Maciarello, M.J. 1979. Rare and endangered vascular plant species in Delaware. Newton Corner, MA: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. x + 89p.

Wiegman, P.G. 1979. Rare and Endangered Vascular Plant Species in Pennsylvania. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in Cooperation with The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Books (Sections)

Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the U.S., Canada, and Greenland. In: Kartesz, J.T.; Meacham, C.A., editors. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden. Chapel Hill, NC.

Journal Articles

Coville, F.V. 1919. The threatened extinction of the box huckleberry, Gaylussacia brachycera. Science. 50: 30-34.

Gray, A. 1846. Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Science, new series. 3: 54.

Gray, F.W. 1922. Scores of stations for Gaylussacia brachycera in West Virginia. Torreya. 22, 2: 17-18.

Strausbaugh, P.D. 1960. Rev. Fred W. Gray. Castanea. 25: 131-132.

Swoger, A. 1980. The venerable Box Huckleberry. Garden. 4, 4: 18-21.

Uttall, L.J. 1982. The type locality of Gaylussacia brachycera (Michx.) A. Gray. Jeffersonia. 13, 1: 2-3.

Wherry, E. 1934. The box huckleberry as an illustration of the need for field work. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 61: 81-84.

Wherry, E.T. 1972. Box-huckleberry as the oldest living protoplasm. Castanea. 37: 94-95.

Newspaper Articles

Crable, Ad. 1999 August 20, 1999. Meet the World's Oldest - and Hardest Working - Plant. Lancaster New Era, Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.; Lancaster, PA.


  This profile was updated on 3/4/2010
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