deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum)
Polycodium candicans Small
Polycodium depressum Small
Polycodium floridanum (Nutt.) Greene
Polycodium leptosepalum Small
Polycodium macilentum Small
Polycodium melanocarpum (C. Mohr) Small
Polycodium neglectum Small
Polycodium stamineum (L.) Greene
Vaccinium caesium Greene
Vaccinium melanocarpum (C. Mohr) C. Mohr ex Kearney
Vaccinium neglectum (Small) Fernald
Vaccinium stamineum L. var. candicans (Small) C. Mohr
Vaccinium stamineum L. var. interius (Ashe) Palmer & Steyerm.
Vaccinium stamineum L. var. melanocarpum C. Mohr
Vaccinium stamineum L. var. neglectum (Small) Deam
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for deerberry is
Vaccinium stamineum L.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Deerberry is a
deciduous openly branched shrub that can vary from 0.3 - 3.0 m in
height but is commonly 0.5-1.5 m tall. Typically, it has multiple trunks
that are twisted and contorted and cloaked in thin reddish-brown
furrowed bark that shreds and peels. The ultimate twigs are very
narrow, often about 1 mm in diameter, and hairless or with short hairs.
Winter buds are terminal or axillary, ovoid, 0.5-1.5 mm long, pointed,
with 4-6 overlapping bud scales that are light yellow or reddish orange.
The leaves of the plant are yellowish-green, alternate, thin and papery,
sometimes hairy and/or white-waxy (especially beneath), elliptic with
a cuneate base and acute apex, and generally 3-7 cm long and 1.5-2.5 cm
wide. The margins are entire and the petioles measure 1-3 mm. The
flowers have 5 petals (fused) and 5 sepals, they are widely bell-shaped,
white, and they are pendulous in racemes or panicles on specialized axillary
branches with large leafy bracts. The flowers are especially unusual in that
they are open before maturity with their parts extending outward while
still green. The corolla eventually grows to 4- 6 mm in length and becomes
conspicuous. The yellowish stamens are long-exserted and each anther
extends into two long tubes. The style is longer than the stamens, and the
ovary position is inferior. The spherical fruits (berries) are marble or
grape-like, usually firm, hairless, green or yellowish to purple-tinted,
usually pale white-waxy when young, tart or bitter, and generally 1 cm in
REGENERATION PROCESS: Deerberry propogates itself by reseeding
and through vegetative spread. Deerberry is characterized by a lack of
reproductive success in many situations (due to several factors). And while
it can be locally successful, its reproductive problems are a serious limitation
for the long- term success of deerberry. Like many other blueberries, it is
known to spread vegetatively through rhizomes making it difficult to deter-
mine how many individuals make up a population.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Deerberry is usually found in partial shade
in openings or open forests. The species grows in dry, and occasionally
moist, upland acidic organic and mineral soils with a pH of 3.4-5.9 and with
low levels amounts of calcium and magnesium and, therefore, generally
not over limestones. It grows well on well-drained, sandy soils as well and
sometimes forms colonies by under-ground runners. The rock substrate
is generally sandstone, chert (silica), or gneissic granite and most frequently
with a south-facing exposure. Established deerberry can tolerate drought
and do well on as little as 30 inches of rain per year. It is not usually found
in more open sites or in areas with deep shade. Granite- gneiss is a frequent
substrate. Soils where populations grow are usually sandy with a low organ-
ic content. The plants are found on both steep slopes and on flat ground
with all sites being well-drained. The plant is also often associated with
burned sites in this area, where it is associated with other fire-tolerant
species such as pitch-pine and lowbush blueberry.
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Deerberry is a pioneer species; however,
deerberry is not an ecologically dominant species in any community type
(except in successional blueberry heaths in New York state where it prob-
ably plays an ecological role in the succession of areas recently burned in
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Deerberry is known to flower primarily
from May to June within its range, but this can vary from late April and
sporadically on through August. Mature fruits can be found from late June
until early October, also depending on location, year, and local conditions.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Deerberry is primarily found naturally
occurring in the eastern United States, from Florida to Maine (except
Vermont), and westward through the Ohio Valley into the eastern mid-
west and south to Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. It barely reaches into
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:
Shrub specimens can be found on trails marked in red.
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
South Ridge/North Ridge
Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
Deerberry is a rare shrub in Sky Meadows Park, inconspicious when
not flowering (and even then not obvious).
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: Deerberry is
normally found in dry areas (rocky forests, thickets, grassy fields, maple
or oak forests) and, locally in some regions, in wet areas (bogs and borders
of shrub swamps) in uplands. Deerberry is an understory shrub to a variety
of more dominant species. It has been found growing with red oak (Quercus
rubra), pitch pine (Pinus rigida), and white pine (Pinus strobus). It has
been observed growing on forested slopes of unglaciated regions in associa-
tion with black and chestnut oaks and, sometimes, Virginia pine. It is asso-
ciated with white oaks, and in low woods it is associated with pin oak, sweet
gum, and red maple. Other occurrance of associated species included the
trees blackjack oak, post oak, Shumard oak, white oak, sassafras, hickory,
beech, and flowering dogwood, the shrubs winged sumac, red cedar, farkle-
berry, and early low- bush blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), the vines cat-
brier, dewberry, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, and ashy grape, the herbs
false yellow snapdragon, Solomon’s seal, bedstraw, palmate-leaved violet,
tickseed, mountain dittany, and bluets, and the grasses and sedges poverty
grass and Carex spp.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The flowers are primarily visited by the
bees Melitta americana and Xylocopa virginica, and numerous other
flower visitors have been reported. Deerberry is known to be one of the
hosts for the attractive red-spotted purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis).
Deerberry is an important source of food for numerous wildlife species
including wild turkey, ruffed grouse, quail, rufus-sided towhee, and various
rodents. The berries are much larger, on average, than those of other
species of wild Vaccinium and are too large for most small birds to eat
whole as they do most of the other blueberries. Instead, the fruits are
broken open and eaten. White-tailed deer utilize the berries and vegeta-
tion as a significant resource, hence the common name, deerberry. The
birds and mammals (foxes, raccoons, black bears, chipmunks and squirrels)
that eat the fruit are important to the plant's seed dispersal.
Crooked Run Valley