Plant of the Week: Black huckleberry

Though the deciduous trees in the park have begun to lose their leaves, visitors can still find exceptional fall color in a few less popular, but nonetheless stunning, plants. One of these is Gaylussacia bacatta, or black huckleberry.

This native shrub is found in eastern North America, growing from Georgia and Louisiana up to Canada. You will find it in sandy or rocky soils that are often of poor and acidic quality. Our horticulture staff recently witnessed Gaylussacia bacatta growing in the bogs of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Shrubs will grow 1-3 feet in height, and colonize to form thickets in optimal conditions, which include sun and acidic, well-drained soils.

A colony of black huckleberry in the New Jersey Pine Barrens

Gaylussacia bacatta features small, bell-shaped flowers that bloom white or pink in mid-summer. Post-bloom, purple-blackberries arrive in clusters. These berries, comparable to blueberries, are darker with smaller seeds and ripen a week or two after local blueberries. The berries, which are edible for humans, also provide a valuable food source for wildlife.

Currently, the oval leaves of the black huckleberry are a brilliant red. Their short stature and placement in the back of the garden beds makes them less noticeable than other fall color, but I encourage you to seek one out to admire the autumnal effect.


Black huckleberry is a seldom used, but excellent choice for the naturalistic garden. The poorer and more acidic your soil, the better. Fall color will increase with a few hours of sunlight a day.


Gansevoort Woodlands between Gansevoort Street and Little West 12th Street

Northern Spur Preserve between West 15th and West 16th Streets

10th Avenue Square at West 16th Street on the High Line

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

Recent Posts
Behind the Bushes: The Gay History of the High Line
view post
No More Shimmering Cowboys: A Conversation with Yara Travieso
view post