Huckleberries Important to Animals too!

We hear lots about how important huckleberries are to the Native Americans, commercial pickers and gourmet food producers, but we seldom think about how huckleberries are important to animals living in the forest.

Last year, we shared a couple posts about the huckleberry research Tabitha

Tabitha Graves

Tabitha Graves

Graves was conducting.

The Missoulian recently published another article on her research.  Here are some of the highlights:

Researchers start long-term hunt for huckleberry secrets

When Tabitha Graves took up carnivore research for the U.S. Geological Survey base at Glacier National Park, one of the biggest puzzles needing attention was the role huckleberries play in the food chain. Although creatures from grasshoppers to grizzlies like the purple fruit, we know little about what the berries themselves like.

“The more I’ve gotten into this, the more I’ve realized how important they are,” Graves said. “All kinds of birds eat them, as do small mammals. We’ve found coyote scats with berries in them. We’ve seen wasps eating them. And of course, humans eat a lot of them.”

Then there are the snowshoe hares and deer and moose that munch on huckleberry leaves, at least six species of bee that collect huckleberry pollen, and who knows what kinds of mycorrhizal fungi that grow together with the roots. Did we mention bears eat them, too?

All that might explain why huckleberries have resisted all attempts at domestication. The inability to grow huckleberry bushes in a greenhouse or garden has frustrated researchers for decades. It’s also left big parts of the plant’s life cycle unknown.

… Wildlife managers know that good or bad huckleberry crops influence how many black and grizzly bears wander into town looking for apples or bird feeders – but they don’t know how to predict a good or bad year. Huckleberries react to drought and drenching conditions, but can they forecast them? How might forest thinning and hazardous fuels work affect huckleberry patches?

Read the rest of this interesting article

Save

Share

2 Comments

  1. Comment by Craig Buchler:

    The first huckleberrys to be domestically rendered happened this year in hayden,id. They were produced by a man that has worked for years to decipher the secrets of the soil that make the plant fruit. An article was published by the Coeur d alene Press or Spokesman Review this year (2016).

  2. Comment by sandy:

    Hi Craig, Thanks for your comment. On going work to domesticate the wild huckleberry is definitely gaining more success. The article you are referring to is referenced here: Preliminary Success in Taming the Wild Huckleberry.

    More articles on the research on growing huckleberries can be found here: Growing Huckleberries

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge