Wild Florida Photo
Nature Photography by Paul Rebmann
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A frequent shrub or small tree of hammocks, flatwoods and scrub in most of Florida except the southern peninsula. Ranges throughout the southeast, west to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and north into Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia.
The flaking and scaling outer bark and reddish-brown trunk help distinguish this from the other Vaccinium species. Growing up to 9 meters (30 ft.) tall and often crooked and leaning, blooming profusely in April and May with small white cup-shaped flowers on long pedicels. The fruit is a many seeded berry, initially green, maturing black with the five-pointed star shaped remains of the sepals at the apex. The leaves are alternate, oval or broadly elliptic, widest at or above the middle. Usually entire, but sometimes with tiny serrations, 1.5-7 cm (2/3 - 2-3/4 in.) long and 0.8-4 cm (1/3 - 1-5/8 in.) wide.
Vaccinium arboreum is also called farkleberry and tree-huckleberry, but it is not really a huckleberry. The Vacciniums, or blueberries, can be distinguished from the huckleberries by the later having berries containing 10 larger seeds and the blueberries bearing berries with many tiny seeds.
Sparkleberry makes a very attractive landscape plant, working especially well along the edges of wooded areas. The berries, while edible, are not very tasteful to humans but are an excellent food for birds and other wildlife.