Menziesia ferruginea

Fool's huckleberry


The Basics

Taxonomy: Kingdom - Plantae (plants). Subkingdom - Tracheobionta (vascular plants). Superdivision - Spermatophyta (seed plants). Division - Magnoliophyta (flowering plants). Class - Magnoliopsida (dicotyledons). Subclass - Dillendiidae. Order - Ericales. Family - Ericaceae (heath). Genus - Menziesia Sm. Species - Menziesia ferruginea Sm.

Ecology: Fool's huckleberry is a common shade-tolerant shrub, found predominantly on steep, northerly exposures with abundant moisture. Fool's huckleberry generally occurs from 1,000-2,300 m in elevation on 15 to 60 percent slopes. Absence from extreme northern distributions may imply a limitation to cold temperatures. Menziesia may be restricted to areas with adequate snow cover, which protects plants from winter desiccation. Overstory components mostly include subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), Pacific silver fir (A. amabilis), western redcedar (Thuja plicata), mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana), western hemlock (T. heterophylla), and Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) .

In the WFDP: Fool's huckleberry is uncommon in the WFDP, with only twenty stems (many of which are multiple leaders of 4 main shrubs) above 1 cm at DBH that are tagged.


Fool's huckleberry is an erect, deciduous shrub, branching, often forming thickets, 1-2.5 m, malodorous when bruised, bark of older branches loosely shredding or glabrous, young twigs finely hairy or somewhat glandular-pilose. Leaves: petiole 2-4 mm; blade light green abaxially, oblong-elliptic to obovate or ovate-elliptic to elliptic-obovate, 3-6 cm, base cuneate, margins glandular-ciliate, apex acute or rounded with mucronate tip ca. 0.1-0.2 mm, tapering to petiole, abaxial surface stipitate-glandular and/or hairy, midvein scales lanceolate-glandular, not cleft or, rarely, 2-cleft, adaxial surface pilose and/or sparsely stipitate-glandular. Pedicels spreading to drooping, spreading to erect in fruit, filiform, 1-3 cm, stipitate-glandular with minute pilose hairs. Flowers appearing with leaves; calyx lobes broadly triangular, 0.5-1 mm, margins lacerate-ciliate, apex rounded to subacute, stipitate-glandular; corolla greenish or yellowish tinged with red or bronze, 6-10 5 mm, lobes 1.5 mm; nectariferous disc obscurely 8-crenate; filaments subulate, flattish, slightly dilated proximally, hairy near base; anthers linear; ovary globose, glandular but not hairy. Capsules ovoid to ovoid-oblong, 5-8 mm, glabrous or very sparsely stipitate-glandular and/or puberulent. Seeds pale brown, linear, 2.5-3 mm including 2 appendages 1 mm each.


Fire effects: Fool's huckleberry is a fire-sensitive species. It responds to fire by sprouting from the root crown. Since menziesia is indicative of cool, moist sites, fire plays a minor role in its development.


Seed production and dispersal: Numerous small seeds are produced in capsules which dehisce naturally at maturity. Seeds are wind or gravity dispersed.

Vegetative Reproduction: Fool's huckleberry sprouts from root crowns and adventitious stem buds after destruction of aboveground parts. When covered with ash from Mt. St. Helen's, fool's huckleberry produced adventitious roots. This plant also appears to be capable of layering. Layering is an effective means of growth and expansion at high elevations where heavy snowpacks press fool's huckleberry branches close to the ground. On steep slopes, fool's huckleberry tends to grow downhill with the tips of its branches ascending

Species Distribution


USDA Plants Database
USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Photo credit: Lindsey Koepke, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

USFS Plant Database
Habeck, R. J. 1992. Menziesia ferruginea. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.

Flora of North America
Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 19+ vols. New York and Oxford.

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
Burke Museum. 2016 [Online]. University of Washington.