Gaylussacia baccata is a shrub to 1 m, tall, low, much branched, roots associated with highly specialized ascomycota ericoid mycorrhizae, (Allen1991); that increase nutrient uptake; colonial from underground stems.
Leaves alternate, to 5 cm long, with yellowish resin dots both sides, margin entire.
Flowers white-pinkish, sometimes reddish (darker red in bud), narrowly urn-shaped; in rather one-sided, short, compact, unbranched clusters (racemes) interspersed with small leaf-like bracts; May-June.
Fruit fleshy, black, without waxy bloom, ca 0.7 cm diameter; ripens July-Sept. Seeds 10, ca 0.2 cm. Seed load 7%; pulp nutrients: water 95%, lipid 1%, protein 3%, CHO 64% (White 1989). Fruits edible but seedy, eaten by many birds and mammals, including raccoons (Martin et al 1951; Wilson 1993).
Wetland status: FACU.
Frequency in New York City: Occasional.
Habitat: Dry, undisturbed, oak woods, usually on poor, sandy, acidic soil. Tolerates soil acidity down to pH 3.9 (Greller et al. 1990). Found in soil pH 4.8 (Gargiullo unpublished data).