Friday, November 6, 2009

Last Call- Barb Or Huck?

This photograph was taken on November 1st from our pier looking southward. The land mass on the left is Hermit Island. The red bushes on the right are Huckleberries.

Huckleberries are common here. The leaves turn intense red in the fall accentuating the ledges along the shore. The berries are long gone as they are loved by birds and rodents. Cooper's and Sharp-shinned hawks sit in the trees above these bushes waiting for the rodents and other birds drawn to the berries. Snakes like the rodents, too. I have eaten the Huckleberries myself. Once, I made a pie, too. The berries look much like Blueberries, though they are usually darker - nearly black. Huckleberries are related to blueberries, which are in the Vaccinium family. They are easily distinguished from Blueberries though, as they have 10, comparatively large seeds inside; Blueberries have loads of tiny seeds. The seeds is one of the reasons why I never made more than one pie. Another reason is that I had to pick them and I'm lazy that way. Huckleberries are not cultivated, so unless you happen upon a patch like I have, it's not likely that you would have eaten them. Huckleberries were named for the English Hurtleberry which they resemble. The word 'huckleberry' had numerous slang uses in the 19th century, most often meaning small or insignificant, sometimes kindly or good. The phrase, "I'm your huckleberry" meant just the right person for the job. It's not known for sure, but conventional thinking is that Samuel Clemens named his character 'Huckleberry Finn' because the word huckleberry evoked a thing of small and low character. If you were to ask me, I'd tell you that the berries of the Japanese Barberry seen here are of low character, though they are also stunning this time of year. The birds eat the berries and long ago, yellow die was extracted from the bark and stems. Nonetheless, the Japanese Barberry is on the Department of Agriculture's list of noxious, invasive weeds and should never be planted, though it pains me to admit that I have done so in the past. In fact, these bushes should be ripped out where they have been planted. Again, I have them in my yard and haven't ripped them out. BUT - I'm telling you that YOU should. I'll be sorry one day for leaving them, because they have horrible little thorns that make the shrubs nearly impossible to work around. The thorns are so viscous that the shrubs are used for crime prevention! To deter burglars they are planted under vulnerable windows and as property breaks. I know of a house in Bath located on the corner of a busy intersection where thrives a thick hedge of Barberry. No school child nor meandering drunk would ever think of cutting across the corner of that lot. Samuel Clemens should have named his character Barberry Finn, though I suppose shortened to 'Barb' wouldn't have the same effect as Huck.


  1. Nii-i-iice!
    Maybe your best.


  2. TY for that! I neglected to state that Barberries are also edible and very high in vitamin C. I bet they would make a really colorful pie!

  3. I loved your magpies! What a
    handsome bird!

    I did a very large woodcut of huckleberries in fall at the top of a
    ledge. Big gray ledge with woodcut grain. Also did a second edition in
    which the huckleberries have green leaves instead of red. I sold out on
    the red edition but only a few wanted the green one, which I prefer,
    myself. Though I do love that wonderful red in the fall, I prefer not to
    live with that color year round. It makes it that much more astonishing
    when it happens in November.

    That's some telephoto lens! Wonderful dancing dear.
    Thanks for the treat,

  4. I agree that the color is stunning but on an 'occaissonal' basis, not something I would want to live with all the time, either. I bet those wood cuts were stunning, too, in either color!

  5. veddie intahlestering !! bmc