Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Sparkleberry - Vaccinium arboreum   Marshall
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Section 6 » Order Ericales » Family Ericaceae
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AuthorMarshall
DistributionNearly throughout the Coastal Plain and Piedmont; only a few locales in the lower mountains, almost all close to the SC and GA border. Absent from nearly all of the mountains, portions of the northwestern Piedmont, and the far eastern portions of the Coastal Plain (i.e., nearly all counties north and south of Albemarle Sound).

The species has a wide east-west range for an ericaceous species, ranging from southern VA and southern FL west to central TX and southeastern KS. It is absent, essentially, from the northern half of the country.
AbundanceCommon and widespread over most of its Coastal Plain and Piedmont range. Rare to locally uncommon in the northwestern third of the Piedmont; very rare in the southern mountains, except likely not scarce in parts of Cherokee County in the mountains.
HabitatThis is a widespread species in xeric and other dry to rocky or sandy forests. It often occurs on bluffs and steep slopes and ridgetops. Unlike most other ericads, it can be numerous on high pH soils, at least where sandy or rocky, such as on some Piedmont monadnocks over mafic rocks in the Uwharrie Mountains. It does not occur in wetlands or in moist soil.
See also Habitat Account for General Upland Heath Thickets
PhenologyBlooms from late April into June; fruits in September and October.
IdentificationThis is one of the few “tree” species of ericad, at least in the Southeast. It is easily identified by its tall stature, typically 10-30’ tall, often with a single trunk; and by its evergreen or tardily deciduous leaves. Thus, in our area the “tree” remains green all winter. It has small (barely 1” long), rounded, dark green and shiny leaves that differ from nearly all other such woody plants in our area. When in bloom, the species is heavily adorned with an abundance of small white urn-shaped flowers that hang downward and are heavily used by insects for nectar.
Taxonomic CommentsGenerally not split into varieties, but the named variety V. arboreum var. glaucescens may have some merit as a recognized variety (fide Weakley 2018).

Other Common Name(s)Farkleberry is almost as widely used as Sparkleberry. But, what is “farkle”, in terms of botany?!
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