Fool's Huckleberry
Menziesia ferruginea Sm.

According to Pursh (1813: 264), Lewis found the plant "on the Columbia river." It is impossible to tell from the available information whether he gathered the more coastal var. ferruginea or the inland var. glabella (A. Gray) M. E. Peck (Man. Pl. Oregon: 542. 1941) as both occur along the Columbia River. If the date (June) given by Pursh is an indication of when Lewis gathered the plant then most likely he found the var. glabella as by then the expedition was in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho where the taxon is the common phase. (Source)

Fool's huckleberry is an erect, rather straggly shrub growing to 3 m tall. The twigs are hairy and slightly sticky. The leaves are alternate, deciduous, and occur in clusters almost like false whorls along the stems. The blades are thin, oval, 3-5 cm, light green to bluish-green, and toothed. The 4-parted flowers are pinkish to yellowish-white, pendent bells borne in small clusters on the previous years' growth. The fruits are dry dehiscent capsules (hence the common name). Fool's huckleberry grows in shady to open coniferous forests with moist, acid soils and along stream banks from middle to subalpine elevations. It is found throughout the western U. S.

Food Uses
The fruit is about 5 - 7mm in diameter and is edible fresh or dried. The nectar may be sucked from the flowers to sweeten the mouth.

Medicinal Uses
The leaves are cardiac. They have been chewed to relieve heart pain and treat stomach problems. A poultice of the heated leaves has been applied to sores and swellings.

Value for Animals:
The fool's huckleberry's value to wildlife is primarily as food. In Idaho and Montana, elk used fool's huckleberry in considerable amounts in July, and to a lesser extent in October. Elk rarely eat menziesia when it occurs with more palatable browse species.  Mule deer use fool's huckleberry moderately in summer and fall in the western states. This shrub provides fair summer browse for deer and elk. 

Planting
Requires a lime-free humus-rich moist soil in sun or light shade. Prefers moderate shade, especially on the roots, but it can also succeed in full sun. Grows well in a woodland garden. Dormant plants are hardy to about -20c[200]. The young growth in spring is susceptible to damage by late frosts but the plants are otherwise of easy cultivation. Flowers are produced on the previous years wood.

Cuttings of semi-ripe wood, 2 - 5cm with a heel, May/June in a frame. Keep them shaded. The cuttings are very slow to root but usually a good percentage will succeed. Division in early spring just before active growth begins.  (PFAF)

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