[Tweeters] (My) World's Largest Evergreen Huckleberry

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign15 at gmail.com
Tue Jan 15 10:04:59 PST 2019

This past week I've been forting around Port Townsend, both Fort Worden and
Fort Townsend, and saw cool things.

On several walks around Artillery Hill at Fort Worden, I've gotten into the
habit of Yew Watching: While birds are few in the winter forest, and
flighty besides, Yew's can be depended on to stay in one place so one can
go back and visit them. The more I went looking for Yew's, the more I
noticed. I have an affinity for Yew's - a small charismatic conifer that
generally takes a short droopy form in the understory of taller conifers:
At least, I consider them charismatic. Whatever.

Anyhoo, I took my freshly- honed Yew finding skills down to Fort Townsend,
with it's great Yew habitat of tall timber. Fort Townsend is also a sorta
interesting habitat for other things like Pacific Rhododendron's and
Evergreen Huckleberry's , which make standout understory shrubs here - a
relatively uncommon habitat these days in Washington State.

Alas, the winter forest was a quart short of birds: a Hairy Woodpecker,
couple of Raven's and Varied Thrush,several Golden-crown Kinglets, a Winter
Wren (oop's, mean Pacific), and several Junco's was about all I saw in the
forest over two trips. So, mostly undistracted by birds I could focus on
plant appreciation. It really is a pleasant forest, albeit a tad dark even
on a clear day at high noon - not much direct sun gets in there.

While I was yew-dee-doing around enjoying the unique shrubbery of the
place, and finding Yew''s, I came around a bend in the trail, and spotted
another Yew at the edge of a sorta open spot. This particular vegetable had
the somewhat open form with somewhat droopy branch tips typical of
understory yews. But as I walked past it on the trail and got a closer
look, I realized it was an Evergreen Huckleberry. The Largest Evergreen
Huckleberry I've Ever Seen! Really! Let me explain.

In the Fort Townsend forest are many Evergreen Huckleberry's about as big
as they get: Huckleberry bushes arching up to 12 or maybe even 15' are not
uncommon, though most are less. I think I can be forgiven for assuming "My"
plant was a small Yew tree - it looked like one: it starts off with a
single trunk about 7ft tall. The trunk, sort of oval, measures about 3" x
6" at breast height, or 16" in circumference (19" a foot off the ground).
Above this trunk it branches out widely (and sparsely) to a "crown" 24ft
across. Near as I could tell, it was a bit more than 20ft tall. (will go
back later to double-check.on that - all other measurements good).

Of course, how would the National Registry of Real Big Shrubs rate it? Who
knows. It would score real good on trunk diameter I'd say, and on height.
Spread was in one direction only - it's sort of a narrow fan shape - might
be hard to quantify. How 'bout those intangibles? Like, 'good-lookin",
"funky", "charismatic" ,"one- half to three-quarters dead" or what have
you. I guess I'd go with a "funky/charismatic" score, whatever that might

By the way, although the plant looks a bit straggly down low, in it's upper
reaches it has healthy growth. While it is a bit funky, it's strong! I gave
the trunk a hard shove and found it to be rooted in solid as a rock. Long
may it live.

Well, that's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

Jeff Gibson
lurking in the shrubs of
Port Townsend Wa
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