E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Gaultheria shallon Pursh
Ericaceae (Crowberry family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Lydia Dani  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #74934)

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Distribution of Gaultheria shallon
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Species Information

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Creeping to erect shrub; stems branched, mostly to 1.5 m tall, but up to 3 m tall and sometimes forming impenetrable thickets, hairy.
Alternate, evergreen, thick, leathery, egg-shaped to egg-shaped-elliptic, 3-9 cm long, 1.5-6.5 cm wide, usually abruptly sharp-pointed at tip, rounded or more or less heart-shaped at base, sharply and finely toothed, glabrous; stalks short.
Inflorescences of 5-15 flowers in terminal and axillary, bracted racemes, 4-10 cm long, the flowering stems finely- and glandular-hairy; flowers all nodding, flower stalks 3-10 mm long, with 1-2 bracts; corollas white to pinkish, urn-shaped, 5-lobed, 7-9 mm long, short glandular-hairy; calyces soft glandular-hairy, about 1/2 the length of corolla; anthers with 4 slender apical awns, dehiscing by 2 large subterminal pores.
Berrylike, purplish-black at maturity, glandular, hairy, fleshy, 5-10 mm wide.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Mid Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Purple
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Dry to wet forests and bogs in the lowland and montane zones; common in W BC, rare in SE BC; N to SE AK and S along the coast to CA.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Additional Notes

This lovely BC native has leathery mid green, evergreen foliage on arching stems. The spring flowers hang like tiny white to pale pink bells and are followed by edible black berries that were prized by First Nations peoples. Great for the woodland garden, in dry shade...

Note Author: Gary Lewis, Phoenix Perennials


Ecological Framework for Gaultheria shallon

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 219 1700
Slope Gradient (%) 0 23 220
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 201 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: CDF(192), CWH(2411), ICH(5), IDF(4), MH(30)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to montane, Western North American evergreen shrub distributed mainly in the Pacific and marginally in the Cordilleran region. Occurs in hypermaritime to maritime cool mesothermal climates on nitrogen-poor soils; its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation and continentality. Often dominant in open­canopy coniferous forests on water-shedding sites; forms thickets on cutover areas with relatively undisturbed forest floors. On nutrient-rich sites, restricted to decaying coniferous wood; on wet sites, on topographic prominences. Absent or sporadic in the shaded understory of immature, closed-canopy stands. Due to its extensive horizontal root system in the uppermost soil layer and decay-resistant foliage and roots, high cover of salal reduces available soil water and/ or decomposition of forest floor materials. These features hinder forest regeneration and growth, particularly on moisture-deficient sites. An oxylophytic species characteristic of Mor humus forms.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool mesothermal.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References