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The Henry and the Huckleberries Website: About the Flora and Fauna
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Many other poisonous berries can be mistaken for something edible. For more information on the huckleberry:

On our title page (and throughout the book):

Huckleberries: The huckleberry (gaylussacia baccata) grows wild in the woods of New England to a height around 3’. It has dark blue, slightly tart berries, each of which, unlike a blueberry, has 10 edible seeds inside. Each shiny berry is usually a bit bigger than a blueberry, about 1/4 - 3/8” in diameter. The word huckleberry may have been coined by Henry David Thoreau himself, who said its name came from the hurtleberry. Animals, such as birds, deer, and especially bears, love to eat huckleberries. Native Americans dried the berries. In cooking, the huckleberry is used very similarly to the blueberry. There are many different species of huckleberry.

Henry guided many summertime huckleberry parties around Concord and knew all of the best places in the woods around Walden Pond to find them. They bore fruit from mid-July to early August. When Henry was a boy, the public schools in Concord closed for a day in the summer for people to pick berries.

wood thrush
One of the ways huckleberry seeds are scattered is by animals, especially birds. The bird at left is the wood thrush. In the summertime, the wood thrush (hylocichla mustelina) can be found all over the eastern half of the U.S. It has a pot belly that is white with dark spots and short tail. You will likely hear it rather than see it, as it is a shy, reclusive bird. It has a beautiful call, with a high flute-like “ee--oh--lay” arpeggio. You can hear the wood thrush here:

The American robin (turdus migratorius) is a member of the thrush family. With its distinctive “red breast,” the robin is widely seen throughout Concord, New England, and all of North America, and inhabits both populated areas as well as woodlands and wild areas. It is one of the first birds to sing at dawn, a true “early bird.” Its musical call is often described as “cheerio” or “cheerily.” In his book Walden, Henry recounts that a robin built a nest in a pine tree next to his cabin. You can hear the robin’s call on many websites and on youtube. Here are two links:

monarch butterfly
The monarch butterfly (danaus plexippus) is found throughout North America, Central America, South America, Australia, and Western Europe. Its wingspan is about 4 inches. It late summer/early fall it travels thousands of miles, migrating south to Florida, Mexico, and California. Considered the most beautiful of butterflies (hence the “king” or “monarch” of the butterfly world), it is one of the most easily spotted and recognized due to its distinctive coloration which deters predators.

mallard duck
The mallard duck (anas platyrhynchos) is one of the most familiar of ducks. The male is quite distinctive with its green head and white neck ring. The ducks are found almost anywhere, in natural lakes, ponds, and marshes, as well as in man-made ponds in urban parks. For more information and to hear its voice:



Pennyroyal (mentha pulegium) is a type of mint that was brought to America by the Pilgrims. In New England, it blooms with a lilac-colored flower in July and August. It is found wild near ponds and streams. It is one of the most aromatic members of the mint family, so it is not surprising that Henry would have smelled it if he had stepped on it, as he recounts in his diary. Pennyroyal has been used as a medicinal herb and used in tea. It is also possible that Henry stepped on American pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides), which also has a strong mint-like aroma and a similarly colored and appearing flower. Other names for this type of pennyroyal are tickweed and American false pennyroyal.


white pine

The white pine (pinus strobus) is the tallest pine tree that grows in eastern North America. Many birds and squirrels are attracted to white pine trees for both food and shelter. One of the main characteristics of the white pine is that the needles are in groups of 5. The cones of the white pine are fairly thin, about 3-6” long. White pines are fairly long lived--some living over 400 years. It can grow as high as 225 feet; most mature trees are over 120 feet. The bark of a young white pine is smooth; on a mature tree it is deeply furrowed. The white pine is the state tree of Maine and Michigan. During colonial times, white pines were used for ship masts because the trunks grow very straight. Henry David Thoreau said of the white pine: “There is no finer tree.” See this
>wikipedia article<
footnote 13: Thoreau, Henry David (1861). The Writings of Henry David Thoreau: Journal. p. 33. The Writings of Henry David Thoreau: Journal, ed. by B. Torrey, 1837-1846, 1850-Nov. 3, 1861, Houghton Mifflin, 1906
  The swamp maple (acer rubrum) is also known as the red maple. It is often one of the first trees to turn red in the late summer/early fall. It prefers to grow in wet, swampy areas, but can be found in many different environments, and usually grows to 40-50 feet high. It is found throughout the eastern U.S. and in Canada.
  The wood frog (lithobates sylvaticus) is a small frog, ranging from about 1.5” to 3.25.” It lives in forested, woodsy areas, under logs and rocks. It likes to eat insects, spiders, and worms. The wood frog has a characteristic black mark over its eyes that make it look a bit as if it is wearing a robber’s eye mask. It usually does not live longer than three years. Wood frogs can survive in very cold climates. They do so by freezing; they produce a type of anti-freeze that prevents their cells from turning to ice, but their breathing stops and their hearts stop beating. Ice forms between their cells, however, and they thaw out in the spring. Wood frog tadpoles can tell their brothers and sisters from other tadpoles.

white-throated sparrow
The white-throated sparrow (lonotrichia albicollis) is known for its distinctive song “Oh, sweet Canada.” This sparrow enjoys a forest habitat and is found in Canada as well as in New England. It likes to spend the winter in the eastern and southern U.S. as well as in California. In addition to its white throat, this sparrow has wonderful markings on its face and head with two spots of yellow on either side of black and white stripes. In our story, she is sitting on a white oak tree. You can hear the white throated sparrow here:

The veery (Catharus fuscescens) is a member of the thrush family, cinnamon-brown in color with a light colored breast with very faint spots. The veery looks for food on the forest floor, eating insects and berries, including, of course, huckleberries.  It is found in the northern U.S. and in souther Canada. It migrates to South America for the winter. The veery’s song is one of the most beautiful of all the birds in the woods. It also makes a harsher sounding “veer” call. You can hear the veery here: 

white birch
The white birch tree (betula papyrifera) is also known as the paper birch tree, because its white bark can be peeled off in thin sheets. Because the bark is strong but bendable, it was used to make canoes and baskets by Native Americans. The sap is used for birch beer soda and for medicinal purposes. Found throughout New England and eastern Canada and across the U.S. (except in the south) the white birch is the state tree of New Hampshire. It grows to a height of 50-70 feet and is rather short-lived for a tree, living to around 140 years.
  The partridge berry (mitchella repens) is found throughout the eastern half of North America and as far west as Texas as a ground cover on the forest floor. It has a white flower in the spring and then bright red berries against small dark green leaves. It is about 2” high.
  The turkey tail tree mushroom (trametes versicolor), a type of bracket fungus, is found throughout the woods of North America, usually on dead trees or stumps or branches. It takes its name from its resemblance to the tail of a wild turkey. The undersides have pores rather than gills, as in a shitake or portobello mushroom.
  Indian pipes (monotropa uniflora) is also known as the Ghost Plant. It grows near tree roots where there are a lot of leaves and helps to provide nutrients to the tree. It in turn takes nutrients from the roots of the tree. It can grow in the dark and is white because it is not dependent on photosynthesis. Indian pipes are increasingly rare. It flowers from June to September.

black oak leaf

white oak leaf

There were many types of oak trees growing around Walden Pond, including the white oak (quercus alba) and the black oak (quercus velutina). The leaves of the white oak have rounded ends while the black oak has pointed ends to its leaves. White oak trees do not produce acorns until they are around 50 years old.

red-tailed hawk
The red-tailed hawk (buteo jamaicensis) is one of the most common hawks in North America, according to the Cornell Ornithology Lab. It has broad wings and a short tail. You will see it soaring over fields and open spaces.

blue heron
The blue heron (ardea herodias) can be seen at a lake or river shore, statuesquely still as it looks for prey or camouflages itself. In flight, you can see its long legs extended as it tucks in its long neck and slowly beats its wings.