Several North Forkers are helping out with this huckleberry study . . .
Huckleberry enthusiasm has been elevated to obsession in Northwest Montana, where purveyors of the seasonal fruit advertise products ranging from jams, pies, salads and milkshakes to candles, coffee, wine and beer — even huckleberry-flavored cartridges for electronic cigarettes.
Yet for the scientists who know that the berries play a key role in the ecosystems of Northern Rockies, a full understanding of the huckleberry plant remains elusive.
“That’s one of the allures of the huckleberry, you know — you can’t grow them in your backyard,” said Tabitha Graves, a U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist based in Glacier National Park. “I think up until this point, they haven’t really had a level of research that would be appropriate for their role in the ecosystem.”
Graves is conducting a multiyear monitoring project in the park, hoping to gain an understanding of where the most productive berry plants grow and what conditions drive the timing of the crop and allow the plants to thrive.