Contact your local county extension agent for assistance in identification.
Only taste berries after you have identified the plant and verified that the berries are edible to avoid illness or death associated with poisonous berries.
Though the name "huckleberry" applies to plant species within different genera, when identifying wild huckleberries, look for those belonging to Vaccinium species like V. membranaceum, according to Purdue University Agriculture. Known by many names, including thinleaf huckleberry and big huckleberry, this perennial shrub produces edible berries sometimes sold at local farmers markets, as these wild berries are not commercially produced. Pay special attention to color when identifying wild huckleberries to differentiate them from other visually similar berry plants.
Look for a deciduous shrub with an semi-erect habit. Examine foliage and twigs that take on a dense appearance with a green leaf display. Feel the twigs and consider their color, as young twigs display a smooth, yellow-green hue while older wild huckleberry plants exhibit gray bark that crumbles from the branch, according to the Virginia Tech Forest Department of Resources and Environmental Conservation.
Turn to the berries that ripen during the end of summer to distinguish this shrub from other berry shrubs. Taste the berries, provided you are sure they are clean and free of chemical treatments, such as herbicides. Wild huckleberries are prized for their delicious flavor. Identify huckleberries by comparing them to blueberries and red huckleberries, which look similar, though wild huckleberries have a black color, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Measure the berry's diameter, which reaches 1/2 inch.
Take a closer look at the simple leaves that appear in different forms, including ovate or elliptical. Measure leaves, looking for a length of up to 1 1/2 inches. Run your finger along the edges of the leaf to feel the delicately toothed texture.
Expect an autumn foliage color change of purple or red, according to the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation.
Examine flowers that bloom during the end of spring. Look for purple to pink blossoms measuring approximately 1/4 inch in length.
Measure the height of the entire shrub. Look for a shrub that measures less than 4 1/2 feet tall, particularly well-established plants, as a shrub that exceeds this total height is likely not a wild huckleberry.
Tarah Damask's writing career began in 2003 and includes experience as a fashion writer/editor for Neiman Marcus, short fiction publications in "North Texas Review," a self-published novel, band biographies, charter school curriculum and articles for various websites. Damask holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of North Texas.