Scientific name: Vaccinium stamineum
Cover photo credit: Rob Tervo
“Threatened” means the species lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered, but is likely to become endangered if steps are not taken to address factors threatening it.
Date added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List
The Deerberry was already assessed as threatened when the Endangered Species Act took effect in 2008.
What it looks like
Deerberry is an upright, spreading, deciduous shrub that belongs to the Heath family, and is closely related to blueberries and cranberries. It rarely reaches more than one metre in height. The leaves of Deerberry are alternate, oval, dark green on top and a whitish colour underneath, with no teeth.
The young twigs are quite hairy but lose their hair and develop peeling bark with age. In early summer, Deerberry produces clusters of hanging white flowers. The fruit is a greenish-blue berry that contains a few soft seeds and ripens by August.
Where it lives
In Canada, Deerberry is found in habitats where the climate is moderated by their proximity to large bodies of water such as the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers and to Lake Ontario.
Within Ontario, Deerberry is found predominately in dry open woods on sandy and well-drained soils growing under oaks, Pitch Pine or White Pine.
Where it’s been found in Ontario
Deerberry ranges from New York State, Ohio, and Missouri south to Florida and eastern Texas. In Canada, it only occurs in two areas in Ontario – the Niagara region and the Thousand Islands region. There are six extant populations of Deerberry in Ontario, five of them in the Thousand Islands region.
What threatens it
The primary threats to Deerberry in Canada are not clearly understood but may include fire suppression, lack of genetic diversity, and habitat loss and degradation.
Recreational activity may be a threat in that a number of the Deerberry populations are located near trails, leaving the species susceptible to trampling.
Action we are taking
Threatened Species and their general habitat are automatically protected
A recovery strategy advises the ministry on ways to ensure healthy numbers of the species return to Ontario.
Read the executive summary (February 18, 2010)
Read the recovery strategy (February 18, 2010)
Government response statement
A government response statement outlines the actions the government intends to take or support to help recover the species.
Read the government response statement (November 18, 2010)
Five-Year Review of Progress
A five-year review reports on progress made toward protecting and recovering a species, within five years of publishing a species’ government response statement.
Read the report on progress towards the protection and recovery of 13 species at risk, including Deerberry (2015)
General Habitat Protection - June 30, 2013
What you can do
Report a Sighting
- Report a sighting of an endangered animal or plant to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful.
- Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
Be a good steward
- Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. If you find Deerberry on your land, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
- Invasive species seriously threaten many of Ontario’s species at risk. To learn what you can do to help reduce the threat of invasive species, visit:
- Consider becoming a member of the Friends of Niagara Parks – Niagara Glen Group, a group of volunteers who work with Niagara Parks’ staff and other partner organizations to undertake stewardship initiatives to benefit wildlife, including species at risk in the Niagara Glen.
Report illegal activity
- Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to
- Deerberry is pollinated by insects and can spread by seed dispersal by birds and other animals, or by underground rhizomes that can form colonies covering several square metres.
- In the United States, Deerberry often occurs in habitats that are dependent on fire to persist, and it is believed that fire may play a role in seed germination. In Canada, Deerberry plants do produce seed but there is no evidence of seedling establishment.
- Efforts are being made at St. Lawrence Islands National Park to re-introduce Deerberry to other areas of the park where the habitat is suitable, in order to increase the overall numbers of the species. Related research is being carried out in partnership with universities.
- The scientific name for Deerberry – stamineum – comes from the Latin word for ‘stamen that stick out’, and the flowers of this species have a stamen that extends well beyond the petals.