Species Profile


Scientific Name: Vaccinium stamineum
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2000
Last COSEWIC Designation: Threatened
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Deerberry

Deerberry Photo 1



Deerberry is an upright, spreading, deciduous shrub that belongs to the heath family and is quite closely related to blueberries and cranberries. I t is a low-lying shrub, rarely growing over one meter tall. Its oval-shaped, alternate leaves are dark green on top and a whitish underneath, and have untoothed edges. Young twigs are hairy but become smooth and develop peeling, papery bark through time. Deerberry flowers in early summer. Clusters of pendant white flower are attached to long slender stalks. The fruit is a greenish to bluish juicy berry that falls upon ripening; it contains a few soft seeds.


Distribution and Population

Deerberry occurs across the eastern United States from New York State, Ohio, and Missouri south to Florida and easternmost Texas. In Canada, it occurs in southern and southeastern Ontario. In 1992, Deerberry was known to occur in two areas in Canada: the Niagara River near Niagara Falls in southern Ontario, and the Thousand Island area in the St. Lawrence River in southeastern Ontario. Since 1992, one new population has been discovered close to the location of a population that was previously known but had disappeared. Since 2001, there are six known Canadian populations (two near the Niagara River and four in the Thousand Islands area). Deerberry may have been common in the Niagara area when it was first collected in 1798. The area has since been disturbed by development. Due to clonal growth the easiest way to estimate Deerberry population size is by counting clumps. Previously, there was no evidence that the species was expanding at any of its Canadian sites. The 2001 estimate from the Niagara Region indicated that there are two clumps of Deerberry, with the population declining over the last decade. In the Thousand Islands region, the 2001 population estimate is 15 clumps, and has remained relatively stable since the 1960s.



Deerberry is found in the areas of Canada that have the warmest climates and longest growing seasons in the country. The climate is moderated year round by their proximity to the Niagara and St. Lawrence rivers and to Lake Ontario. Within these areas, deerberry inhabits dry open woods near the Niagara River and on islands in the St. Lawrence River. The species occurs on sandy and well-drained soil, and some sites where Deerberry is found have a history of fire.



Deerberry is pollinated by insects and its fruit usually ripen by August. The shrub spreads in two ways: through seed dispersal by birds and animals, and by vegetative reproduction from its rhizome (underground stem that is usually horizontal and has roots growing from below and stems from above). Deerberry often occurs in burned areas in the United States. It is thought that fire may be important in both seed germination and the control of other shrubs and trees that compete with it. In Canada, Deerberry populations produce seed but seedling establishment is not apparent.



The main limiting factor for Deerberry is unknown. Lack of suitable climactic conditions, fire suppression, lack of dispersal, low seedling recruitment, lack of genetic diversity, and habitat disturbance and fragmentation may all play a role. The Niagara area is one of the most highly developed areas of Canada. In addition, populations in the St. Lawrence Islands National Park and one of the Niagara River populations occur next to well-used trails and are at risk from both trampling and trail maintenance. The population that has most recently been discovered is at risk from mowing by a private landowner.



Federal Protection

The Deerberry is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Deerberry Recovery Team

  • Chris Burns - Chair/Contact - Government of Ontario
    Phone: 613-258-8417  Fax: 613-258-3920  Send Email


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date Niagara and Thousand Islands, the two Ontario Deerberry habitats, have been considered separately during recovery activities to ensure that they receive site specific restoration initiatives. St. Lawrence Islands National Park has been educating park visitors about Deerberry for many years and has a Deerberry recovery plan for the park. The recovery plan includes having seedlings grown, transplanting them, caring for them, and monitoring them. The program is small, but successful, with a survivorship of 73% over the period from 1993-2000. As a result of landscape-level genetic research, there is better understanding of the species’ means of reproduction and its genetic diversity throughout its range. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Deerberry, and other species at risk, are being inventoried and mapped in areas of the Niagara River Gorge and Thousand Islands. Genetic analysis of the Niagara and Thousand Islands populations are underway and aim to determine the mode of reproduction and the genetic differences between the two populations. Experimental propagation techniques have determined that Deerberry can readily be grown from seed. Deerberry cuttings are being grown at the Parks Commission Gardening School. Maintaining the seedlings, which are grown in pots for the first two years, can be difficult. It is critical that the young plants be cared for several years before and after they have been planted in their permanent site. Summary of Recovery Activities The Deerberry is one of many species at risk included in the Niagara River Gorge Ecosystem Restoration Plan. This project targets multiple species at risk in order to sustain the overall ecological integrity of the threatened ecosystem. Signs have been posted in the Niagara Glen/Whirlpool area to inform trail users about the risks of their actions on nearby species at risk, such as the Deerberry, and to promote a stewardship ethic. The entrances to the trails are being relocated to completely avoid Deerberry habitat and to preserve and protect the known species at risk habitat. The self-sustaining Thousand Islands population and its suitable habitat are being maintained by preventing development and urbanization from destroying more of the natural vegetation of the region. Re-introduction and site restoration is taking place at the St. Lawrence Islands National Park and Niagara National Historic Site. Seedlings have been successfully transplanted at Grenadier and Lyndoch Islands and are carefully being monitored by staff from St. Lawrence Islands National Park. URLs Ontario’s Biodiversity: Deerberry: http://www.rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php?doc_type=fact&id=26


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

3 record(s) found.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum) in Canada (2010)

    Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum) is a short, colonial shrub in the Heath family, in the genus Vaccinium which includes blueberries and cranberries. Deerberry is designated as threatened by both the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO). Deerberry is listed as threatened under Schedule 1 of the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) and under the Species at Risk in Ontario List (Ontario Reg. 230/08).

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Thousand Islands National Park of Canada (2016)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Thousand Islands National Park of Canada is a Species At Risk Act action plan (SARA s.47) for four species: American Water-willow (Justicia americana), Butternut (Juglans cinerea), Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum), and Pugnose Shiner (Notropis anogenus). The plan also outlines measures to monitor and manage 30 other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in the park. This plan applies only to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Thousand Islands National Park of Canada.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

  • Description of critical habitat of Deerberry in St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada (2011)

    Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum) is a species listed on Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act as threatened. Deerberry is a colonial shrub that occurs naturally at three sites within St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada. Critical habitat for Deerberry is identified within the final Recovery Strategy for the Deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum) in Canada.