Plants 2-4 dm, forming small to extensive colonies; branches spreading or procumbent; twigs of current season pale green to grayish brown, (strongly angled), puberulent. Leaves persistent; petiole 0.5-3 mm; blade pale green abaxially, shiny dark green adaxially, ovate, 1-2.5 × 0.5-1.3 cm, coriaceous, base rounded, margins crenate or serrulate, (revolute), apex obtuse, without resinous dots, surfaces glabrous adaxially, glabrous or puberulent along midvein and near blade base. Inflorescences spreading, 2-5-flowered, sometimes flowers solitary, ebracteate, 0.5-1 cm, puberulent. Pedicels 0.5-3 mm, glabrous; bracteoles (early deciduous), 1-3, (ovate), 2-4 mm, (margins ciliate). Flowers: sepals 4-5, 0.3-0.5 mm, glabrous; petals 4-5, corolla white to pink, campanulate-urceolate, 4 mm, lobes broadly deltate to rounded, 0.5-1.5 mm; filaments 1-1.5 mm, glabrous; anthers included, 1-1.5 mm, thecae not divergent distally; ovary glabrous. Drupes juicy, sweet, light blue, 6-8 mm diam., glabrous. Seeds 1-1.5 mm. Flowering late spring-early summer. Upland or montane woods; (10-)200-1000 m; Del., Ky., Md., N.C., Pa., Tenn., Va., W.Va. Gaylussacia brachycera is a dwarf evergreen shrub that forms large, solid-mat, self-sterile colonies, each one appearing to consist of a single clone that may extend over more than one hectare. One colony in Perry County, Pennsylvania, is about 1.5 kilometers wide; it appears to be a single clone that is over 12,000 years old and has been labeled as the oldest living thing in the world.
Plants not glandular; stems 2-4 dm, bearing a conspicuous ridge below the base of each lf; colonial by long, woody rhizomes; lvs leathery, evergreen, elliptic, 12-22 mm, finely serrulate, glabrous; racemes few-fld, subsessile, shorter than the subtending lvs; cor 5 mm; fr dark blue, edible. Wooded hillsides, chiefly in the mts.; Md. and Del. to Pa., Ky., and e. Tenn.; very local except in W.Va. May, June. (Buxella b.)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.