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Scott Williams

Questions about Ethnobotany?

Scott Clay-Poole, PhD

Ethnobotany - Shrubs/Trees

Acer circinatum (Vine maple)
Acer glabrum (Rocky Mountain maple)
Acer macrophyllum (Big-leaf maple)
Alnus rubra (Red alder)
Amelanchier alnifolia (Serviceberry)
Arbutus menziesii (Madrone)
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)
Artemisia spp. (Sagebrush)
Berberis spp. (Oregon grape)
Betula papyrifera (Paper birch)
Cornus nuttallii (Pacific dogwood)
Cornus stolonifera (Red-Osier dogwood)
Corylus cornuta (Hazelnut)
Crataegus douglasii (Black hawthorne
Empetrum nigrum (Crowberry)
Gaultheria shallon (Salal)
Malus fusca (Wild crabapple)
Mahonia spp. (Oregon grape)
Oemleria cerasiformis (Indian plum)
Opuntia fragilis (Brittle cholla)
Philadelphus lewisii (Mock-Orange)
Populus tremuloides (Quaking aspen)
Populus trichocarpa (Black cottonwood)
Prunus emarginata (Bitter cherry)
Prunus virginiana (Choke cherry)
Quercus garryana (Garry oak)
Rhamnus purshiana (Cascara)
Ribes spp. (Currants/Gooseberries)
Rosa spp. (Wild roses)
Rubus parviflorus (Thimbleberry)
Rubus spectabilis (Salmonberry)
Rubus spp. (Blackberries/Raspberries)
Salix spp. (Willows)
Sambucus racemosa (Red elderberry)
Shepherdia canadensis (Soapberry)
Vaccinium parvifolium (Red huckleberry)
Vaccinium spp. (Blueberry group)
Viburnum edule (Highbush cranberry

By Scott Clay-Poole, PhD

Acer circinatum - Vine Maple
Acer circinatum - Habitat with sword fern
Acer circinatum - bark
Acer circinatum - seed

Acer Circinatum - Vine Maple
Aceraceae (Vine Family)

Deciduous tree, to 20 meters high, it has a short, crooked trunk, with twisted, spreading limbs and a low, irregularly shaped crown. The trunk sometimes grows almost horizontally and may root if it touches the ground. Leaves opposite, almost circular, 6-11 cm wide, with 7-9 lobes; the lobes are triangular, with sharp single or double teeth, bright yellowish-green on top, pale green and downy underneath, turning red or yellow in autumn. Flowers in small loose clusters, emerging with the leaves; sepals hairy spreading, red; petals white, with acute, hooded apex. Fruit glabrous, wings spreading 180o with each other, up to 50 mm long, and quite red when ripe.

Habitat:Vine maple occurs most frequently on moist soils, rich in nitrogen, particularly along the banks of streams and wet sites. It can live in the shade but also occurs in openings in the forest. Vine maple and alder are often the first trees to establish after landslides. Vine maple commonly occurs with bigleaf maple, Douglas-fir, western hemlock, grand fir, and Pacific dogwood, and sword fern underneath.  Range is mostly coastal Washington at lower and middle elevations. There are though sporadic occurrences in wetter places east of Cascades.......head of Lake Chelan, also some valley bottoms north of Peshastin.

Many First Peoples used vine maple occasionally for bows and frames for fishing nets. Some groups used the wood for making snowshoes and cradle frames. Its long straight shoots are appreciated for making an openwork basket with a crossed-warp twine or a broad-spaced checker board weave.  These baskets are used for general household utility, such as carrying wood, clams, and fish. Some used saplings as swings for babies' cradles. Also salmon tongs were made from the wood. In many places it is used for firewood, and the charcoal was mixed with oil for black paint.

[Gunther, 1981; Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]


Acer glabrum - Rocky Mountain maple
Rocky Mountain maple leaf
Rocky Mountain maple winged fruit (samara)
Acer glabrum - Rocky Mountain maple)
Aceraceae (Maple Family)

Deciduous tree/shrub to 33 feet. Leaves are opposite, 1-4 inches across divided into 3-5 lobes, coarsely toothed, and turning bright yellowish-orange to crimson in fall. Flowers are greenish-yellow, small in terminal or auxiliary clusters of about 10, appearing with the leaves. Male and female flowers on separate or same plant. Fruits are tan, paired, attached at the seed both with single wing pointing opposite in the same plane. They float from the tree as a propeller, spiraling downward.

Habitat:  Dry ridges to moist but well-drained seepage sites; usually on drier, more open sites than vine maple; low to middle elevations.
Use:  The wood was used for snowshoe frames. One tribe of southern Vancouver Island used the bark to make an antidote for poisoning.

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]


Big Leaf Maple leaves
Big Leaf Maple flower
Big Leaf maple seed
Acer macrophyllum - Big-Leaf Maple
Aceraceae (Maple Family)

Deciduous tree, 10-30 meters high, winter buds with overlapping or with 2 outer scales. Leaves opposite, palmately lobed and 15-30 cm broad, deeply 5-lobed and irregularly coarsely notched. Flowers colored yellowish or greenish in long drooping clusters appearing just before or as the leaves unfold (April); calyx 5-12 lobed; petals as many as calyx-lobes or wanting; stamens 3-12; carpels 2 or 3, with 2 ovules each; styles 2, united below. Fruit 2, long-winged (to 50 mm/wing) (samara), with yellow stiff hairs on nutlets.........floating downward as a spiral-winged helicopter.
Habitat:  Dry to moist sites, often with Douglas-fir, red alder, western red-cedar and western hemlock, often on sites disturbed by fire, clearing or logging; at low to middle elevations (<3000'), mostly western Washington but found in some drainages on the eastern side (Chelan and Klickitat Counties, near Peshastin and Entiat).

Use:  The fresh cambium has been eaten in small quantities. The cambium was constipating, so was eaten with oil. It was also occasionally dried in cris-cross strips for winter. The inner bark was also used to make baskets, rope and whisks for whipping soopolalie berries. Some First Peoples ate young maple shoots raw, and also boiled and ate the sprouts when they were about 3 cm tall. The leaves, like Skunk Cabbage leaves, were used as a base for drying berries. The large leaves were also used for storing food during the winter or burned in steaming pits to add flavor to food.

The wood was made into paddles. It was also used for spindle whorls and various other implements such as oars, combs, fish/duck spearheads, and fish clubs.

[Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991; Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]


Red Alder leaf
Red Alder flower
Red Alder bark

Alnus rubra - Red Alder
Betulaceae (Birch Family)

Tree to 60-70 feet high, and diameter of old trees to 40 inches; bark thin, greenish on young trees, turning grey to whitish with age. The inner bark and fresh wounds tend to turn deep reddish-orange when exposed to moist air. Leaves to 6" or more in length, ovate to oval, acute, pubescent on veins beneath, petioles and veins rusty-red. Flowers opening before the leaves, on the branchlets of last year. Male flowers are borne in long, haning, clustered catkins which ripen in early spring. Female cone catkins 4-8, are 1" long, on short stalks, which are green at first, then turn brown and woody at maturity. This woody cone produces a narrow-winged, small, flat nutlet for a seed.

Habitat: Moist woods, swampy areas and recently cleared ground. Red alder does not tolerate shade and occupies a site quickly after disturbance. It grows rapidly, often shading out conifers such as Douglas-fir, It tends to occur on sites rich in nutrients, including floodplains and streambanks. Red alder occurs with all of the low elevation coastal tree species, including black cottonwood, grand fir, Douglas-fir, and the cedars. It tends to be associated with a dense layer of shrubs and herbs, including salmonberry, red elderberry, and several ferns.

Use:   Many ate the sweet, gelatinous cambium tissue, between the bark and the wood. It was scraped off and eaten fresh, in the spring, usually with some kind of oil, or dried in cakes for winter use. Some mixed it with sugar (Turner, 95).

The wood of red alder was the preferred fuel for smoking salmon and other foods, and alder wood was often used for wooden food dishes, because it does not impart strong flavor to the food.

Alder was the main source of red and brown vegetable coloring. A piece of alder wood was boiled in water, boiled right down until the water was dark red. Then the wood was taken out and powdered ochre pigment was added to the liquid. It was boiled and stirred again until it was nearly dry, then "one or two drops" of salmon oil were added. It was stirred until it was very thick, taken off the heat and placed on a piece of bark, then left to dry. Finally, it was powdered and was then ready for use as a paint. Usually, it was the bark of the alder, steeped in water, that was used as a dye; it yielded colors ranging from red to reddish-brown. Buckskin was colored by rubbing alder bark directly on it.

The "seeds" (actually achenes, the fruits with a single seed inside) were harvested from the dried heads, being shaken out into bags or baskets and spread onto mats for drying for two or three days. Sometimes they were browned by toasting on a hot rock. The chaff could be removed by winnowing - pouring from one basket to another in the wind. The seeds could be eaten whole, but more often, they were ground to a powdery meal (shells and all) with a stone mortar and eaten alone without further preparation or mixed with other foods such as deer grease, white-bark pine kernels, pounded, dried saskatoon berries, or Douglas-fir sugar. Sometimes they were formed into small cakes, and sometimes they were boiled in soup, or cooked with oil, water or broth and eaten as a porridge. Some First Peoples purportedly smoked the leaves as a tobacco substitute and for this purpose were mixed with kinnikinnick. 

[Turner et al., 1980]

Notes:  Red alder is short-lived, with an average life span of 40 to 60 years. It is a nitrogen-fixer, meaning that it puts nitrogen back into the soil (eventually), unlike most plants. Small bumps, called nodules, on the roots house in a symbiotic relationship, an organism [bacterium (Nitrobacter?)] that can convert the nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can absorb from the soil. The red alder helps itself in this way, but when the nitrogen-rich leaves fall, they provide a nutritious compost on the forest floor for others to utilize.


Amelanchier alnifolia - Service berry, Saskatoon berry, June berry, Shad-bush
Amelanchier alnifolia - Service Berry, Saskatoon Berry, June Berry, Shad-bush
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Shrubs or small trees to 13 feet high. Leaves broad-oval to suborbicular, 1-2" long, with lateral, conspicuous parallel veins in 8-13 pairs. Margins coarsely serrate or dentate to below middle or sometimes entire or with a few small teeth at the top. Flowers in upright racemes (April and May), short and rather dense, 5-15 flowered, densely silky-villous; petals white, sepals more or less pilose within, becoming reflexed in age, stamens about 20, styles 5, united below. Summit of ovary persistently tomentose. Fruit glabrous, glaucous, purple-black.

Habitat: Dry forests and open hillsides in well-drained soil. Common along rocky coastlines. If coastal then below 2000'. Abundant on rocky slopes in all drier regions of eastern Washington.

Use:  The berries were picked into coiled cedar-root baskets tied to the waist and packed in larger coiled baskets carried on the back by a tump line. To dry, the berries were spread on large, flat rocks or on tulle mats or sacks laid on the ground or on long racks. They were taken in if it rained. They were never piled, but spread out only one layer deep. Drying took about a week, depending on the weather and the degree of ripeness of the fruit. When dry they were placed in Indian hemp bags for winter storage or in wooden or bark tubs for summer use.

Saskatoons were commonly mixed with other foods. Sometimes fresh berries were boiled for about half an hour with Bitter-root or salmon eggs. The dried fruits were usually mixed with Bitter-root and boiled, often along with salmon, which would be served separately. A special delicacy was salmon eggs and dried Saskatoons, boiled or eaten cold, but never mashed. The berries were also mixed with Black tree lichen deer blood and meat, the bulbs of tiger lilies, and other types of berries such as mountain blueberries.

The dried berries are very sweet, and in the old days they were used to sweeten "Indian ice-cream" made from soapberries and were mixed with bitter foods such as red-osier dogwood fruits.

The wood of the Saskatoon bushes is strong and straight-grained and was used to make such items as arrows, digging sticks, spears, and seed beaters. The bark was removed and the wood heated before a fire to mold and harden it. It was rubbed smooth with horsetail, tough grass, or a handful of wood shavings from itself. The young branches of Saskatoon, like those of willow and other species, were twisted into a type of rope.

[Turner, 95; Turner et al., 1980]


Arbutus menziesii - Madrone, Madrona, Madrono
Arbutus menziesii - leaves
Arbutus menziesii - flowers
Arbutus menziesii - Madrone, Madrona, Madrono
Ericaceae - (Heath Family)

Madrone is a small, to medium-size tree to 30 m high with heavy branches. Young bark is chartreuse and smooth, while older bark is dark brownish-red and peeling off. The leaves are alternate, evergreen, oval to 15 cm long and somewhat messy, shedding leaves and its bark most of the year. These leaves are dark shiny above, whitish-green below, hairless, leathery, and without teeth except sometimes on young growth. The flowers are fragrant, and occur in large drooping clusters. The calyx is 5-parted surrounding the urn-shaped, united petals (typical of most of the family). The petals are 6- 7 mm long. The ovary is superior. There are 10 stamens with pilose filaments near the base. The anthers are awned from the back to near the tip, and open by terminal slit-like pores. The fruits are orange-red berries, about 1 cm across, with a finely granular surface.

Habitat:  On dry, sunny, often rocky sites, frequently with coarse-textured soils from low to middle elevations and associated with Douglas-fir and Garry oak.

Use: Madrone berries have been know to be eaten, but little is known about its preparation. Some First Peoples sometimes cooked the reddish, papery bark with camas bulbs to color them pink. Red-alder bark was also used for this purpose. One tribe used medicinal preparations from madrone bark and leaves for colds, stomach problems, as a post-childbirth contraceptive, and in a ten-ingredient bark medicine for tuberculosis and spitting up blood (Turner & Hebda, 1990).

Turner, N.J. and R.J. Hebda. 1990. Contemporary use of bark for medicine by two Salishan native elders of southeast Vancouver Island. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 229:59-72.
Notes:  A Straits Salish myth recorded by early ethnographer Diamond Jennes: Pitch used to go fishing before the sun rose, and then retire to the shade before it became strong. One day he was late and had just reached the beach when he melted. Other people rushed to share him. Douglas-fir arrived first and secured most of the pitch, which he poured over his head and body. Grand fir obtained only a little; and by the time Arbutus arrived there was none left. Therefore, Arbutus has no pitch to this day.

[Hitchcock & Cronquist, 1973; Pojar & MacKinnon, 1994]


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - Kinnikinnick, Bearberry
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - Fruit
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi - Kinnikinnick, Bearberry
Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Kinnikinnick is a prostrate, mat-forming shrub with bright green, leathery, evergreen, obovate leaves. The young branchlets are usually finely hairy and viscid, but may become smooth later. The leaves are smooth edged, and generally smaller than those of alpine bearberry. The flowers are white to pinkish, 4-6 mm long and urn-shaped, borne in small clusters at the branch tips. The connate petals are 5-merous, with 10 stamens inside and surrounded basally by a small calyx. The filaments are broadened and hairy near the base. The anthers are awned dorsally near the tip, and release their pollen through terminal pores. The ovary is 5-celled. The fruits, when mature, are berry-like, red-skinned and globose, 7-10 mm across. The fruits are also glabrous, the inner pulp whitish, dry and mealy, with several hard nut-lets fused together as a single stone.

Habitat:  Dry slopes, sand and well-drained soils in exposed areas.
Use:  The berries were usually harvested in late summer, but could be obtained throughout the winter months and even into spring. Ripe berries are edible, though dry and mealy in texture. Many First Peoples soaked the berries in water, grease, seal oil, or more recently, butter, to reduce the dryness and prevent constipation. Some dumped the berries into a large pot of melted Mountain Goat grease and ate them with spoons. The berries could be dried for storage, or buried fresh in various containers. The Okanogan-Colville cooked them with venison or salmon, or dried them into cakes which were eaten ceremoniously with salmon eggs. 

Kinnikinnick berries were utilized in various ways outside Washington. The Ojibwas cooked them with meat to make a broth. The Chipewyan and Woods Cree cooked them lightly in animal fat, then pounded and mixed them with jackfish or whitefish eggs, sweetened with birch syrup or sugar. The Vanta Kutchin of the Yukon ate them with pemmican and fish-eggs, and one woman noted that when eaten with fish-eggs, they help prevent the eggs from sticking to the teeth. Nlaka'pamux and other Interior Salish people of British Columbia usually cooked the berries with bear fat or fish oil, and sometimes fried them in hot lard or salmon oil, or boiled them with salmon eggs or in soups. Fried on a hot stove, they were eaten as a snack or treat by children. The Flathead of Montana used the dried, powdered berries as a condiment with deer liver to make a kind of pemmican. The Nuxalk (Bella Coola) people formerly cooked them in a pot of melted mountain-goat fat, then served them to chiefs at feasts.

Some coastal peoples smoked Kinnikinnick leaves like tobacco using hollowed-out gooseberry stems, though there was no knowledge of smoking Kinnikinnick before European influence. The leaves were generally toasted over a fire, then smoked alone or mixed with tobacco in a pipe.

[Hitchcock & Cronquist, 1990; Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991; Turner, 95]


Artemisia spp. - Sagebrush, Wormwood

Artemisia spp. - Sagebrush, Wormwood
Compositae/Asteraceae (Sunflower Family)

Aromatic, much-branched shrub reaching a height of 4 meters. Leaves 1-4 cm long, alternate, often dissected. Young twigs covered with closely matted hairs. Flowers wind-pollinated, dull and drab and found in small heads or in large, loose terminal clusters in numerous heads of 5-8 flowers in mountains and 3-5 on plains, rayless, all perfect; corolla tubular, 5-toothed in the perfect flowers; involucral bracts in several series dry, with thin margins; flowering from mid-September to mid-October. Fruit a glabrous achene's without pappus. [This description generally follows that of A. tridentata, but is general enough for others in this genus.]

Dry plains and hills, and upwards into timberline east of Cascades. Intolerant of alkali. Sagebrush is considered an intruding weed in overgrazed or otherwise impoverished soils. Its occurrence is almost always on soils of volcanic origin and seldom on those soils of granitic formation.

The bark of the sagebrush was stripped off and braided to use as a rope, and for making quiver cases and saddle blankets, as well as dresses, skirts, aprons, and breechclouts. It was also used as tinder, for making friction fires, and the wood was used as a fuel and for smoking hides during the tanning process. To make a "slow match" for travelers, the bark was twisted tightly and tied in lengths of two or three feet.

The leaves and branches were widely used as a medicine for colds and sore throats. They were boiled to make a strong, bitter tea, which was drunk to cause sweating during a cold. It also acted as a laxative. The leaves were also mashed, held in the palm of the hand, and inhaled. They clear the nose and throat like camphor or "Vick's Vaporub". Sometimes the leaves were dried and pulverized and sprinkled on sores to hasten their healing.

[Turner et al., 1980]


Mahonia aquifolium - Oregon Grape
Mahonia nervosa / Mahonia aquifolium
(aka Berberis) - Oregon Grape
Berberidaceae (Barberry Family)

Evergreen shrubs with unarmed, crooked stems, and yellowish wood. Leaves persistent, leathery, pinnately compound with a terminal leaflet (odd pinnate) and holly-like; leaflets spiny-pointed, the lateral sessile; stipules minute, awl-shaped. Flowers in six parts, yellow, in many flowered terminal racemes springing from axils of bud-scales; perianth whorls 5, each 3-merous, the outer series bract-like, the inner 2 series generally slightly smaller than the sepals, bilobed, and glandular at the base; anthers with 2 uplifting valves. Fruit blue to black berry, and sometimes with a bloom; seeds solitary or few.

  • M. nervosa: Leaflets palmately veined, 9-19, petioles 5-12 cm long & under 2' in height.
  • M. aquifolium: Leaflets pinnately veined, 3-9, petioles 2-5 cm long, and can reach 3-5' in height


  • M. nervosa: Lower elevations in coastal forests of Washington. 
  • M. aquifolium: Found in drier, more open, (often rocky) sites in sagebrush covered hills on east side of Cascade Mountain range in Washington to the coast.

Use:  The tart berries of both Oregon-grapes were eaten raw after ripening in August, but generally not in quantity. Often they were mixed with salal or some other sweeter fruit. Some First Peoples squeezed and mashed the fruits in baskets and spread it all out to dry in cakes. Sometimes the fruits were boiled to a jam-like consistency and made into a juice, which was heated again later and drank (Turner et al., 1980).

The bark is bright yellow inside, due to an alkaloid, berberine. The shredded bark of the stems and roots was used to make a bright-yellow dye for basket materials, mountain goat wool, and porcupine quills. Apparently the sticks of the plant were simply boiled in water until it was almost all boiled away and all that was left was a powdery yellow substance. This could be then mixed with the resin of cottonwood buds. Often wolf "moss" (Letharia vulpine) was boiled up with Oregon grape to give an even deeper yellow.

Branches of Oregon grape, presumably because they are prickly, were placed, with those of wild roses, in a person's grave and around the walls and on the furniture of the house where the person had died, to prevent his ghost from returning.

[Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991; Pojar & McKinnon, 1994; Turner et al., 1980]


Betula papyrifera - Paper Birch, White Birch, Canoe Birch - Occident tails
Betula papyrifera - Paper Birch, White Birch, Canoe Birch
Betulaceae (Birch Family)

Small to medium sized trees to 100', with bark peeling in papery strips, white to coppery-brown marked with brown horizontal lines of raised pores (lenticels). The leaves are alternate, deciduous, oval to round, glandular-hairy, sharp-pointed to 4" long, with doubly-margined teeth on the leaf margins. Flowers are either male or female in separate catkins on the same tree. Staminate inflorescence 1-3", bracts each subtending 3 flowers and 3 bractlets; pistillate inflorescence to 1-1'4", bracts each subtending 3 flowers and 3 brachlets. Male flowers with 4 sepals & 2 bifid stamens; female flowers have a minute ovary with forked styles, and linear stigmas, on a 3-lobed bract. Flowering occurs before or during leaf-out. Mature catkins break up to release winged nutlets.

Habitat: Open to dense woods, usually moist, from lowlands to lower mountain slopes; typically on well-drained sites but also on or around bogs and other wetlands.

Use: The bark can be peeled off the tree in large, flexible, waterproof sheets. Baskets and canoes were the most common items constructed from paper birch. The inner sap was used as emergency food. Birch resin/gum could have been medicinal for some First Peoples. The chewable gum contains zylitol, a disinfectant, and some terpenes, which could give the chewer a mild buzz.

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]


Cornus nuttallii - Pacific Dogwood, Western Flowering Dogwood
cornus nuttallii - fruit
Cornus nuttallii - bark

Cornus nuttallii - Pacific Dogwood, Western Flowering Dogwood
Cornaceae (Dogwood Family)

Pacific dogwood trees grow to 65 feet in height with many branches giving the tree an irregular look. The leaves are opposite in arrangement, to 4" long, deciduous, deep green above, grayish-green below, turning pinkish-red in the fall, with characteristic curving parallel prominent veins to the leaf's edge. The 'flower' is actually an inflorescence of many small flowers bordered by 4-7 large white bracts. The actual flower has petals that are about 2.5 mm long, whitish or greenish in color and often purple-tipped. There are 4 stamens and a two-carpel pistil. The tree flowers in spring and often repeats in the fall. The fruits are clusters of bright red berries (drupes), each of which are about 1/3" in diameter, usually bearing 2 seeds.

Habitat: At low elevations, usually on moist, well-drained sites, often along streams or gullies, in open to fairly dense, usually mixed forest.

Use: Wood was considered good for bows, arrows, implement handles and clothing hooks. The bark has been boiled for a dark-brown dye. Bark preparations were made for use as a blood purifier, a lung strengthener, or as a treatment of stomach troubles. The wood is in demand for making thread spindles, piano keys, and other purposes, but its collection is prohibited by law in British Columbia.

[Hitchcock & Cronquist, 1990; Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]


Cornus stolonifera - Red-Osier Dogwood

Cornus stolonifera - Red-Osier Dogwood
Cornaceae (Dogwood Family)

Freely spreading shrub with many stems, 3-18' tall; branching is opposite, young stems (and most old ones) often bright, smooth, shiny red. Leaves are opposite, deciduous, oval 5-10 cm long, with 5-7 prominent parallel veins that converge at leaf tips; white threads running through the veins can be seen if a leaf is carefully split crosswise and pulled apart. Flowers are white to greenish, small 2-4 mm across with 4 petals and stamens; flowers are numerous in dense flat-topped terminal clusters. Fruits are white, berry-like drupes, 7-9 mm long, each with a somewhat flattened stoney seed.Two subspecies occur:

  • var. stolonifera: stone of fruit smooth; pubescence generally trailing in same direction (gen. east of the Cascade Mountains)
  • var. occidentalis: stone of fruit grooved lengthwise; pubescence often spreading or curled (gen. west of the Cascade Mountains)

Habitat: Moist soil, typically in swamps and streamside forest and scrub, but also in open upland forest and thickets and bog-forest edges and disturbed sites; valley bottoms to mid-elevations.

Use: The fleshy drupes are known to be tart and bitter, but were nevertheless eaten by many tribes. The fruits were gathered from August to October and eaten fresh, a few at a time, or, more commonly, pounded and mixed with other fruits such as choke cherries or saskatoons. Some people mashed them and dried them in cakes; others seldom stored them. The white drupes are believed to be less bitter than those tinged with blue.

The branches were used in making fish traps, spatulas, basket rims, and other items, and the larger limbs for frame poles. Old branches were used in smoking hides. The bark, like that of various true willows, was twisted into a type of rope used to lash fish traps, raised caches, and other structures.

The powdered bark was mixed with the resin of cottonwood buds to make a red paint.

[Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991; Pojar & MacKinnon, 1994; Turner et al, 1980]


Corylus cornuta - Hazelnut, Filbert

Corylus cornuta - Hazelnut, Filbert
Betulaceae (Birch Family)

Deciduous tree/shrub to 14 feet, with many stems, and densely clumped. Alternate leaves, elliptic to oval, typically with heart-shaped base and sharp tip. The leaf margin is doubly-serrated. The leaves turn yellow in the fall. The pollen from male flowers in pendant catkins is wind-disseminated. Flowering occurs before leafing. Fruits are spherical edible nuts enclosed in tubular husks in clusters of 2-3 at ends of branches.

Habitat: Moist but well-drained sites at low to middle elevations; in open forest, shady openings, thickets, clearings, rocky slopes and well-drained streamsides.

Use: The nuts were picked in early autumn, stored until fully ripe and then eaten raw, or roasted. The long, flexible shoots were twisted into rope.

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994] toptop

Crataegus douglasii - Black Hawthorne flower

Crataegus douglasii - Black Hawthorne fruit

Crataegus douglasii - Black hawthorne
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Shrub/tree to 45 feet in height, bark brown or grey, rough; spines 1/2 to 1" in length, or sometimes unarmed. Leaves deciduous, broadly obovate, more or less doubly serrate, petioles sometimes glandular. Flowers in corymbs, white, with 5 sepals, 5 petals, and numerous stamens with pink anthers, styles 5. Fruit a small black pome. The genus name comes from the Greek 'kratos' (strength) because the wood is noted for its strength and fine grain.

Habitat: Moist, open places, forest edges, thickets, shorelines, streamside areas, roadsides, coastal bluffs; at low to middle elevations.

The thorns of black hawthorn had many practical uses, including prongs on rakes used for catching herring, lances for probing skin blisters and boils, or for piercing ears, fish hooks and playing pieces for games. The wood is very hard and was fashioned into tool handles and weapons. The dry, seedy fruits were eaten by many coastal groups both fresh and dried, often with oil or Grease, or salmon roe. Some First Peoples boiled the fruit for a long time in a cedar box, mashed them and stored them for winter when they were served with grease, salmon oil or the grease of marmot, black bear or grizzly bear to relieve some of the dryness. The bark of black hawthorne was used to treat venereal disease, thin the blood, strengthen the heart, or reduce swellings, and it was used in steam baths.

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994; Turner, 1995]


Empetrum nigrum - Crowberry, Curlewberry

Empetrum nigrum - Crowberry, Curlewberry
Empetraceae (Crowberry Family)

Low growing, shrubby evergreen up to 12" high, resembling a miniature fir tree, with short, needle-like leaves (grooved underneath), which are turned under at the margins, and stems with long woolly hairs. The flowers are small (3 mm), pinkish and inconspicuous, in loose clusters in leaf axils bearing 3 stamens, and 6-9 short-lobed stigma. The fruits are black to dark purple drupes, juicy and berry-like, containing up to 9 white, hard seeds.

Habitat: Low, exposed coastal heathlands and bogs; rocky mountian slopes, subalpine parkland, and alpine tundra; dry to wet sites, sea level to alpine.

Use: Crowberries ripen in August, but remain on the plants through the winter, and are available fresh or frozen into the early spring, and could be gathered even from under the snow. They are eaten raw or cooked. They are said to "contain lots of water" and have been used to slake the thirst of folks on the mountain slopes when no water was available. Some First Peoples mixed the berries with bear grease, cooked and mashed them, then dried them in the sun into cakes. Other tribes ate them plain with oil and sugar, or mixed them with cloudberries, blueberries, or whipped fat.

[Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991; Pojar & MacKinnon, 1994]


Gaultheria shallon - Salal

Gaultheria shallon - Salal
Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Creeping to erect, to 6 foot tall shrub bearing hairy, branched stems. Leaves are alternate, evergreen, leathery, and egg-shaped to 4" long, sharply and finely toothed. Flowers are urn-shaped, white to pink, 5-15 at branch ends and the flower stalks bend such that the flowers are oriented in one direction. Flowers with 5-lobed calyx, and corolla, and awn bearing stamens with hairy filaments; ovary 5-chambered. Flowering occurs from mid-May to beginning of July. Fruits reddish-blue to dark-purple capsule surrounded by adnate, fleshy sepal appearing as a berry and are usually mature by mid-August and continue for as long as the flowering season.

Habitat:  Coastal forests to approximately 2,500' elevation.

The dark, juicy berries were in many places on the Washington coast the most plentiful and important fruit for the First Peoples. They were eaten both fresh and dried into cakes. Many groups ate the berries dipped in oolichan grease at large feasts. For trading or selling, the salal berries were mixed with currants, elderberries, or unripe salal berries. The berries were also used to sweeten other foods and to thicken salmon eggs. The young leaves were chewed as a hunger suppressant. The leafy branches were used in pit-cooking, and cooked as a flavoring in fish soup.

The usual procedure for preparing the berries for winter storage was to mash them and either boil them in boxes using red hot rocks or allow them to stand for a day or two. The thickened "jam" was then poured into rectangular cedar frames set on Skunk Cabbage leaves and dried for a few hours on a rack over an alder-wood fire. The cakes were about 3 cm thick and could be as large as 30 cm wide by 90 cm long. The cooks folded or rolled the cakes and stored them in cedar boxes in a warm area of the house.

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994; Turner, 1991]

Among the most common forest understorey shrubs in western Washington, it forms an almost continuous shrub layer in many drier coniferous forests and is also common in some wet or boggy coniferous forests. In some areas near the coast the shrub layer can be impenetrable.


Malus fusca - Crabapple

Malus fusca - Pacific Crabapple, Wild Crabapple, Western Crabapple, Oregon Crabapple
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Shrub or small tree, to 35 feet tall, armed with sharp spur-shoots, the older bark is deeply fissured. Leaves are alternate, deciduous, lance- to egg-shaped, to 10 cm long, pointed at the end, toothed, with irregular lobes; the leaves turn red or yellow-orange in fall. Flowers are white to pink (mid-April/mid-May), showy, calyx of 5 lobes, petals 5, styles 3-4 from inferior ovary, numerous stamens. Fruits are pomes, initially green becoming yellow or reddish, to 15mm and egg-shaped, tart.

Habitat: Moist woods, swamps, edges of standing and flowing water, upper beaches, often fringing estuaries in western Washington; low to middle elevations (up to 2500').

Use: The small, clustered apples, though tart, are an important food for virtually all coastal First Peoples. They are harvested in late summer and early fall. They are eaten fresh or stored under water, or under a mixture of water and oil, in cedarwood storage boxes. Because of their acidity, they do not require further preservation; they simply become softer and sweeter over time. The bark was used, alone or with other plant products, for a variety of medicinal treatments for the eyes and for the stomach and digestive tract.

Crabapples were a common item of trade and commerce. At the turn of the century a single box of Crabapples in water might cost about ten pairs of Hudson's Bay blankets. A wedding gift between high-class families might include, among other items, ten boxes of Crabapples and five boxes of Grease to put on them. They are still eaten today in many areas, either cooked and mashed in the traditional way, or made into jelly.

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]

Note: Crabapple bark, like bitter-cherry bark, contains cyanide-producing compounds, and should be used only with extreme caution.


Oemleria cerasiformis - Indian Plum, Oso-berry, Skunk Bush

Oemleria cerasiformis (formerly Osmoronia) - Indian Plum, Oso-berry, Skunk Bush
Rosaceae  (Rose Family)

Shrub or small tree to 10 feet tall. Leaves alternate, upright, deciduous, broadly lance-shaped to 5 long, not toothed, with a strong cucumber odor when crushed. Blooming occurs just before leafing. Flowers male and female on separate plants (dioecious)(found infrequently in Rosaceae in Washington); both fls with white petals - male fls with 15 stamens, female fls with 5 carpels; inflorescence of 5-10 fls in a raceme. Fruits 1-5 drupes per pistillate fl, bean-shaped, peach-colored to ripe blue-glaucous color. Earliest flowers of season (March), considered harbinger of Spring! But by leafing out so early in the season, their leaves are the first to yellow late in the summer.

Habitat:  Dry to moist, open woods, streambanks, open areas/coastal plains at low elevations western Washington.

Use: The berries were eaten in small quantities fresh, cooked or dried. The berries are astringent when immature, but are quite palatable when fully ripe. Some First People made a bark tea as a purgative and tonic. To store the fruits in winter, they were placed in tall cedar boxes, covered with hot oil, sealed and placed in a cool place.

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]


Opuntia fragilis - Brittle Cholla

Opuntia fragilis - Brittle Cholla
Cactaceae (Cactus Family)

Low, mat-forming, succulent perennial, to 15 cm tall; stems flattened, broad and fleshy, in 2-5 segments, the upper segments easily broken off; spines large and barbed, and with smaller bristles. Leaves reduced to large spines, to 3 cm long, and smaller yellowish bristles from axillary white-wooley 'cushions' (areolae). Flowers yellow, showy, to 5 cm across, borne on the areolae, with numerous thin petals; sepals greenish, grading into the yellow to reddish petals; stamens numerous, filaments red; pistil 3-10 capellary, style 1, stigmas 3-10, ovary single-celled, placentation parietal. Fruits dry, pear-shaped, slightly spiny berries to 2 cm long.

Habitat:  Dry, open sites on sandy or gravelly soils in local lowland Puget Sound/Gulf Islands area and east of the Cascade Mountain range at low elevation in the Sagebrush Zone.

Use: The blooming of the cactus is an indication that saskatoon berries are ready to be picked. Cactus can be gathered at any time of the year, even from under the snow. The spines were singed off in an open flame and the stems pit-cooked, or roasted in the coals or on a stick over the fire. A soup was made by mixing them with fat and boiling them. Cactus is purportedly valuable to old men; when they eat the cactus, it helps them urinate more freely. Cactus spines were used to make a fish hook when no bone was available for hooks. Two spines were joined together in the shape of a hook by tying them with Indian hemp and sealing the join with pitch. The spines were also used as needles for piercing ears. A ring of cactus was placed around the supporting poles of a cache to keep mice and other animals from climbing up.

[Strangely the fruits of the brittle cholla are not mentioned in literature as being eaten by the First Peoples - author]

[Pojar & MacKinnon, 1994; Turner et al, 1980]


Philadelphus lewisii - Mock-Orange, Syringa

Philadelphus lewisii - Mock-Orange, Syringa
Hydrangeaceae (Hydrangea Family)

Erect, deciduous, loosely branched, shrub to 10', with flaky bark. Leaves opposite, oval to egg-shaped, 3-5 cm long, light green, margins essentially smooth, with 3 major veins from the leaf base. Flowers white (June), 2-3 cm broad, fragrant, 4 petals, sepals 4 (fully adnate to the ovary), 4 styles (more or less joined), numerous stamens and inferior ovary; 3-15 flowers in clusters at ends of branches. Fruits oval, woody, 4-chambered capsules about 1 cm long.

Habitat: From open forests and forest edges on moist rich sites to open brushy areas on dry, rocky soils; low to high elevations (seen at 7,000' east Cascade Mtns. (Hitchcock, 1990)).

Use:  The wood is strong and hard; the branches were used to make harpoon shafts, bows and arrows, arrow tips for arrows made from the stems of rye grass, digging sticks, pipestems, cradle hoops, snowshoes, and clubs, as well as for breast-plate armour. For arrows, two-year-old growth was gathered in winter. The sticks were bruised around the base with a stone knife and broken off square. The arrows were then fixed with three feathers glued on with pine pitch and lashed with sinew. The largest, oldest branches were selected in making bows. The skin of a bull snake was slipped over the entire bow while the wood was still green and allowed to dry on it.

The leaves (and flowers), when put in a basket and rubbed (bruised) with water, lather into a froth. The leaves were then discarded and the froth used for washing the hands and for shampooing the hair.

[Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991; Pojar & MacKinnon, 1994]


Aspen - leaves

Aspen - bark


Populus tremuloids - Quaking Aspen

Populus tremuloides - Quaking Aspen
Salicaceae (Willow Family)

Small deciduous trees, declining in vigor at 80 years of age or less, with smooth green-grey bark. Bark with black "horseshoe" markings here and there. Chalk-like substance can be rubbed off. Leaves alternate, thin, 25-75 mm broad and nearly as long, broadly ovate, margins irregularly serrate, with a broadly acuminate tip; buds shiny but not resinous; petioles laterally flattened. Flowers in catkins, April to May; bracts incised and fringed with long hairs; stigmas 2; stamens 6-12 (wind pollinated and dioecious); Fruit a conical capsule, glabrous.

Habitat: Found in most of Washington state except for the Olympic Peninsula (rare), and the Sagebrush, Sub-alpine and Alpine Zones. Very sporadic in occurrence with altitudinal range from 1,000' to 6,000'. Thrives in mineral soils and on exposed sites; often grows in dense stands in logged or burned areas. Common in riparian corridors and disturbed wetlands. Often found associated with Alnus rubra (red alder), Spiraea douglasii (Douglas spirea) and Salix spp. (willows).

Use: The white powder from the bark was applied directly to the underarms and feet as a deodorant and anti-perspirant. Aspen logs are the best on which to scrape deer hides, especially in early May when the bark peels off easily.

[Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991]


Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa - Black Cottonwood

Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa, Black Cottonwood
Salicaceae (Willow/Poplar Family)

Large, tall, deciduous tree up to 150 feet tall, the old bark dark grey and deeply furrowed. Alternate leaves thick, and oval to 6" long, margin finely toothed, the under surface pale and often stained with patches of brown resin; the leaf stalks are round, often with a pair of glands at the junction with the blade. Male and female flowers on separate plants in catkins. Male flowers with 40-60 stamens (airborne pollination), female flowers with 3 stigmas. Flowering occurs before leaf-out. Fruits round, green, capsules that split when ripe into 3 parts: seeds covered with white, fluffy hairs (that help with seed dispersal) (fluffy hairs aid in flotation).

Habitat:  On low to medium elevation (sea-level to 4500'), moist to wet sites; forms extensive stands on islands and floodplains along major rivers and on disturbed upland sites.

Use: The sweet inner bark and cambium tissues were eaten in late spring and early summer. It was eaten fresh or sun-dried with grease. Black cottonwood cambium is extremely sweet, but it sours or ferments rapidly, so it cannot be stored for winter use like that of western hemlock.

The gum from the buds was used in preparations for baldness, sore throats, whooping cough and tuberculosis. Some tribes placed the gum that exudes from the burls of cottonwood directly on cuts and wounds. The aromatic gum from the spring buds of cottonwood was used to waterproof baskets and boxes. The aromatic gum from the spring buds was used as a glue for securing arrowheads and feathers to shafts. The rich, yellow, aromatic gum from the buds was boiled in grease and mixed with other pigments (alder bark, larch, wolf lichen, charcoal) to make paint.

Young shoots were used to make sweatlodge frames. The old, rotten leaves were boiled and used in a bath for body pains, rheumatism and stomach trouble.

Cottonwood was used as a fuel for smoking fish. Some interior tribes made small dugout canoes. Soap and a hairwash were made using ashes from burned cottonwood.

Bees collect the resin, which is an anti-infectant, for their hives and seal intruders (such as mice) in the resin to prevent decay and protect the hive.  

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994; Turner, 1995]


Prunus emarginata - Bitter Cherry

Prunus emarginata - Bitter Cherry

Prunus emarginata - Bitter Cherry
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Shrubs or small trees to 25 feet tall; bark reddish-brown or grey, with horizontal rows of raised pores (lenticels). The alternate leaves are deciduous, oblong to oval to 3" long, finely toothed, and rounded at the tip; there are generally 1-2 small glands at the base of the leaf blade. Flowers fragrant, blooming in April/May, in flat-topped racemes (of 5-10 fls) bearing 5 sepals and 5 white petals, numerous stamens (20), 1 pistil, with elongated style, and 2 ovules. Pea-sized fruit is a bright red or darker drupe, usually 1-seeded.

Habitat: Establishes easily in moist, disturbed areas. Bitter cherry prefers open sandy or gravelly sties and stream banks. It is shade-intolerant and by being attracted to disturbed sites, soon is displaced by red alder. In western Washington found from sea level to 3500'. East of the Cascades most common in Yellow pine zone.

Use: The bitter fruits are edible, though disagreeable in flavor, and best used in jams. The cherry bark can be peeled from the tree and polished to a rich red. Strips of the bark have been woven into decorative baskets to give color to their work.

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]


Prunus virginiana - Choke Cherry

Prunus virginiana - Choke Cherry
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Shrubs or small trees to 20 feet tall; bark reddish-brown or grey, with horizontal rows of raised pores (lenticels). The alternate leaves are deciduous, oblong to oval to 3" long, finely toothed, acute at the tip, and down beneath; there are generally 1-2 small glands at the base of the leaf blade. Flowers fragrant, blooming in May, in cylindrical clusters (raceme) near the ends of limbs (of 5-10 fls) bearing 5 sepals and 5 white petals, numerous stamens (20), 1 pistil, with elongated style, and 2 ovules. Pea-sized fruit is a dark red to black drupe, usually 1-seeded.

Habitat: East of the Cascades most common in Yellow Pine, Sagebrush and Bunchgrass zones. Often white clematis and poison ivy are likely to be growing in the vicinity.

Use: Although very puckery to taste the fruits make fine jams and jellies.

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]


Quercus garryana - Garry Oak, Oregon White Oak leaves

Quercus garryana - Garry Oak, Oregon White Oak tree
Quercus garryana - Garry Oak, Oregon White Oak acorn
Quercus garryana - Garry Oak, Oregon White Oak bark

Quercus garryana - Garry Oak, Oregon white oak
Fagaceae (Oak/Beech Family)

Heavy limbed tree to 75 feet tall, or shorter in rocky habitats, bark light grey with thick furrows and ridges. Alternate, deciduous leaves to 5" long that are shiny dark green and turn dull yellow-brown in autumn. Male and female inflorescences (catkins) borne separately on same tree. Flowering occurs as leaves come out in spring. Fruits are acorns borne within shallow rough-surfaced cups.

Habitat: Dry, rocky slopes or bluffs, sometimes on deep, rich, well-drained soil at low elevations. Garry oaks tend to open parkland and meadows with scattered Douglas-fir with a lush spring display of many herbs including camas, western buttercups, and shooting stars.  Garry oak is generally found west of the Cascade Mountain range but also found in the Columbia River Gorge area and northward along the eastern base of the Cascades to Yakima County.

Use:  The acorns of all the oaks are potentially edible when properly prepared. Those of the white oak group, with round-lobed, non-bristly leaves, and of the chestnut oak group, with regularly toothed, non-bristly leaves, are far more palatable than those of the red oak group, whose leaves are sharply-lobed with bristly tips to the lobes or teeth. Acorns of the latter group are usually higher in bitter-tasting tannins. Acorns, like other nuts, were commonly gathered from the ground in the fall by women and children. The nuts were cracked with a pair of rounded stones with pitted centers, and the kernals extracted.

The tannins in acorns were partially removed by boiling them in several changes of water with lye made from wood-ashes. The lye was then leached out with water, and the acorns thus treated were roasted or pounded and mixed with meat for soup. Sometimes acorns were buried in the ground over winter before being used. Acorns were also dried and made into meal for use in soups and other dishes. The acorns can be steamed, roasted or boiled for a long time to remove that bitterness.

The bark was one of the ingredients in the Saanich '4 barks' medicine used against tuberculosis and other ailments (Turner & Hebda, 1990).  

The foliage, shoots and bark of oaks are poisonous due to their high tannin content, and those people wishing to eat the acorns should make sure that the bitter tannins are first removed by leaching or boiling in several changes of water, since they could be harmful. High intakes of tannin have been implicated in some forms of cancer (Turner & Szczawinski, 1990).

[Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991]


Rhamnus purshiana - Cascara

Rhamnus purshiana - Cascara fruit and leaf
Rhamnus purshiana - Cascara bark

Rhamnus purshiana - Cascara
Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn Family)

Erect, tall shrub or small tree to 30 feet in height, with thin, smooth, silver-grey, numbingly bitter bark. The alternate leaves are deciduous, being egg-shaped to oblong, dark glossy green to 5" long, finely toothed, strongly pinnately veined in furrows, the surface washboardy. Young leaves and buds are coppery in color in early spring, and become yellow in autumn. Flowers in late spring have 5 sepals, petals and stamens in axillary clusters of up to 50 flowers. Fruits blue-black to purplish-black berries, enclosing 3 stoney seeds.

Habitat: Fairly dry to wet, often shady sites, most commonly in mixed woods. It is an infrequent tree often going unnoticed. Wide range but most abundant in low foothills of western Washington below 2500'. Sporadic along stream banks of Sagebrush, Bunchgrass and Yellow Pine Zones east of Cascades.

Use: The bark was boiled and the tea (or syrup) was drunk as a strong laxative by several First Peoples. The scientific community has deemed Cascara as an effective laxative. The hydroxymethylanthraquinones it contains cause peristalsis of the large intestine, with little or no effect on the small intestine in small dosages. The bark was best considered harvested in late October and early November because the sap has descended down the trunk. After the bark was harvested it was allowed to age before use because the fresh bark is said to be nauseating. Usually a handful of bark per quart of water was boiled for use.

The seedy berries are edible, but are not considered very highly.

[Pojar & MacKinnon, 1994; Turner et al., 1980]


Ribes sanguineum - Red flowering currant

R. sanguineum
Ribes Roezlii - fruits
Ribes Roezlii fruits

Ribes spp. - Currant, Goosberries
Grossulariaceae (Gooseberry Family) 

  • Ribes bracteosum - Stink currant
  • Ribes divaricatum - Coastal black gooseberry
  • Ribes lacustre - Swamp gooseberry
  • Ribes laxiflorum - White-flowered currant
  • Ribes lobbii - Sticky gooseberry
  • Ribes sanguineum - Red-flowering Currant

Perennial deciduous shrubs, with alternate palmately lobed leaves. Stems with prickles (gooseberries) or without prickles (currants). Flowers with calyx being tubular to saucer-shaped, with 5 sepals often more showy than the 5 petals. Stamens 5, ovary inferior with two styles from distinct to united. Fruit a berry.

  • R. bracteosum: Stems unarmed; stems, leaves, flowers and fruits with yellow crystalline glands (resin dots); flowers greenish-white; skunky odor.
  • R. divaricatum: Stems armed with 1-3 spines only at the nodes (where leaves attach); flowers 4 or fewer/cluster; flowers green or purple; berries purplish-black, smooth.
  • R. lacustre: Stems covered with small spines, with some large spines at the nodes; 7-15 fls in drooping clusters
  • R. laxiflorum: Stems unarmed; fls greenish-white, red or purple; leaves deeply 5-lobed, lobes sharp-pointed; berries purplish-black, bristly with stalked glands.
  • R. lobbii: Stems with 1-3 large spines only at nodes; fls 4 or fewer/cluster, bright red (crimson), pendent, look like miniature fuchsias; leaves sticky; berries reddish-brown, sticky-hairy.
  • R. sanguineum: (flower shown above) Stems unarmed; plant tall (often >1m); fls pale to deep reddish-pink; berry glaucous black.


  • R. bracteosum: Moist to wet places at low to subalpine elevations
  • R. divaricatum: Open woods and moist clearings, particularly along the coastline.
  • R. lacustre: Moist, open woods and stream banks, often on rotten stumps and damp rocky cliffs, from sea-level to subalpine forest.
  • R. laxiflorum: Wet coastal woods to montane slopes; especially prevalent on rock faces and rotten stumps in logged areas or clearings.
  • R. lobbii: Dry, open, well-drained woods and clearings.
  • R. sanguineum: Dry, open woods, logged areas and roadsides in well-drained soils.

Use: The berries are typically eaten fresh. But because of their consistency, they might have been included in various cakes with salal or serviceberries, and included into various soups.


Rosa gymnocarpa - Dwarf rose

Dwarf Rose
Rosa nutkana - Nootka rose
Nootka Rose
Rosa pisocarp - Swamp Rose
Swamp Rose

Rosa spp. - Wild Roses
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

  • R. gymnocarpa - Dwarf rose
  • R. nutkana - Nootka rose
  • R. pisocarpa - Swamp rose

Shrubs, usually with prickly stems. Leaves alternate, odd-pinnately compound, stipulate. Flowers showy, solitary or in clusters borne on leafy peduncles; calyx-tube urn-shaped, contracted at the summit, and on its margin bears the 5 petals, 5 sepals, and numerous stamens; carpels many, becoming achenes in fruit (borne inside the 'hip').

  • R. gymnocarpa: Sepals less than or equal to 12mm in length; sepals deciduous as fruit matures.
  • R. nutkana: Flowers generally clustered; petals 1.2 - 2.5 cm.
  • R. pisocarpa: Flowers generally solitary; petals greater than 2.5 cm.


  • R. gymnocarpa: Moist to dry woods, from near seal level to mid-montane.
  • R. nutkana: Wooded or moist areas, often montane.
  • R. pisocarpa: Generally where rather moist.

Use: Rose of various species were eaten by First Peoples across the country, although they were not generally used in quantity. The hips were gathered from late August through the winter in times of necessity. Their flavor is said to improve with exposure to frost. The outer rind could be eaten fresh, as a nibble, especially by children, but if the seeds of these and other rose hips are eaten, they cause irritation of the digestive tract, and are said to cause an "itchy bottom," due to the presence of tiny, sharp hairs on the seeds.

The hips outer rind (high in vitamin C) was eaten raw when mature in the fall. The ripe hips were also steeped, mashed and fed to babies with diarrhea. The petals were also eaten fresh, during June, and may have been used in tea as were the leaves. Boiled Nootka rose roots are combined with wild gooseberry and red cedar roots to weave fishnets. The compound leaves were boiled in water and used for bathing babies to promote strength. The chewed leaves were also applied to bee stings. A tea was made from the roots and given to women to help ease labor pains.

[Lombardi, 1996; Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]


Rubus parviflorus - Thimbleberry

Rubus parviflorus - Thimbleberry
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Erect, unarmed, shrub up to 10 feet tall with shreddy bark, forming extensive growth through rhizomes. Leaves are alternate, deciduous and large (to 10" across), soft, maple-leaf shaped, 3-7 lobed, toothed, with long glandular stalks, and finely fuzzy on both sides. Flowers are white, to 4 cm across, petals crinkled like tissue paper, 3-1 in long-stemmed terminal cluster. Fruits shallowly domed, raspberry-like clusters or red, hairy drupelets; juicy, dull to sweet in taste.

Habitat:  Open sites as clearings, road edges, shorelines, avalanche tracks or open forest as red alder; low elevations to subalpine in southern extent.

Use: Thimbleberries were enjoyed by all First Peoples fresh, or dried with smoked/roasted clams. They formed a berry cake where sticks of roasted clams were laid out in parallel fashion on a board, covering them with a layer of fresh thimbleberries, then another layer of strung clams, and so on. Then they laid a length of plank on top of the pile and pressed the clams and thimbleberries together into a compact loaf, using stones, or sometimes a woman sat on the plank. They sun-dried the flattened cake, then stored it for later use.

Some collected thimbleberries when they were hard and pink and stored them until ripe in cedar-bark bags. The berries are coarse and seedy, lending themselves to drying. They were then de-stemmed and eaten fresh, or dried the same way as salal berries. Other tribes considered the thimbleberry as inferior to raspberries and blackcaps, and usually mixed these three berries together when dried in cakes. The broad, maple-like leaves can be fashioned easily into makeshift berry containers.

The young shoots were collected in bulk in early spring through early summer and were eaten raw as a green vegetable (the sprouts are sweet and juicy).

[Pojar & MacKinnon, 1994]


Rubus spectabilis - Salmonberry

Rubus spectabilis - Salmonberry
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Erect, largely unarmed, branching, to 12 feet, from branching rhizomes. Twigs zigzag, with scattered prickles. The bark is shredding and golden-brown. Alternate, deciduous leaves (of 3-leaflets) and sharply toothed. Flowers are pink to red to reddish-purple to 1-1/2" across....5 sepals and petals and many stamens. Fruits yellow or reddish (orange-ish), mushy raspberries.

Habitat: Moist to wet places (forests, disturbed areas), often abundant along stream edges, avalanche tracks and in wet logged areas at low to subalpine elevations.

Use: The spring salmonberry shoots have a sweet and juicy flavor after being peeled then eaten raw or steamed. The berries are eaten raw, and too juicy to dry for winter use. Do not pile salmonberries more that 2" deep as the pile will become mush!

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]


Rubus Laciniatus - Evergreen blackberry

Rubus spp.- Blackberry, Raspberry, Brambles,Dewberry
Rosaceae (Rose Family)

This site covers selected Rubus species other than Rubus parviflorus and R. spectabilis, which have their own sites. Rubus laciniatus is the picture shown. 

Trailing perennial, with flowers solitary to clustered, with 5 persistent petals that are typically white, 5 sepals; stamens many to greater than 100, inserted with petals at edge of hypanthium; pistils many, on more or less hemispheric, often fleshy receptacle; ovary 2-ovulate; fruit an aggregation of weakly coherent drupelets, often remaining attached to the fleshy receptacle. Stems often strongly armed with prickles or bristles, with alternate simple to ternate or pinnate, deciduous or evergreen leaves, mostly with evident stipules.

  • R. nivalis: Sub-Alpine blackberry. This slender, native, trailer with slightly woody stems only grows a few feet long. It is usually armed with numerous, small, weak, recurved prickles. The leaves are 3-parted. Fls are usually solitary with white or purplish petals. The fruit is a finely hairy, red berry. Found generally on dry exposed places at middle elevations of Cascade Mountains.
  • R. ursinus: Trailing blackberry/dewberry. Native. Trailing to 5 meters or more, armed with slender, curved, unflattened prickles. Leaves alternate, more or less deciduous, with 3-leaflets, the terminal leaflet 3-lobed, dark-green, and toothed. Flowers are white to pink in flat-topped purplish-hued clusters from the leaf axils. Male and female flowers are on separate plants. It is not uncommon to find large patches of male plants without any fruit. Fruits are black blackberries. Common and often abundant on disturbed sites, thickets and dry, open forest at low to middle elevations.
  • R. leucodermis: Black raspberry/blackcap. Native. Erect, arching (sometimes to the ground), to 2 meters tall; stems covered with a whitish bloom, armed with curved, flattened prickles. Alternate leaves are deciduous and crinkly, as 3-5 leaflets that are egg-shaped, with sharp teeth on the leaflet edges bearing shiny white undersides. Flowers are white to pink in clusters of 3-7, terminal or from leaf axils. Fruits are hairy raspberries, initially red but becoming purple to black. Disturbed sites, thickets and open forests; common and often locally abundant, at low to middle elevations.
  • R. laciniatus: Evergreen blackberry. Same as R. discolor but differing primarily in leaf characteristics; the usual 5 leaflets of R. laciniatus are deeply incised and jaggedly toothed, hairy but still greenish on the undersurface, and of course, evergreen. Introduced from Europe. Range is similar to R. discolor
  • R. discolor: Himalyan blackberry. Erect to sprawling evergreen; stout stems erect, then arching, then trailing along the ground to 10 meters in length and rooting at the ends, often distinctly four-angled, armed with stout, recurved prickles, often forming dense, impenetrable thickets. Alternate leaves, being more or less evergreen are trifoliate on floral shoots, to 5-foliolate on vegetative shoots; leaves toothed, oval, smooth-green above, covered with white hairs below. Flowers are white to pinkish, in clusters of 5-20. Fruits are black berries. An Asian species introduced from India via England and widely naturalized, in disturbed sites and streamside areas, at low elevations.
  • R. lasiococcus: Dwarf bramble. Native. Low, to 10 cm tall, without prickles, the trailing (to 2 meters) stems rooting at the nodes. Alternate leaves, 1-3 in clusters at the nodes, mostly deciduous, 3-lobed (but not fully divided into leaflets), and toothed. Flowers are white, 1-2 on long stalks. Fruits are small, red, very hairy raspberries. Found in forests and open places at middle to high elevations. Dwarf bramble is a very common understorey species in high elevation forests of the Cascade Mountains.
  • R. pubescens: Dwarf red blackberry. Native. Unarmed perennial, stems more or less trailing, scarcely woody, typically less than 0.5 meter. Flowers white, pistils 20-30, filaments broad & flattened, with square shoulder or 2 teeth near tip. Leaflets 3-foliolate. Found in clearings and burns to deep forest, generally where moist, northcentral Washington.
  • R. pedatus: Strawberry bramble/Five-leaved bramble/Trailing rubus. Native unarmed perennial with creeping stems (runners), rooting at the nodes and producing short (to 2 cm), erect stems bearing 1-3 leaves. The alternate leaves are mostly deciduous, divided into 5 leaflets or oval lobes, and are coarsely toothed. White flowers, with petals spread or bent backwards, solitary on very slender stalks. Fruits small clusters of bright red drupelets, sometimes with just one drupelet per fruit. Found in moist, mossy forests, glades, streambanks, bog forests from low to subalpine elevations of Cascades and Olympic Mountains.

Use: The ripe berries were typically picked and eaten raw. Too, the berries were dried (often in cakes), later to be cooked in sauces and puddings, or eaten with dried meat or fish. Often certain species young shoots were peeled and eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable. The leaves of some species are sometimes used for tea. Some feel that the best leaves are harvested after the first frost when the leaves turn colors, then let to dry after picking. Often the fruits were mashed for purple stain.

[Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991; Pojar & MacKinnon, 1994]


Salixsitchensis - Sitka Willow

Sitka willow

Salix spp. - Willows
Salicaceae (Willow/Poplar Family) 

Willows are one of the most familiar and widespread groups of shrubs in the state of Washington. Although most grow along creeks or rivers certain species are found high upon mountain slopes where they form a shrubby mat only a few inches high.

All willows like sunlight and seek open places. Their bark is exceptionally bitter. In spring and early summer each leaf stem has two shiny, false leaves growing at the base. Most willow leaves are long and graceful with smooth or slightly toothed edges. Winter buds have a single, hood-like scale. "Pussy willows" and white, fluffy catkins are very noticeable in the spring.

Only a trained botanist can cope with the identification of the thirty or more willows in Washington . This is because many species flower before the leaves appear. Male and female flowers appear on different plants. Leaf and twig characteristics often vary greatly with age, and hybridization is common. Most of the more recognizable willows will be addressed here.

Description: Prostrate or creeping shrubs to tall trees, with usually narrow leaves which have short stems, and large to minute, persistent or deciduous stipules, if present. Individual plants are male or female. Flowers in the spring develop before leaves (precocious), with them (coetaneous), or after them (serotinous). A perianth does not exist. The individual female flower has a single 1-celled ovary, sessile or borne on a short pedicel, subtended by a single small scale; in the axil of the pedicel is a small "ventral gland," and in some species there is a second gland dorsal to the pedicel, called a "dorsal gland." Catkins are sessile to pedunculate, erect or spreading; bracts of the catkins entire or rarely shallowly dentate at apex. Stamens 1-8, usually 2. Styles elongate, entire or bifid. Stigmas short to long, entire to divided. Pollination can occur by wind, but often insects as bees collect and move the pollen from flower to flower. The ripened ovary forms a capsule which splits down two sides from the apex, freeing large numbers of small seeds, wind-borne by a mass of silky-down.

Selected species

Tree Size to 45' in height
  • Peachleaf Willow (S. amygdaloides): Lvs 2-4", lance-shaped, >3x longer than wide, finely serrulate, gradually tapering to a very fine tip, pale beneath. Streambanks, widespread eastern Washington.
  • Pacific Willow (S. lasiandra): Lvs length/width ratio at 5-6/1, glands/processes at base of petiole. Along streams, lowlands to moderate elevations Widespread Washington
Alpine Willows to 6" high, shrubby, mat-like
  • Cascade Willow (S. cascadensis): Lvs 1/4-3/4", glossy green. High Cascades, Mt. Rainier
  • Snow/Dwarf Willow (S. nivalis):  Lvs 1/8-1/2", silvery beneath. Olympics, High Cascades, Mt. Rainier
Shrubs to Small Trees - leaves wide, roundish
  • Scouler Willow (S. scouleriana): Lvs 2-4", 1/3 as wide, rounded or broad tip. Smooth on both sides Sagebrush to Yellow Pine Zones, Olympics
  • Sitka Willow (S. sitchensis): Lvs 2-4", 1/3 as wide, rounded tip. Velvety w/fine hairs beneath. Watercourses to middle elevations. Eastern & Western Washington.
  • Hooker Willow (S. hookeriana): Lvs 2-6", 1/2 as wide, dull-pointed. Woolly hairs beneath. Wet or dry land. Coastal forests.
  • Bebb Willow (S. bebbiana): Lvs to 2", 1/2 as wide, round-pointed. Wet places. Sagebrush and Bunchgrass Zones
"Sand Bar" Willows to 15' high, slender limbs, narrow leaves
  • Silverleaf Willow (S. argophylla): Lvs 2-3", silvery w/white hairs. Banks of Snake River & tributaries. Sagebrush & Bunchgrass Zones
  • Coyote Willow (S. exigua): Lvs 2-4", 1/8-1/4" wide Silvery green. Banks of Snake River & tributaries. Sagebrush & Bunchgrass Zones
Miscellaneous Willows
  • Barclay Willow (S. barclayi): Variable lvs, 2-4", ovalish, sharp-pointed, hairy above, bloom beneath. Subalpine, Mt. Rainier, Olympics
  • Arroyo Willow (S. lasiolepis): Young lvs silky, old lvs hairy beneath. Stream banks at low elevations of SE Washington

Vegetation key of willows in Washington State (pdf 194 kb).

Use: Particularly Hooker's willow (but others too), the bark was peeled in May or June, removed the outer part, split the inner tissue into thin strands, and twisted into long ropes. This rope was used to make fishing lines and various types of nets, including gill-nets, reef-nets, purse-nets, bagnets, and duck-nets. The bark was used to 'shingle' baskets. Also made were slings and harpoon lines. Others used the branches of young Hooker willow as poles for fish weirs because they were said to take root wherever they were 'planted' in the river.

Sitka willow bark was used to make a grey dye for mountain goat wool. The shredded bark was used for diapers.

Willows are the source of the natural precursor to aspirin, salicylic acid, found in the leaves and bark.

[Hitchcock & Cronquist, 1990; Pojar & McKinnon, 1994; Turner, 1995]


Sambucus racemosa - Red elderberry

Sambucus racemosa
Red elderberry
Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)

Shrub to small tree, deciduous, to 20 feet tall. Bark is warty. Leaves opposite divided into 5-7 leaflets. Leaflets lance-shaped, 2-6" long, pointed, sharply toothed, and often somewhat hairy beneath. Flowers are white to creamy in color, small, many, in a rounded or pyramid-shaped cluster. Fruits are bright-red drupes, each with 3-5 seeds, which are not palatable when raw.

Habitat: Stream banks, swampy thickets, moist clearings and open forests from sea level to middle elevations.

Use: Raw fruits are unpalatable and will cause nausea (let's just consider them toxic!). The fruits are boiled to make a sauce or cooked with the stems intact. The stems and seeds were then thrown out together. The berries make an excellent tangy jelly. Caches of red elderberries have been found in archaeological sites dating back hundreds of years. The stems, bark, leaves and roots, especially in fresh plants, are toxic due to the presence of cyanide-producing glycosides.

[Hitchcock & Cronquist, 1990; Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991; Turner & Szczawinski, 1990]


Shepherdia canadensis - Soapberry, Soopalollie, Foamberry, Buffaloberry

Shepherdia canadensis - fruit

Shepherdia canadensis - Soapberry, Soopalollie, Foamberry, Buffaloberry
Elaeagnaceae (Olive Family)

Dioecious, deciduous shrub usually under 6' tall, with opposite, oval or oval-lance-shaped, smooth edged leaves. The undersurface of the leaves and the twigs are covered with a combination of silvery hairs and rusty brown spots. The flowers are unisexual, small, greenish, and inconspicuous, blooming in early spring often before the leaves expand. The berries, borne singly or in clusters at the leaf axils, are small, and translucent, ranging in color from orange to deep red, and covered with small dots.

Habitat: Generally east of the Cascades but isolate occurrences in Olympics and Gulf Islands. Dry to moist open woods and thickets; from lowlands to middle elevation forests.

Use: The berries, which generally ripen in early July to early August, are extremely bitter. The berries fall off the bushes easily when ripe. The usual method of gathering them was to place a container or mat under a berry-laden branch, and then, holding the branch at the end, whack it sharply with a stick, dislodging all the ripe berries. The berries can then be used fresh, but were generally dried individually or in cakes, on mats or layers of dried grass. Sometimes they were boiled first, using red-hot bricks.

A special confection was developed by the First Peoples, often called "Indian ice-cream," by whipping the berries with an equal amount of water, with something as a sweetener, into a light froth. The whip was often sweetened with other berries such as saskatoons and salal. Whipping is done with the hands, with salal or thimbleberry branches, fireweed stems, bunches of timbergrass (Calamagrostis rubescens), or with a specially made whipping instrument consisting of loops of clusters of inner bark of silverberry or maple tied onto a stick. Special baskets, bowls or birch-bark vessels were used to make the whip. Specially carved, paddle-like wooden spoons were used to eat it, and in some households, each person had his or her own spoon, which was carefully hung up when not being used. Care must be taken in picking and preparing soapberries so they do not come in contact with oil or grease of any kind, or they will not whip. Upon eating, the whip has to be swished in and out of the mouth to get the air out of it before being swallowed.

Soapberry froth was traditionally eaten at feasts and family gatherings. Special dishes and wooden spoons were used to eat it and a party-like atmosphere prevailed at such times. The taste of soapberries is acquired, as is beer. Few people enjoy the "ice-cream" the first time. Even when sweetened, there is still a sour-bitter taste, but still worth the try.

[Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991; Pojar & MacKinnon, 1994]


Vaccinium parvifolium - Red Huckleberry, Red Whortleberry

Vaccinium parvifolium - Red Huckleberry,  Red Whortleberry
Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Erect shrub to 12 feet tall bearing bright green strongly angled branches. Leaves are alternate, mostly deciduous (but with a few persistent) and a little over an inch long with smooth edges. Flowers are bell- or urn-shaped about 5mm, and single in leaf axils. The connate petals are 5-merous, with 10 stamens, subtended by a small calyx. The anthers are awned. The fruits are bright red round berries 6-9 mm across.

Habitat: Red huckleberry is found in coniferous forests, often at forest edges or under canopy openings, in soils rich in decaying wood, often on stumps or logs where birds have deposited their seeds, at low to middle elevations in western Washington.

Use: These berries were an important fruit for coastal peoples. They were used by virtually all within the range of the plant, and were eaten fresh. Some people harvested the berries by clubbing the branches on the hand and letting the ripe berries fall into a basket. Like other fruits, they were often eaten with some type of oil or animal/fish grease, and were often mixed with other berries such as salal. Some First Peoples smoke dried the berries using the branches of the bush as part of the fuel. Sometimes the fruits were dried singly like raisins, mashed and dried into cakes for winter use, or stored soaked in Grease or oil. The juice, though watery, was consumed as a beverage to stimulate the appetite or as a mouthwash.

The leaves and bark were used in a decoction that was gargled for sore throats and inflamed gums. Some tribes used the leaves for tea (Gunther, 1981). The fruits were also used as fish bait in streams.

[Hichcock & Cronquist, 1990; Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991; Pojar & MacKinnon, 1994]


V. ovatum - Evergreen huckleberry, shot huckleberry, black winter huckleberry

v. ovatum
V. caespitosum - dwarf clueberry, blueberry, bilberry
v. caespitosum
v. uliginosum - bog blueberry, bog bilberry, bog huckleberry, sweet-berry, whortleberry
v. uliginosum

Vaccinium spp. - Blueberrys, Huckleberry, Cranberry, Bilberry, Whortleberry, Clueberry
Ericaceae (Heath Family)

Erect, vine-like, or low shrubs, with usually small, deciduous or evergreen leaves. Leaves entire or serrate, alternate. Flowers solitary or in racemes; calyx fully fused, petals generally 4-5 more or less 2/3 fused and cup or urn-shaped, lobed; stamens 8-10, anthers awned or awnless, poricidal opening at the apex of prolonged terminal tubes; ovary inferior, chambers 4-5, placentas axile. Fruit a many-seeded berry, coloring from high content of anthocyanin (reds/blues).

  • V. alaskense (Alaskan blueberry): Erect shrub 20-80" tall, leaves deciduous, twigs angled, particularly when young, fruit bluish-black to purplish-black. Moist coniferous forests, low to subalpine elevations.
  • V. caespitosum (Dwarf clueberry / blueberry / bilberry):  Tufted, mat-forming shrub 6-12" tall, deciduous leaves that are toothed from the tip to midpoint or below, prominently veined below, twigs nearly circular in cross-section, flower white to pink, twice as long as wide, single in leaf axils, awned anther, fruit blue. Low elevation bogs, subalpine meadows, alpine tundra.
  • V. deliciosum (Cascade huckleberry): Low, mat-forming shrub 6-12" tall, leaves deciduous, twigs nearly circular in cross-section, flowers pink, solitary in leaf axils, anthers awned, fruit blue. Subalpine meadows and open forest, alpine tundra.
  • V. membranaceum (Black huckleberry, Black mountain huckleberry): Upright spreading shrub 20-60" tall, leaves serrate, twigs somewhat angled/yellowish-green, flowers solitary in leaf axils, pinkish, anthers awned, fruit purple or reddish-black. Dry to moist coniferous forests, middle to alpine elevations.
  • V. ovalifolium (Oval-leaved blueberry, Oval-leaved bilberry, Grey blueberry, Mouldy blueberry): Upright spreading shrub 16-48" tall, leaves deciduous, twigs strongly angled and grooved, flowers pinkish, longer than wide, single in leaf axils, blooming before plant in leaf, anthers awned, fruit blue-black, on curved stalks. Bogs and moist coniferous forests and openings, low to subalpine elevations. Associated with Vaccinium parvifolium at lower elevations.
  • V. ovatum (Evergreen huckleberry, Shot huckleberry, Black winter huckleberry): Upright spreading shrub, evergreen, leaves leathery, sharply toothed the entire length, in two opposite rows, twigs slightly hairy, grey not angled, flower pink bell-shaped in clusters of 3-10, in axils of leaves, anthers short-awned to awnless, fruit purplish-black, with musky flavor. Coniferous forests near the ocean.
  • V. oxycoccus (Bog cranberry, Wild cranberry, Moss cranberry):
    Creeping shrub (vine-like) to 6" long, evergreen, the leaf margins entire and rolled under, flowers deep pink, nodding atop long pedicel, petals sharply bent backwards, and stamens protruding (like miniature shooting stars) fruit red. Bogs and wet subalpine meadows. The word cranberry comes from the fact that the open flowers looks something like the head of a crane.
  • V. uliginosum (Bog blueberry, Bog bilberry, bog huckleberry, Sweet-berry, Whortleberry): Erect to prostrate much-branched shrub 3-10" tall, leaves deciduous, not toothed and strongly veined below, twigs nearly circular in cross-section, flowers with awned anthers, fruit blue. Low elevation bogs, rocky alpine tundra.
  • V. vitis-idaea (Low-bush cranberry, Mountain cranberry, Rock cranberry, Lingon berry): Creeping shrub to 10" tall, evergreen leaves with the margins rolled under, twigs thin, smooth to slightly hairy, flower pink, 1 to several in terminal clusters, anthers not awned, fruit pale pink to dark red. Bogs and subalpine meadows.

Use: The berries of these plants were typically eaten fresh. Preservation was usually by drying into cakes. The mashed berries were packed in a 1 to 2" layer on a cedar bark mat and dried about 3' above a fire for two to three days. The juice could be collected separately when the berries were being cooked, then drunk as a beverage or slowly added to the berries as they dried.

[Hitchcock & Cronquist, 1990; Kuhnlein & Turner, 1991]


Viburnum edule - Highbush cranberry, Squashberry, Mooseberry

Viburnum edule - Highbush cranberry, Squashberry, Mooseberry
Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)

Deciduous shrub, or small tree. Leaves opposite, roundish in outline, lightly 3-lobed above the middle, irregularly serrate, glabrous or slightly pubescent beneath, palmately veined, 2-4 inches long. Flowers white, 5 parted calyx and corolla, all perfect and of equal size, stamens 5 and shorter than corolla. Fruit is a red 1-seeded drupe, with seeds like flattened stones.

Habitat: Moist forests and forest edges, thickets, rocky slopes, margins of wetlands streambanks, river terraces; low to middle elevations.

Use: The tart, clustered berries were harvested in late summer and early fall often while still green, but also after the first frost. The berries will remain on the shrub well into winter. The berries were stored in boxes with water and oil. The bark was often chewed and the juice swallowed for lung colds. It is said that these berries and commercial cranberries mixed half-and-half make an excellent Thanksgiving cranberry sauce.

[Pojar & McKinnon, 1994]