Sunday, March 23, 2008
First blooms in the Pacific Northwest Indian Plum
One of the first blooms I look forward to in the early spring here in the Pacific Northwest is the native Indian Plum or Oso-berry Oemleria cerasiformis.
The white flowers shine through the green foliage and fill me with excitement and anticipation that spring is on the way.
This Pacific Northwest native plant was used by the Native Americans here. The berries are edible and were collected for future use. They are not very palatable, they are extremely bitter. I have heard that the bitterness goes away in later stages, but the birds love the berries so it would be hard to find them in later stages on the branch. Some tribes would dry them and use them later in the winter, this may make the berries taste sweeter as well. I have not personally tried drying the berries, maybe this year:)
I have chewed the leaves, they are astringent and give you a tingling, numbing feeling on the tongue. This may explain the Native American uses of the leaves as a sore muscle poultice. The
Poultice was chewed, the burned plant and oil was then applied to sore places. The bark was used as a mild laxative.
Indian Plum grows well in moist shady places. I have seen several along roadsides up here in Sandy as well. These pictures were taken by a beautiful waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge. Near the Indian plum you will also likely find nettles, dock and several other medicinals.
Up here on the Mountain it snowed on the first day of spring! I was so delighted to see several other medicinals in bloom when I made a trip down to the Gorge. Trillium, violets, baby monkey flower, bleeding heart to name a few. There was also an abundance of early spring nettle, Dock, cow parsnip, wood sorrel, horsetail and other wonderful plants all poking through the ground. I will be writing about all of these soon in upcoming blog posts.
Gill, Steven J. 1983 Ethnobotany of the Makah and Ozette People, Olympic Peninsula, Washington (USA). Washington State University, Ph.D. Thesis (p. 264)
Turner, Nancy Chapman and Marcus A. M. Bell 1973 The Ethnobotany of the Southern Kwakiutl Indians of British Columbia. Economic Botany 27:257-310 (p. 289)