Native Indian plum

By April 19, 2017 No Comments

The Indian plum shrub, Oemleria cerasiformis, is the first native Pacific Northwest deciduous shrub to flower in spring. I keep seeing it on our strata sites, especially on wild forested edges. Yesterday, while I was preparing a new bed for planting, a resident asked me about it. And I had no idea what it was called. I knew it was a native but the botanical name takes some getting used to.

So I finally took the time to look it up and give it its own blog post. After the harsh winter we have just experienced, it’s very nice to see the white creamy flowers and green leaves. And I will be able to answer people’s questions about it.

Oemleria cerasiformis is medium to tall shrub, about 1-5m tall, with clumped arching stems which are pith chambered.

The white flowers are in loose drooping clusters. Male and female flowers are found on separate shrubs so insects are required for pollination. As the season progresses, we get orange fruit. The fleshy drupes look like plums as they ripen and turn blue. The plums are bean shaped, about 1 cm long, and birds love them. From my reading I understand that the plums don’t last very long. Birds really love them.

Leaves are alternate, deciduous and lanceolate. Crushed, they smell like cucumbers.

The Indian plum shrub is commonly associated with Cornus sericea, Sambucus racemosa and Symphoricarpos albus.



White flowers and green foliage on my dirty hand; spring has arrived!



Early summer fruit; orange (Photo by permission from nwplants.com)



Ripe fruits look like plums and birds love them! (Photo by permission from nwplants.com)


The Indian plum shrub is very noticeable as I write this in mid-April. It deserves to be planted in people’s gardens. The creamy white flowers are great and birds love this shrub.

Now I just have to practice the botanical name. Oemleria cerasiformis.

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