Frangula (Rhamnus) purshiana

AKA Cascara or Cascara sagrada. This is a widespread small tree to shrub in the northwestern part of the United States to SW Canada. West of the Cascades  its found in almost every biome. It can be a wind contorted shrub on blasting headlands at the coast. In the Willamette Valley its common where birds drop the berries/seeds on fence rows and it borders fields with native roses and Oso Berry. Its even found in the Bitteroot mountains in Montana/Idaho. It was frequently used by indigenous people as a laxative. Cascara is a small round crowned tree/shrub. In drier locations it is more shrub like but in deep, rich soil with access to water it can grow to be a thirty five foot tree. Large round alternate leaves turn dark green and glossy in summer. In May and June the tiny greenish flower appear and transform into red fruits by autumn. This is the mechanism that makes this plant so widespread, its dispersal by birds. A lovely little straight trunked shade tree that requires almost no water once established. It functions as an understory component as well. Full sun to quite a bit of shade, including dry shade. Easy to grow and climate adapted. Average life span 35 years. In winter its very symmetrical open branch structure is handsome. Fall color is soft yellow to chartreuse and not especially showy. Oregon native plant

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Rhamnus alaternus ‘Variegata’

One of the finest variegated evergreen shrubs. The finely pointed leaves of this fast growing large drought adapted shrub are boldly edged in cream with a deep green center. Tiny flowers turn into small bright red berries. Often used as cut foliage- especially around the holidays as the leaves remain fresh for many weeks as cut material. Full sun to part shade in average, well drained soil. Very light summer water to none once established. This mediterranean buckthorn is supremely adapted to drought. In rich soil with summer water it will grow insanely fast and large often toppling under these conditions. Accepts any amount of pruning and its best to do this to produce a denser more root stable plant. It thrives in the worst conditions. 12′ tall by 12′ wide but radical and consistent pruning keeps it much smaller and improves density. Excellent summer scaffold for Clematis. Plant on 3′ centers for a fast, dense hedge.  Prune out the very rare green reversions if they appear.  Best with neglect.

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