Oemleria cerasiformis

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USDA Hardiness zone: Zn6a -5º to -10ºF

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Oemleria cerasiformis

Oso berry is a classic west coast shrub. Its one of the earliest shrubs to burst into leaf and flower long before anyone else- often as early as early February.  Exceptionally fresh green leaves emerge vertically and for a time appear as rabbit ears lining the stems. On female plants fragrant chains of white flowers are showy in a very spring like way. Following pollination chains of charming fruit (the drupes or plums)first turn yellow then red/orange and arrive at deep purple. They are reputed to be good. And even though I’ve known this plant my entire life i’ve never tasted a ripe fruit. Seems like they disappear to wildlife very fast. There was a thicket of this early spring shrub near the bottom of our long driveway and it would leaf out and bloom in February and March. When I spotted those acid green leaves I knew that winter was over. To 8′ x 8′ quickly from a massively suckering central shrub. Branches soar up and arch out. All the better to observe the colorful fruit. Native, often under Oregon white oaks and in dry woods with Holodiscus discolor/ Ocean spray, Corylus cornuta californica /Western Hazel. By late spring this shrub has all but faded into the background. Often it will lose many or all leaves in a very dry summer, but its drought tolerance is phenomenal.  Fall color is soft yellow and shows up nicely on the dark forest floor. Its natural range is from the N. Bay area in CA north to extreme SW British Columbia. Always on the west side of the mountains. Stems force well when brought inside in December- January. Deer resistant and possibly rabbit resistant. This is a very wild looking shrub, goes well with other plants of that mein. Stirs early pollinators and even Anna’s Hummers. These are unsexed seedlings. Best in part shade to shade though it will tolerate full sun with a less refined overall look. Water lightly but consistently for the first summer then none in subsequent years. Virtually any soil type including heavy clay. Simultaneous bloom with flowering currants (Ribes sanguineum). A great garden pairing. The sexes are revealed in their flower.   The female pendant white flowers have somewhat shaggy petals ( the flower pictured is a female) Male flowers are also pendant but the white petals are sharply flat no shagginess, and appear up to a week before female flowers . Oregon native plant.

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