Salmonberry – Rubus spectabilis

At a Glance

  • Family:  Rosaceae
  • Plant Type:  Erect deciduous shrub
  • Distribution:  Pacific Coast, California to Alaska
  • Habitat:  Moist woods and wetland buffers, at low to mid elevations
  • Height: 9 feet
  • Flower/Fruits:  Hot pink flowers with a yellow/green center, fruit ripens to a sweet orange-red “berry”, similar to a raspberry.
  • Flowering Season: March – June
  • Leaves: Large compound three part leaf. If you cover the top/middle leaflet, the two lower ones make the shape of a butterfly.
  • Generation: Perennial
  • Bark:  Brown flaking/peeling bark
  • Notable feature: These plants are easy to spot when the flowers emerge early in spring, before leafing out completely.

Restoration and Conservation

Salmonberry is a great plant to use in restoration which is fairly easy to grow and supports wildlife. The flowers are an early source of nectar for over-wintering local hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and other insects. The berries support birds, bears, and small mammals. Leaves and twigs are grazed on by deer, elk and rabbits, and the dense, prickly stems provide a thicket habitat for small birds and mammals to shelter in.

Ethnobotany

The berries have been used as a staple food in many Native American diets along the Pacific Coast. Young stems could be harvested and served like asparagus. As a medicine, salmonberry leaves and bark were used for many purposes including treating diarrhea or dressing burns and sores on the skin.

References and Resources

This article was written by Sarah Verlinde-Azofeifa.   For questions regarding the EERC Native Plant Guided Tour, contact Sarah at severlin@uw.edu.