Oemleria cerasiformis

Common Name: Indian plum 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Rosaceae
Native Range: Western North America
Zone: 6 to 10
Height: 8.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: February to April
Bloom Description: Greenish-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest

Culture

Easily grown in humusy, fertile, acidic, moist but well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Will tolerate somewhat dryish soils. Avoid wet soils. Plants are dioecious (male and female flowers are on separate plants). Female plants will not produce fruit unless there is a nearby male pollinator. This shrub is winter hardy to Zones 6-10. Propagate by root suckers and seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Oemleria cerasiformis, commonly known as oso berry, Indian plum, Oregon plum or bird cherry, is a large, suckering, deciduous shrub or small tree of the cherry tribe of the rose family that grows from 8’ to 20’ tall. It is native to both moist and relatively dry forested areas, stream banks, slopes, hillsides, rocky canyons, coastal scrub and along roads from southwestern British Columbia south to Santa Barbara County, California on the western side of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges. It is noted for its late winter bloom (first deciduous native shrub in the Pacific Northwest to flower) of almond-scented, greenish-white flowers (each to 1/2” wide) which appear in drooping clusters (racemes of 5-10 flowers). Flowers typically bloom in late February and March. Flowers are followed by pitted, olive-sized fruits (shape of a small plum) which emerge green, develop salmon coloring as they ripen, and finally mature to purple-black by early summer (late June). Birds and a variety of animals (e.g., squirrels, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, skunk, deer) love the fruit. Bears also eat the fruit as suggested by the common name of oso berry (oso from Spanish means bear). Fruit is edible for humans (bitter until fully ripe), but contains small amounts of hydrogen cyanide (consider eating the fruits in small quantities). Stems are erect in full sun but arch in part shade. Stems have chambered pith and conspicuous orange lenticles. Elliptic to oblong tapered leaves (each to 3-5” long) are lime green above and downy pale gray-green beneath. Yellow fall color begins to form in late August.

Genus name honors Augustus Gottlieb Oemler (1774-1852), German-American pharmacist and naturalist.

Specific epithet from Latin means in the shape of a cherry in reference to the small plum to cherry-like fruits.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Interesting landscape specimen. Large hedge. Naturalized areas.