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The First Bush to Bloom: Indian Plum

January 14, 2018

 

 

 

 

Every year, around the Winter Solstice, I know there will be buds on the Indian Plum bush. You have to look closely to see them, but they're there, tightly furled and reddish-brown at the tips of the branches. By the end of February, the buds are obvious--long and bright, spring green. And, by March, the Indian Plum is the first bush to open its leaves. Likewise, in the fall, Indian Plum is the first bush to yellow, and the first to lose its leaves.
 


The Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)--also called Osoberry--is an under-story plant native to the Pacific Northwest. It's a shrub with long, oval-shaped, alternate leaves that glow a light, vivid green in the sun. The female plant grows white flowers that become purple-red berries in summer. They're edible, but gritty and filled with tiny seeds. To me, they taste vaguely like watermelon.

 


Some indigenous groups used Indian Plum twigs as an anesthetic, and to make tea. The wood has historically been used to make arrows and other carved goods, like spoons, combs, knitting needles, etc.  

 

I love the Indian Plum because it's the bringer of the seasons. I watch it closely and I know when the light is beginning to grow or beginning to fall. What's the first shrub to bloom in your area?

 

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