Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Early Season Flowers Display Subtle Show

The dainty blooms of the Indian plum or Osoberry decorate the roads and transition zones of Western Washington forests.

The first flowers of the new season have arrived. Intermingled with the flowering cherry trees are some of the earliest native blooms. Osoberry or Indian plum, resemble a willow to the casual eye, but is actually part of the rose family. Small, distinctive blooms hang under new leaves that give new life to a rather drab, late winter scene.

These plants are most prominent in the shade, but are most visible along the local roadsides and fence lines in exposed sunshine.

The Osoberry can be upwards to 15 to 20 feet tall like this specimen east of Toledo, Washington.

Native Americans found value in the bark by producing a tea while chewed twigs served as a mild anesthetic when applied to a boo boo. In some cases, twigs were also considered an aphrodisiac.

Humans ate the fruit despite its bitterness, but birds, rodents, deer, bear, foxes and coyotes find the resultant berries an important part of their early season diet.

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