Indian Plum: First Forest Flowers

Amdist the brown branches of February woodlands and urban forests in the Pacific Northwest, one native shrub always turns out the first flowers and bright new leaves– the Indian Plum.  The pendants of tiny greenish-white flower clusters fall beneath glowing green leaves that stick straight up, like the ears of a rabbit.


The flowers will mature into clusters of red-purple fruits, and were eaten cooked or dried by various Washington Salish groups.  The bitter bark was sometimes chewed and applied to muscle strains.

Also called osoberry, the Indian Plum is not really very plummish.  The fruits are dry, tart, and pithy. They do gather some sweetness as they ripen, but it’s hard to get a good mature one–birds (especially robins, waxwings, and jays) eat them as quick as they appear.  But heck, almost anything tastes good if you boil it down with enough sugar and drop it into a bowl of ice cream. I’ve eaten Indian Plums that way, and they weren’t half bad.  Worth a try just to say you did, and for the reminder of everyday sustenance in the natural world.