- Deciduous shrub 15-20 ft (4.5-6 m) high, erect. Stems have orange lenticels and chambered pith. Leaves broadly oblong, narrowed at each end, 4-6.5 cm long, short petiole, young leaves have a cucumber-like flavor. One of the first native shrubs to bloom in the spring, plants usually dioecious -- male or female flowers on separate plants, flowers green-white, in hanging clusters at ends of leafy branches. Fruit ovoid (cerasiformis: cherry shaped), orange-red then red-purple, quickly consumed by, and seeds spread by, birds. Although bitter and astringent, they are "quite palatable when fully ripe" (Pojar and MacKinnon, 1994).
- Part shade. Good for wild plantings where its size and suckering habits are not a disadvantage. A nearby male plant needed for female plants to set abundant fruit.
- Hardy to USDA Zone (5) 6 Native to lowland wetland forests from British Columbia to California.
One of the first native woody plants to flower. Optimistic observers consider its bloom a sign that spring is near, whereas pessimistic folks consider such a view as “excessive exuberance”. When young leaves are chewed, the flavor is reminiscent of cucumbers.
- Oemleria: after Herr Oemler of Dresden who supplied American plants to the German botanist H.G.L. Reichenbach in the mid-1800s.
- cerasiformis: cherry-shaped, the fruit
- Oregon State Univ. campus: west side of Moreland Hall "arboretum".