Oemleria (Osmaronia) cerasiformis
Botanical Description: (Rosaceae) ch”əXʷadac is a tall deciduous multi-stemmed shrub, growing up to 5m in optimal conditions. The branches grow from the central root system rather than growing outward from a trunk. The deep green leaves are 7-12cm long, oval-shaped, and taper at both ends. The delicate clusters of pendulous white flowers are a welcome sign that spring is just around the corner, as ch”əXʷadac is the first of our native plants to bloom in late winter. The male and female flowers are found on separate plants and insects must pollinate them for fruits to develop. The fruit is small and looks very similar to a plum. The 1cm fruits grow in bunches that change color from rich salmon to deep blue-black. The fruit are mild and juicy when fully ?????? ripe.
Habitat/Range: Indian-plum grows west of the Cascade Mountains from British Columbia to California, from the lowlands to the lower elevations of the Cascades. It is an understory shrub and grows in shady areas from moist stream banks to dry woods.
Food: The young leaves are edible and have a cucumber-like flavor. The fruits can be eaten fresh or dried for winter use. Historically, several customs were connected to eating ch”əXʷadac.
One was that water was forbidden while eating them, although fish oil was allowed. During the winter dance season there was a feast dedicated to the Indian-plum. During this feast, guests were called four times to dance.
Medicine: A decoction of ch”əXʷadac bark has been used by Makah people to treat tuberculosis and also as a mild laxative. The plant has also been used to promote healing of the skin. Kwakwakawakw people chewed, burnt, and then mixed the plant with oil and applied it to sores and wounds.
WARNING: Indian-plums are edible, but there is some concern that they may contain hydrogen cyanide. “The Chehalis informant stated that if one ate too many berries, one’s mouth would turn black, and one would get a stomach ache.” Consume the fruit in small quantities and be sure they are fully ripe- the non-ripe fruit tastes chalky!
 Gunther 37