Indian Plum

Indian Plum or Osoberry, Osmaronia cerasiformis

Indian Plum in bloom, photographer Martha Rasmussen

A true harbinger of springtime, Indian Plum is the earliest blooming shrub in the Darrington area.  Clusters of buds open up to small whitish-green bell shaped flowers in late March just about the same time when the western Bleeding Heart begins to bloom.  After the flowers begin to appear they are followed by light green leaves.  These will also be the first green leaves on native shrubs in springtime.

Indian Plum fruits beginning to ripen, photographer Martha Rasmussen

This loosely branched deciduous shrub grows up to 15 feet high, the leaves are oblong  and grow alternate.   The leaves  have a scent resembling a cucumber.  After the flowers are done blooming small oval golden colored fruits begin to appear.  Indian Plum is also called Osoberry, Oso meaning bear and as the name suggests the fruit is an important part of a bears diet but competing with various hungry birds, deer and other wildlife.  If  the fruit can remain on the plant long enough it will ripen to a deep purple.

Ripe Indian Plum fruit, photographer Shari Brewer

The ripe fruit was also a valuable food source for the native American both eaten fresh and dried for winter use.  As settlers came to the area they learned the value of this fruit from our Sauk-Suiattle Tribe and became a popular winter preserve.