Monday, April 19, 2010

Native Cherries on the Trail

Those of you who travel the Chehalis Western Trail in Olympia, Washington, might recognize this spot. If you do, and you like cherries, bring a ladder this summer and a delight awaits.

Ebony seems to get in every photo!

These blooming trees are the native cherry also known as Bitter Cherry. It is not commonly available from nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors.

You are looking at a mature grove of who knows how many years?

General Characteristics:

The Bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata) is a native, deciduous shrub, four to twelve feet high, or sometimes a small tree up to thirty feet high. The leaves are oblong to oval, fine toothed, and rounded at the tip. The flowers are fragrant, blooming between April and May, in clusters of five to twelve. The bark has a generally smooth dark brown surface marked by horizontal light gray interrupted hands and by rows of oblong orange colored lenticels.

Interesting Facts:

Several native North American tribes used bitter cherry to treat a variety of complaints. An infusion of the bark was used in the treatment of tuberculosis. A decoction of the root and inner bark was taken daily as a treatment for heart troubles. An infusion of the bark, combined with crab apple, was used as a cure all tonics in treating colds and various other ailments. An infusion of this species’ rotten wood was used as a contraceptive.

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