Wednesday, November 30, 2005


To conclude our investigation into the Pacific Rhododendron, I’d like to show you two of our subject rhododendron’s favorite neighbors, and dear friends of my own.

Meet Salal, and “Mystery-Bush” – two shrubby evergreens that grow happily along side the rhododendrons in my back yard in Seabeck. These two can be found in many other places around the Pacific Northwest.

The salal is the plant with the large round-ish leaves. Like the rhododendron, salal is a member of the family Ericaceae.

Unlike the parking-lot variety which are small and close to the ground, the salal growing in the forest interior have to reach high to stake their light claims, and most are over a meter tall. Others grow up to five meters high, often leaning on their neighbors for extra support.

As to “mystery-bush”… here is my quandary: I believe that it is a type of common huckleberry, also of the family Ericaceae, but I haven’t been able to confirm that. Another alternative would be that it is a shrub called boxwood (part of a different family, I believe). I am simply at a loss. Maybe they are one and the same, and it's merely a question of local word choice?

Whatever it is, this lovely plant produces swaths of tiny, pink fragrant blossoms which are followed by huge clumps of juicy, sweet, blue, violet, and black berries. Not only do the small birds and the bumble bees LOVE these plants, but apparently huskies do too!

Both of the husky dogs that have lived with me have enjoyed many an hour sitting beside these bushes, shucking the berries off like so much corn! Once they’ve finished with one bush, they move to the next one. The evidence of their efficient and voracious harvesting method is shown in the undigested leaves adorning each healthy poopy in the morning.

As a side note, we also have another huckleberry that grows around the forest which produces tiny, tart, red berries. As much as I might miss all my forest friends of Western Washington, I am so incredibly excited for my opportunity to meet all the plants of the East Coast!


  1. I can't believe how green it is out there, JLB; I'm in minus 16 Celsius weather with a few inches of ice and snow.

  2. JLB, o verde e as plantas são os nossos melhores amigos e vizinhos, sem dúvida.
    the green and the plants are our better friends and neighbors, without a doubt. Um abraço.

  3. I too started my blog writing about trees, live in the Pacific Northwest, and a few months ago was compelled to identify the very same shrub you wrote about - what a set of coincidences! It turns out the shrub is the Evergreen Huckleberry,
    Vaccinium ovatum, and here is a link describing it:

    It was quite a relief to identify it since I had been willy-nilly eating its berries all fall, having decided that surely something that delicious and plentiful couldn't be fatal. I'm nonetheless surprised to hear how much your dogs love it. I will throw a few in Karma's bowl (beloved dog) and see if he similarly delights in it.

    In the meantime, I look forward to reading more of your blog.


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