This is the story of a plant, unnoticed yet everpresent. Planted not for show, but for usefulness. It grows in my own backyard, it grows in the Olympic National Park and it grows in the Pacific Ocean! Yes, I found it growing on a rock on the Washington Coast. What a surprise when we were on the beach, looking at tidepools filled with fascinating invertebrates, to suddenly lift our eyes and witness Salal covering a large beach rock. Gaultheria shallon. Just saying it sounds like the sea, like a wave. Shallon is a whoosh and a whisper. Salal can grow and cover land like a tidal wave, persistent and secure with it’s place in the world. A very successful Northwest evergreen shrub!
5 thoughts on “Seaside Salal”
Plants are not only intelligent, adaptable and useful – they look wonderful too, even on a rock! I’ve seen this plant on heathland near the east coast of England. Do you eat the berries? I’ve never had the chance to try them…
Yes, I’ve tried the berries. Pure survival food, not very tasty!
I am a salal fan…I wish everyone who plants ivy in our region would plant salal instead. The visual impact is the same, only without the ‘green desert’ effect, windsail in trees, and the displacement of native vegetation. Cathy’s question is great–salal berries are delicious, very much like a blueberry. The only downside is they are heavily seeded with teensy sandlike seeds, so texturally they are less pleasant than a blueberry. A motivated forager could mill them and strain through fine mesh, though, to make a syrup or sauce. It is interesting that Cathy saw them in a heath in Britain–I know that heaths are sensitive ecosystems, and Salal is not native there (introduced by David Douglas, the Douglas Fir guy in 1826). It would be horrible if the plant were damaging endangered heathlands…though ironic, because of our English Ivy problem. Great photos, Elaine!
To each his own! I’m glad you like salal berries, I would need them with a heavy dose of cream and sugar to enjoy them. Yes, I am a salal fan too. It is the perfect plant for our Northwest location. Gorgeous evergreen foliage, flowers, fruit, sun or shade….who could ask for more? And what else would you ask for? (Hmmm, that would be an interesting topic….) I love the fact that Salal is collected in the wild and sold for flower arrangements. If you’ve ever stuck it in a vase, you’ll know why. It lasts for weeks on end and still looks fabulous! It does however have a dark side. Once situated, it has a tendency to stay. And to grow. And to keep growing. And to come back once cut down. Good for the wild, bad for backyard perennial beds. Go Salal!!!
Elaine I love the picture of the salal covering the rock…this is a plant I may have seen but never named. And it has edible berries.