Category Archives: Small Shrubs

Thimbleberry

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
Rubus parviflorus

Rubus parviflorus, commonly called thimbleberry, is a species of Rubus, native to western and northern North America, from Alaska east to Ontario and Michigan, and south to northern Mexico. It grows from sea level in the north, up to 2,500 m altitude in the south of the range.

It is a dense shrub up to 2.5 meters tall with canes no more than 1.5 centimeters in diameter, often growing in large clumps which spread through the plant’s underground rhizome. Unlike most other members of the genus, it has no prickles. The leaves are palmate, up to 20 centimeters across, with five lobes; they are soft and fuzzy in texture. The flowers are 2 to 6 centimeters in diameter, with five white petals and numerous pale yellow stamens. The flower of this species is among the largest of any Rubus species, making its Latin species name parviflorus (‘small-flowered’) a misnomer.

Like other raspberries it is not a true berry, but instead an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets around a central core. The drupelets may be carefully removed separately from the core when picked, leaving a hollow fruit which bears a resemblance to a thimble, perhaps giving the plant its name. Thimbleberry fruits are larger, flatter, and softer than raspberries, and have many small seeds. Because the fruit is so soft, it does not pack or ship well, so thimbleberries are rarely cultivated commercially.

The species typically grows along roadsides, railroad tracks, and in forest clearings, commonly appearing as an early part of the ecological succession in clear cut and forest fire areas.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 4-6ft
  • Mature Width: 3-6ft

Salmonberry

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)
Rubus spectabilis

Rubus spectabilis (Salmonberry) is a species of Rubus native to the west coast of North America from southern Alaska to California.

It is a shrub growing to 1–4 m tall, with perennial, not biennial woody stems (unlike other species). The leaves are trifoliate, 7–22 cm long, the terminal leaflet larger than the two side leaflets. The leaf margins are toothed. The flowers are 2–3 cm diameter, with five purple petals; they are produced from early spring to early summer. The fruit matures in late summer to early autumn, and resembles a large yellow to orange-red raspberry 1.5-2 cm long with many drupelets.

In our area the berries can ripen from mid-June to late-July.

Salmonberries are found in moist forests and stream margins, especially in the coastal forests. They often form large thickets, and thrive in the open spaces under stands of Red Alder (Alnus rubra).

Salmonberries have a mild flavor, and are often made into jams, candies, jellies, and wines.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 4-10ft
  • Mature Width: 4-10ft

Douglas Spirea

Douglas spirea (Spiraea douglasii)
Spiraea douglasii

Commonly known as Douglas’s spiraea, hardhack or steeplebush. Large clusters of small pink flowers form spires in early summer, later turning dark and persisting. This erect shrub can be thicket-forming in marshy areas.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 6ft
  • Mature Width: 3-7ft

Snowberry

Common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus)
Symphoricarpos albus

Few plants are as aptly named as snowberry. Small tubular pink flowers give way to scattered clusters of white berries in late summer, which hover on the delicate, arching branches through the fall and much of winter. The small oval leaves are pale green, turning yellow in the fall.

Snowberries are at their best in the landscape when combined with other plants. They bring an airy lightness to the understory that contrasts well with the thick evergreen leaves of salal and low Oregon grape, the red stems of red osier dogwoods, and the feathery green foliage of hemlock and western red cedar.

The berries are eaten by birds when other food is scarce, and the flowers attract pollinators and hummingbirds. It is tolerant of a wide variety of growing conditions and makes an excellent addition to any native garden.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 3-6ft
  • Mature Width: 2-4ft

Evergreen Huckleberry

Evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)
Vaccinium ovatum

Evergreen Huckleberry is a small to medium sized evergreen shrub native to the Pacific Northwest regions of the United States and British Columbia. In the Willamette Valley, it prefers full to partial shade, but will tolerate full sun in coastal areas. It grows slowly and prefers acidic soils.

The shiny, alternately arranged leaves are 2-3.0cm long and 1-1.5cm wide with finely serrated edges. In mid-summer, the plant produces round, edible black berries about 0.5 – 1.0cm in diameter. The berries are a valuable traditional food for many Native American cultures in the Pacific Northwest.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 4-8ft
  • Mature Width: 3-6ft

Black Twinberry

Black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)
Lonicera involucrata

Black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) is also known as “twinberry honeysuckle”. Named for its twin-forming flower and fruit, this is a fast-growing, attractive shrub reaching 10 feet or more. Pairs of tubular-shaped yellow to orange flowers bloom mid-spring to early summer, followed by very showy red bracts surrounding dark purple berries. The flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds and the berries are eaten by numerous birds. Twinberry likes sun or partial shade and moist soil.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 8-10ft
  • Mature Width: 4-10ft
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