Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana): Bundle of 10


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Sold in bundles of 10.

At a Glance: Erect, tall shrub or small tree with alternate leaves and inconspicuous flower clusters.

Height: Up to 33 feet (10 meters).
Stems: Thin, smooth, very bitter, silvery gray bark.
Leaves: Alternate (may seem opposite on young growth), egg-shaped to oblong, deciduous, dark glossy green, 6-12 cm (2.5-5 in) long, finely toothed, strongly pinnately veined in furrows, the surface washboardy.
Flowers: Small, with 5 sepals, 5 petals, and 5 stamens; 8-50 in stalked, umbrella-shaped clusters in the axils of leaves; primary color: greenish yellow; size: 3-4 mm long.
Flowering Period: April, May.
Fruits: Blue black to purplish-black berries, 5-8 mm across; edible.

Conservation Uses:  Cascara is considered an outstanding species for riparian restoration.  It also provides wildlife habitat.  Its berries are a favorite food of several species of birds and its stems provide browse for deer and elk.

Ethnobotany:The Nuu-chah-nulth made chisel handles of the wood. The Skagit boiled the bark to make a green dye for mountain goat wool. The bark was boiled and the tea was drunk as a strong laxative by the Nuxalk, Coast Salish, Quileute, Nuu-Chah-nulth, and the Kwakwakawakw. The bark was often allowed to age before use because the fresh bark is nauseating. The Coast Salish collected and dried the bark in strips in spring or summer. The next summer it was pounded and steeped in cold water, then boiled. Usually a handful of bark per quart of water was used. This plant was also used as a medicine for washing sores and swellings, and treating heart strain, internal strains and biliousness.
During WWII the bark was harvested in great quantities. Historical demand for Cascara bark for use in the pharmaceutical industry (as a laxative) has resulted in a considerable reduction in the native Cascara population.  It was once commonly found growing as a riparian species.

Sun/Shade Tolerance Hydrology Elevation Range
 full sun > 80%
 mostly sunny 60%-80%
 partial sun and shade 40%- 60%
 mostly shady 60%-80%
 full shade > 80%

 low elevation
 mid elevation
 high elevation


Soil Preferences
Favors similar soils as red alder and vine maple.
 sandy soils
 gravelly soils
 clay soils
 muddy soils
 peaty soils
 well drained soils
 shallow soils
 deep soils
 acidic soils
 basic soils
 humic soils
 nutrient rich soils
 nutrient poor soils
 mineral soils
 organic soils
Wildlife Value
 Nectar for hummingbirds
 Nectar for butterflies
 Host for insect larvae
 Thickets and shelter
 Thorny or protective cover
Birds: Berries are eaten by grosbeaks, woodpeckers, grouse, band-tailed pigeons, mourning doves, jays, robins, and tanagers. It also attracts many insectivorous birds, including bushtits, kinglets, chickadees, flycatchers, and nuthatches.
Insects: Leaves and other plant parts are eaten by swallowtail, gray hairstreak, and other butterfly larvae.
Mammals: Black bears, foxes, coyotes, and raccoons eat the fruit.


Pojar, Jim, and Andy MacKinnon. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska. Revised ed. Redmond, Wash.: B.C. Ministry of Forests and Lone Pine Pub., 2004. Print.

“Sound Native Plants.” Sound Native Plants. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. <>.