Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Salmonberry - Rubus spectabilis


Origin Status: Native [E-flora]

Similar Species:
General: Medium to tall shrub, 1-4 m tall, from extensive rhizomes, often thicket-forming; stems erect to arching, unarmed to strongly bristly, especially below, the bristles short and straight; bark yellowish-brown, shredding.[IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: Alternate, deciduous, pinnately compound, 7-22 cm long; leaflets 3, egg-shaped, 3-15 cm long, shallowly lobed and double-saw-toothed, sharply long-pointed at the tip, greenish on both surfaces, smooth to sparsely hairy above, paler and hairy on the veins beneath; stipules linear, 5-10 mm long.[IFBC-E-flora]
Flowers: Inflorescence of mostly 1 or 2 stalked, nodding flowers on short, leafy, lateral branchlets; corollas rosy red to reddish-purple, bowl-shaped, the petals 5, spreading, elliptic to egg-shaped, 10-25 mm long; calyces hairy, 5-lobed, the lobes lance-egg-shaped, spreading, 7-15 mm long; ovaries superior; stamens 75 to 100.[IFBC-E-flora]
Fruits: Drupelets, smooth, more or less coherent in a yellow or salmon to dark red cluster that falls intact from the semi-fleshy receptacle (raspberry-like), the berries 1.5-2 cm long.[IFBC-E-flora]
USDA Flower Colour: Purple
USDA Blooming Period: Early Spring [USDA-E-flora]

Habitat: Moist to wet forests, swamps and streambanks in the lowland and montane zones.[IFBC-E-flora]
Range: common in coastal BC; N to AK and S to CA.[IFBC-E-flora] Western N. America - Alaska to California. Occasionally naturalized in Britain[17].[PFAF]

Ecological Indicator
"A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to subalpine, Asian and Western North American deciduous shrub distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs in hypermaritime to maritime cool mesothermal climates on very moist to wet, nitrogen-rich soils: its occurrence increases with increasing precipitation and decreases with increasing elevation and continentality. Very common on water-receiving (floodplain and seepage) and water-collecting sites; tolerates fluctuating groundwater tables. Often dominant in early-seral communities where it hinders natural regeneration and growth of shade-intolerant conifers. Usually associated with Alnus rubra, Athyrium filix­femina, Lysichitum americanum Oplopanax horridus, Rubus parviflorus, and Tiarella trifoliata. A nitrophytic species characteristic of Moder and Mull humus forms." [IPBC-E-flora]

Edible Uses

Salmonberries as well as young stem sprouts were popular delicacies for most Native Americans in the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest and northern California.[Berries]

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


"...has epicatechin and the procyanidin dimer B-416 as the major flavanoid components. The hydrolyzable tannins of salmonberry have not been described, so we can't yet compare these compounds." [Chu PP]


R. spectabilis contains 29.58mg of ascorbic acid per 100g edible portion. The berries contain 3.73 calories, 0.35g of protein, 0.59g carbohydrate, 0.01g ash, 0.05g lipid, 2.25mg calcium, 0.05mg iron, 1.91mg magnesium, 0.05g zinc and 3.71mg ascorbic acid per g dry weight. [Norton KaigHaida]



It is in flower in April, and the seeds ripen from Jun to July. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.Suitable for light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.[PFAF]

"In British Columbia for example, on rich alluvial sites, a delay of 1–2 years in establishing a conifer crop such as Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) can result in dense thickets of salmon berry (Rubus spectabilis), greatly reduced timber yields and/or a need for expensive silvicultural rehabilitation treatments." [Northcote FF]

"Like R. parviflorus, the plant is recognized as an opportunistic species able to take over quickly in places which are cleared either by humans or some natural occurrence, such as windfalls." [Norton KaigHaida]

Harvesting: "Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis) were collected in a light but well made wooden box, which was carried on the back with a forehead strap. Most berry-picking baskets were made in three different sizes: a large "swallowing basket" which was placed on the ground; a medium or "middle-one" which was carried on the back; and a small "front basket" which was hung around the neck. The picker would keep filling her front basket and emptying it into the swallowing basket and the middle one until they were full, and would then refill the front basket before returning home."[Turner&Bell2]


Page last modified on Monday, December 30, 2019 7:14 PM