The Salmonberry is a common, perennial plant which can be easily found all along the Oregon Coast and adjacent areas. The plant grows along a rhizome, or an underground stem which runs horizontal to the ground and continually puts out new shoots and roots. As a result, the plant can spread quickly into tightly-woven clumps from 3 to 13 feet (1 to 4 m) in height. It is often propagated for this purpose as it will naturally form attractive hedgerows and living fences.
The leaves grow in clumps of three and are shaped like rounded arrowheads with serrated edges and a grooved texture. During the spring, the Salmonberry will produce small, delicate flowers which are usually a brilliant magenta color.
The fruit of the Salmonberry, which looks similar to a mushy raspberry, appears to be an acquired taste. Many describe it as bland, although like most fruits the flavor is dependent on ripeness. As a general rule, the darker the fruit’s color (which ranges from bright yellow to dark red) the sweeter it is. The berries reach full ripeness between mid-June and late-July and can be rendered into jams and candies.
One story attributes the plant’s name to how the individual seeds resemble salmon roe or eggs. However, it may be that the name came about because local Native Americans ate the berries and salmon together.
The Salmonberry is commonly found in wet soils, especially near creeks, streams or in coastal forests where they can be a common understory species. Its range includes the entire West Coast of North America, as as far east as Idaho.