Alphabetical Plant Listing

Frangula purshiana (Cascara Buckthorn)

Cascara, Cascara Buckthorn, Cascara Sagrada, Californian Bearberry, Chittam Bark, Coffee-Tree, Rhamnus purshiana


Native to western North America, Frangula purshiana (Cascara Buckthorn) is a deciduous, erect or spreading, tall shrub or small tree with a low canopy. Clusters of inconspicuous, small greenish-yellow flowers, each with 5 petals, are produced in spring. They are followed by copious poisonous berries loved by birds and other wildlife. They are eaten by five species of birds including the Oregon ruffed grouse and band-tailed pigeon. The berries turn from lime green to red and then to purplish-black as they mature. The upright branches are clothed with simple, oblong, shiny green leaves, 3-5 in. long (7-12 cm), with paler undersides. The attractive yellow-brown to silvery-gray bark is famous for its purgative properties. In a single year, five million pounds of dried Cascara Buckthorn bark from the Pacific Northwest was processed by pharmaceutical companies in the manufacture of laxatives. Utilized by wildlife, Cascara Buckthorn often forms brushy stands capable of providing abundant hiding cover. Very tolerant of shade, Cascara Buckthorn makes a lovely small tree in shady, wet areas of the garden. It can also be trimmed into a hedge or screen.

  • Grows up to 20-40 ft. high (6-12 m) and 10-30 ft. wide (3-9 m). Adds 24 in. per year (60 cm).
  • A full sun to full shade lover, this plant is easily grown in moist to wet soils. Tolerates a wide variety of soil types, including clay, loam or sand.
  • No serious pest and disease issues.
  • Can be pruned to control size or shape.
  • Handle all plant parts with gloves and avoid prolonged exposure.
  • Propagation by seed. It can also spread by layering and can sometimes be propagated by cuttings.
  • Occurs from British Columbia down through northern California. It is mostly distributed west of the Cascades but can also be found east to northern Idaho and northwestern Montana.

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Requirements

Hardiness 4 – 9
Climate Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17
Plant Type Shrubs, Trees
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Height 20' – 40' (6m – 12m)
Spread 10' – 30' (3m – 9m)
Water Needs Average, High
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Moisture Retentive
Characteristics Showy, Fruit & Berries
Native Plants United States, California, Pacific Northwest, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana
Tolerance Wet Soil
Attracts Birds
Garden Uses Hedges and Screens

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By Robert Mutch, Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.


Requirements

Hardiness 4 – 9
Climate Zones 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17
Plant Type Shrubs, Trees
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Height 20' – 40' (6m – 12m)
Spread 10' – 30' (3m – 9m)
Water Needs Average, High
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Moisture Retentive
Characteristics Showy, Fruit & Berries
Native Plants United States, California, Pacific Northwest, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana
Tolerance Wet Soil
Attracts Birds
Garden Uses Hedges and Screens

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