Rubus spectabilis

Common name: salmonberry

Scientific name: Rubus spectabilis

Native American names: Many reported, for example; Makah used ka’k’we’abupt for the plant and ka’k’we for the berry. Cowlitz used e’twanac for the plant and e’twan for the berries. The Lower Chinook named it “yunts”. [1]

Plant family:   Rosaceae

Description: Rubus spectabilis is a deciduous shrub from 1-4 meters in height. It may grow as an individual, but usually occurs in a thicket. Leaves are alternate with 3 leaflets, sharply serrated, dark green color. Flowers are pink to magenta. Fruit is yellow to pink to red, raspberry-like.

Habitat and Range: Rubus spectabilis prefers moist woodland, and grows along streams or wetlands. It sometimes grows without shade. It grows from the Pacific coast to the Cascade Mountains, from Northern California to British Columbia and Alaska.

Historical and Contemporary uses: Rubus spectabilis has historically been used as a food by all the tribes where these plants grow. Fresh sprouts of the plant were gathered in the spring and eaten fresh or fried, boiled or steamed. These sprouts were traded locally by the Nuu-Chah-Nulth.[2] The berries were eaten fresh, and sometimes mixed with oolichan (oil extracted from small fish) or dried salmon roe. The berries are also known to have been traded between tribes.[2] Salmonberry patches frequently “belonged” to a certain family; the owner was the exclusive gatherer until there were enough accumulated for a feast. Then the whole tribe could gather from the patch.[3]Salmonberry plants were included in tended gardens. Less important uses of the salmonberry plant included some medicinal uses, as well as implements made from the branches of the plant.  Modern Native Americans and non-Native people harvest salmonberries today. The berries are eaten fresh, made into jams or pies, and canned.

[1] Gunther, Erna, Ethnobotany of Western Washington: The Knowledge and Use of Indigenous Plants by Native Americans (University of Washington Publications, 1973), 35.

[2] Turner, Nancy J. Loewen, Dawn C.”The Original “Free Trade”: Exchange of Botanical Products and Associated Plant Knowledge in Northwestern North America”. Anthropologica, XL, 1998.

[3] Pojar, Jim, Andrew MacKinnon, and Paul B. Alaback. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska. Lone Pine Pub, 1994.