Cascara (Rhamnus purshiana)
Cascara is a small tree or shrub, with a distinct silver-grey bark. It is common to find this plant underneath Big Leaf Maple (see Pierce CD Ethnobotanical Guide) along with Red Alder and Vine Maple trees. The tree has strong medicinal properties and is a valuable food source for wildlife. Traditionally the bitter bark has been used as a laxative, although the practice has largely been replaced. Once harvested the fresh bark needs to be aged for a year otherwise it will have severe, unpleasant side effects.
Identification tip: Cascara leaves have prominent parallel and evenly spaced veins.
This plant is a fire-resistant native plant. To learn more on how to make your garden more fire resistant, read King County’s Forest Fire Safety information.
Anna Beebe, 2019 KCD AmeriCorps Individual Placement
Featured Photo Credit: Jesse Taylor – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0