One of the first signs of spring in the Northwest is when Indian plum (Oe mleria cerasiformis) blossoms open. Mid-February is a bit early, but it won’t be long; a few warm days and it will burst into bloom.
Indian plum is a large shrub or small tree that goes by the name oso berry. It’s widespread in the Northwest but more common west of the Cascades, growing in moist, but not swampy, settings in canyons, forest edges and open forests. In bloom, Indian plum is easily recognizable by its clusters of dangling white blossoms, tubular flowers that are an early favorite of hummingbirds.
In mid-summer, look for ripe fruit. The plums are edible, but are bitter and have little flesh. They ripen from yellow to orange, then to deep blue-black, when birds know they’re ripe.
Indian plum makes a good shrub in a native plant garden, with blooms early in the season and in late summer. However deer love it, so it may need protection in your garden the first couple of years.