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Oceanspray: Iron tough plant at home in the desert

By on November 27, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By Jaana Hatton

Somebody truly had a lively imagination when they named this shrub Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor).

It is a plant that thrives here in the high desert, preferably in gravely soil. It belongs to the rose family.

Holodiscus means the whole disc (of the hypanthium) and discolor refers to the two different shades of the tops and bottoms of the leaves: tops are green, bottoms pale.

Oceanspray mostly grows to a height of 3 to 10 feet, depending on its habitat. They have a lifespan of about 30 years.

It can often be found on disturbed locations, such as logged or burned areas.

It can also adorn a garden with its gently sloping branches adorned with the fluffy white blooms in June and July. It branches out into several stems that are covered in brownish, peeling bark.

Oceanspray does well in arid conditions, so by all means, use if for water-wise landscaping.

Another name for Oceanspray is Ironwood. Quite a change in its character! Supporting the white, gracious clusters are sturdy brown stems, resilient to fire and cutting.

Native tribes used the hard stems for tools or even nails.

The wood becomes even more durable when heated over fire. It was often used as tongs as it won’t easily burn.

Oceanspray is not highly palatable. It does offer nesting and hiding places for birds, tiny mammals and even tree frogs. It is also a useful plant to restore disturbed land areas.

As always: when in nature, be a protector, not a collector, please.

Jaana Hatton is a freelance writer and a  Wenatchee area resident since 2013. She grew up free as a bird in the woodlands of Finland and continues to be enchanted by all things living and wild.

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