holodiscus

A common sight between the Willamette Valley and the coast during the summer is the frothy sprays of creamy white flowers covering stands of Holodiscus discolor, interspersed along the highway; maybe an obvious explanation of how it got the common names “Oceanspray” and “Cream Bush.”

It appears in such lush quantity along roadsides because it is one of the plants that is successful establishing itself in disturbed areas; frequently one of the pioneer species to take hold in places that have been affected by forest fire or clear-cutting. Advantageous that it does so, as Holodiscus is an attractant to butterflies and other beneficial insects, and provides cover for birds. It is useful in the process of reclamation as well as a good wildlife plant for the home garden.

There are two native species of Holodiscus found in Oregon:

Oceanspray

Holodiscus discolor: Oceanspray, Cream Bush

This multi-stemmed shrub is commonly found at low to mid-elevations in almost every county in Oregon. It is widely adaptable to many soil types, amount of moisture and degree of sun/shade.

The stems of Oceanspray are slender but dense and hard – coastal tribes used the wood for arrows and digging tools, sewing and knitting needles, and even as joining pins for construction in pre-nail times – growing straight to slightly arching at a height of 10-20’ tall and wide. Mature stems and branches have an attractive reddish peeling bark. Leaves are lobed to roughly toothed, looking similar to black hawthorn. They have good, yellow to reddish fall color.

The flowers are a frothy cascade of many tiny, fragrant, five-petal blossoms, starting out as white, fading to cream and finally to brown as they age. Some of the clusters of small fruits that follow often persist into fall and can even overwinter, not being the favorite food of wintering-over birds. Its lush foliage and flowers during the year make it a good shelter tree for birds, however, and the flowers may attract butterflies to your garden.

Other than occasional pruning to shape, there is little maintenance required. Oceanspray is also not prone to disease or pests, making it a congenial specimen for a sunny/woodland garden.

Holodiscus dumosus1

Holodiscus dumosus:
Dwarf Oceanspray, Desert Oceanspray, Rock Spirea

This is the Oceanspray of the drier high country east of the Cascades. Among other places, it can be found in the arid pumice and volcanic ash soils of south-central Oregon, so to make it happy here in the wetter west side of the state would require a little effort and thoughtful placement out of the force of winter rains.

It is a smaller version of H. discolors in many ways, with similar leaf shape and flower structure, and reaching a height of only 6-15’. The bark is smooth and gray, and the leaves turn orange-red in fall.

Less commonly available in nurseries, it can nevertheless be a beautiful addition to a garden if the soil and drainage requirements are met by placing it in rock garden or container.

Find Natives for your garden

We offer a great selection of Northwest Natives from spring through fall. The plants featured are highlighted favorites, but they do not represent ALL of the plants we carry. For a more complete list, see our Northwest Native Plant List.

Natives

Abies: Native Fir

Natives

Acer Circinatum: Vine Maple

Natives

Actaea: Bugbane

Natives

Aquilegia: Columbine

Natives

Arbutus: Pacific Madrone

Natives

Asarum: Wild Ginger

Natives

Asclepias: Milkweed

Natives

Attracting Butterflies

Natives

Camassia: Camas

Natives

Ceanothus: Wild Lilac

Natives

Cornus sericea

Red Twig Dogwood
Natives

Corylus cornuta

Beaked Hazelnut
Natives

Dodecatheon: Shooting Star

Natives

Edible Fruits

Natives

Erigeron: Fleabane

Natives

Eriophyllum: Oregon Sunshine

Natives

Native Ferns

Natives

Fragaria: Wild Strawberry

Natives

Gaultheria shallon: Salal

Natives

Holodiscus: Oceanspray

Natives

Attracting Hummingbirds

Natives

Native Iris

Natives

Lewisia: Bitterroot

Natives

Mahonia: Oregon Grape

Natives

Malus fusca

Western Crabapple
Natives

Osmaronia: Indian Plum

Natives

Penstemon: Beard Tongue

Natives

Philadelphus: Mock Orange

Natives

Physocarpus

Western Ninebark
Natives

Pinus: Native Pine

Natives

Quercus: Garry Oak

Natives

Rhamnus: Cascara

Natives

Ribes: Wild Currant

Natives

Rosa: Wild Rose

Natives

Rubus: Salmonberry

Natives

Sambucus: Elderberry

Natives

Sedum: Stonecrop

Natives

Sidalcea: Checker Mallow

Natives

Sisyrinchium

Blue-eyed Grass
Natives

Solidago: Goldenrod

Natives

Symphoricarpos: Snowberry

Natives

Synthyris: Native Figwort

Natives

Trillium: Wake Robin

Natives

Vaccinium: Huckleberry

Natives

Vancouveria: Inside-out Flower

Natives

Viburnum trilobum

Cranberrybush
Natives

Viola: Violet

Natives

Winter Interest