SALAL
(Gaultheria shallon)

 

Plants of salal


Family: Ericaceae

Other names: Gautheria

 

Salal is a fruit from temperate North America, particularly Canada.   .  It grows wild there.  Famous Scottish botanist and plant explorer introduced this fruit in Britain in 1828 and recommended it to be planted as an ornamental plant.

Salal bears small fruits which taste somewhat like bluberrries.

Description:

An evergreen shrub growing upto 5 m.

            Leaves thick, tough, egg shaped, shiny dark green dorsally and light green on ventral side, finely serrate, 5-10 cm long.

Salal foliage

            Flowers occurring in racemes of 5-15 urn-shaped flowers, all oriented in same direction; primary color: white-pinkish, 7-10 mm long; calyx deeply five-parted, glandular-haired; corolla urn-shaped, glandular to hairy, five-lobed, 7 to 10 mm long.

 

            Fruit nearly spherical, 6-10 mm wide, reddish blue to dark purple, edible portion actually comprising of fleshy sepals and the true fruit is a capsule surrounded by fleshy calyx.

Utilization:

The fruits are edible.  Native people ate salal fruits fresh as well as after drying. In fact salal fruits formed a significant food resource for them.  Presently these fruits are used used in jams, preserves and pies.  These are also combined with the fruits of Oregon grape to change their sour taste to sweet.

Ripe fruits of salal

            A purple dye is obtained from the fruits.  The leaves yield a greenish yellow dye.

            Another use of this wild growing fruit plant is use its cut piece which are evergreen throughout the year, and use these in floral arrangements.

Cultivation:

Salal grows best in partial shade, but is perfectly adaptable to a more open, south-facing sunny location as long as it has good drainage and a dampish root run.. As this plant tends to form form a thicket, so it can also be invasive.  But still it is perfectly suited to a small garden if kept in check.

            New plants of salal can be raised from seed which, however, requires cold stratification for 4-10 weeks.  Semi-hardwood cuttings also root and can be used for propagating salal.

 

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