Herb: Oso Berry

Latin name: Oemleria cerasiformis

Synonyms: Nuttallia cerasiformis, Osmaronia cerasiformis

Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)

Medicinal use of Oso Berry:

The bark is mildly laxative. A decoction has been used in the treatment of tuberculosis. A poultice of the chewed burned plant, mixed with oil, has been used to treat sore parts of the body.

Description of the plant:


2.5 m
(8 1/4 foot)

to April

Habitat of the herb:

Rocky valleys and canyons by streams, roadsides and moist to fairly dry open woods.

Edible parts of Oso Berry:

Fruit - raw or cooked. A poor flavour. The fruit looks like a small plum but is very bitter with an almond flavour. The fully ripe fruit loses most of its bitterness. The fruit only has a thin layer of flesh. The fruit can be dried and stored for winter use. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity.

Propagation of the herb:

The seed requires 4 months stratification at 4C. It is probably best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Sow stored seed as early in the year as possible. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the cold frame for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Layering in spring. Takes 6 months. Suckers, taken at any time in the dormant season.

Cultivation of Oso Berry:

Rocky valleys and canyons by streams, roadsides and moist to fairly dry open woods.

Known hazards of Oemleria cerasiformis:

Although no specific mention has been found for this plant. it belongs to a family where the leaves, seed (and sometimes also the fruit) often contain significant amounts of hydrogen cyanide. This is the toxin that gives almonds their characteristic flavour and it should only be eaten in very small quantities. Since the fruit of this species is said to have almond-scented fruit it would be unwise to eat a large quantity of it. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.