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Salal or Shallon




  • Salal is an evergreen shrub that fruits in shade! Awesome!
     

    Common Name: Salal, Shallon
    Scientific Name: Gaultheria shallon
    Family: Ericaceae (the Heath or Heather family)

    The small berries have a sweet, unique flavor that some say tastes like blueberries.
     

    Description:
    Salal is an evergreen understory shrub native to the West coast of North America. It has sweet, great-tasting berries that are reminiscent of blueberries. It is one of the few plants that fruit well in shade. It also attracts beneficial insects, feeds wildlife, can be used as a low windbreak or ground cover, and once established, it can tolerate drought. A great understory plant for the Forest Garden.

    Gaultheria shallon
     

    History:
    Salal is a common understory plant, typically growing under conifers, and is native the the West coast of North America. It has been introduced in the UK where it has readily grown in more acidic environments. Some in Europe consider it a mildly invasive weed.

    Trivia:

    • The name “salal” comes from the Chinnot Jargon sallal.
    • The name “shallon” come from the Native American (unsure which people group) shellwell.

     

    Salal Preserves!
     
     


    USING THIS PLANT
    Primary Uses:

    • Fresh Eating – fruit is like small blueberries
    • Baking – pies, tarts, turnovers, etc.  Use like blueberries or currants
    • Cooking – can be used in savory dishes
    • Preserves, jams, jellies, etc. The seeds are tiny (like strawberry seeds), so there is no need to strain them out
    • Dried fruit
    • Fruit Leather
    • Flavoring component to beers, wines, liquers, etc.


    Secondary Uses:

    • General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
    • Wildlife food plant
    • Wildlife shelter plant
    • Groundcover plant – perfect for shady locations. Space about 3 feet (0.9 meters) apart.
    • Windbreak Shrub (very dense plant)
    • Hedge plant
    • Drought tolerant plant
    • Tea plant – from dried leaves
    • Edible leaves – young leaves are reportedly edible, but I have yet to try this
    • Salal is used in floral arrangements
    • Dye plant – fruit and leaves
    • Medicinal Uses


    Yield: no reliable information can be found
    Harvesting: Summer (July – August). Pick when the berries get dark and soft.
    Storage: Like blueberries, will store fresh for about a week.

    The dainty flowers of a blooming Salal.
     

    DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT
    USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-8
    AHS Heat Zone: 8-6
    Chill Requirement: 50-450 hours/units depending on the species and variety

    Plant Type: Small to medium-sized Shrub
    Leaf Type: Evergreen
    Forest Garden Use: Shrub Layer, Groundcover Layer
    Cultivars/Varieties: This plant has not been developed much

    Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile. Pollinated by insects.
    Flowering: April – June

    Life Span:
    Years to Begin Bearing: 2-3 years
    Years of Useful Life: No good information available, but since this plant produces runners so easily, an individual plant’s lifespan is not that important. An established community of Salal will live almost indefinitely.

    The small berries have soft hairs on them – reminiscent of raspberries.
     
    Salal berries will open as they mature.
     
    Fully mature berries. Fruits are usually picked for eating before this stage.
     

    PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT
    Size: 1-6 feet (0.3-1.8 meters) tall and indefinitely wide
    Roots: Fibrous with stolons (aka “runners” – stems right at ground level that form roots)
    Growth Rate: Medium

    Salal makes a great groundcover for deep shade.
     

    GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT
    Light: Full sun to part shade
    Shade: Tolerates deep shade
    Moisture: Medium moisture soils
    pH: prefers an acidic to fairly neutral soil (5.5-6.5), but can tolerate very acidic soils

    Special Considerations for Growing: 
    Salal has a combination of traits that let it fill a unique niche in the Forest Garden. A difficult spot to fill is often under conifers, but the acidic soil and shade is where Salal will thrive.

    Propagation: Typically by seed – requires 4-17 weeks cold stratification (depending on the source of information). Can be propagated by cuttings or more commonly by splitting the new plants that develop from the runners.

    Maintenance:
    Takes a little care to get young plants established as they are more frost susceptible, but once established, the only maintenance will be cutting back the runners from where you do not want them to grow. A mature patch of plants will try to expand at a rate of about 1 foot (30 cm) per year. This is easy to maintain and keep in bounds.

    Concerns:
    None.

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