Celebrate the Pleasures of February with Osoberry Ecology at Home

Oemleria cerasiformis – Plant of the Month




In bleakest February
a vigor entered my life,
no, it was a cucumber.
The scene is fogged,
speared by low-angled light
igniting small flames of vegetal green.

A zig right and up,
engage legs,
strength to propel
away from
lawn, parking lot, roadway.

Into Doug fir and sword fern,
Pacific waterleaf ground
bright as a baby’s laugh,
mid-story laced with Osoberry—a celebration.
The northwest flank of the butte,
my neck of the woods,
freshens in February,
the color of all that is new,
brightest Spring
in the middle of Winter.
By the quickening impulse of Imbolc,
buds erupt,
petal and leaf.




Earlier, driving down Willamette street, the voice on the radio said that most Americans claim listening to a favorite song as one of their most treasured simple pleasures.

Other popular joys:
feeling the sun on your face,
spotting a species of bird you’ve never seen before,
seeing flowers and trees in bloom.

And also the joy of:
learning a new word,
just the right word to contain a moment,
a feeling, an ephemeral energy.
Climacteric, learned this morning, means:
a critical stage, period, or year.
I kept thinking it had something to do with climate
and then,
with climate change
but yes, it is that
in reference to the microcosm of one life.
(As if one life can be lived in isolation,
outside of interconnections.)
Your human life,
the poet Rita Dove’s life
undergoing climate change.




Starting with Imbolc / Groundhog’s Day,
the mid-way point between
winter solstice and spring equinox,
a critical point in the life of wild woods,
the life of inhabited gardens,
a period of first awakenings,
simple pleasures held close

to bare branch,
to muddy ground—
swelling tree buds,
small early crocus and sweet violets.

Osoberry stands slender-twigged,
a transparent understory of verticals
lit with wings of vibrant green.
The first native shrub to leaf
and bloom,
it marks a shift.
The edge of winter
tilting decisively towards spring.
Osoberry carries a green torch,
the opening ceremony for the climacteric events:
emergence, growth, new life.




When Osoberry drops leaves in August,
don’t fret and proclaim it a sign of climate doom.
Know Osoberry too
needs a rest.
Six months of greening the shade
is plenty.
Early to leaf, early to drop.
So it is every year.

But last year,
I looked closer,
something else was going on
beyond senescent leaf drop.
Mottled and speckled with droppings,
a profusion of Corythuca lace bugs
moved in for a feast.
A native insect.
One that belongs,
part of the ecology,
not a pest.
Again, do not fret.
Not when life is happening, eating, feeding.
Rich ecologies are full of leaves eaten by insects,
insects eaten by spiders
and by birds.





Osoberry gives us many simple pleasures:
the color so fresh in earliest Spring,
the taste of young leaves reminiscent of cucumber,
the blooms followed by snackable fruits,
and then, the wonder of leaf-sucking insects.
See the glass mosaic wings.
Hear the birds sing, full-bellied.

Small, urban gardens
your home grounds,
are rich with niches
well-suited for the upright stature of Osoberry.
Dry shade is everywhere
in our built environments.
Fatsia and aucuba,
classics for such tough microclimates,
can be joined by a native.

Light up February with Osoberry.




4 comments on “Celebrate the Pleasures of February with Osoberry Ecology at Home”

  1. Patricia A Dougherty says:

    This plant is also called Indian Plum – perhaps for good reason.

    1. Leslie Davis says:

      Yes it is! Thanks for reminding us of the name Indian Plum. It’s fallen out of favor recently, but good to remember all the names. Maybe we could shift it to Kalapuya plum to keep the fruit reference while honoring the indigenous people who live here?

  2. Sharon Broderick says:

    I am all for changing the name! I love the word Kalapuya and it’s so perfect for such a beautiful plant.

    1. Leslie Davis says:

      Yay! Let’s spread the word.

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