Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Oceanspray - Holodiscus disolor

Family: Rosaceae (Rose family)
Other Names: Creambush [E-flora] Ironwood [Turner&Bell]

Fruit (achenes), Wood, Flu; Topical;



  • Sericotheca discolor. [PFAF]
  • Spiraea discolor. [PFAF][E-flora]
  • Spiraea ariaefolia. [PFAF][E-flora]
  • Holodiscus boursieri (Carr.) Rehd.[E-flora]
    • subsp. franciscanus (Rydb.) Taylor & MacBryde[E-flora]
    • var. ariaefolius (Sm.) Asch. & Graebn. [E-flora]
    • var. delnortensis Ley [E-flora]
    • var. franciscanus (Rydb.) Jepson [E-flora]
    • var. glabrescens (Greenm.) Jepson [E-flora]
  • Holodiscus dumosus subsp. saxicola (A. Heller) Abrams [E-flora]
  • Holodiscus dumosus [E-flora]
  • var. australis (A. Heller) Ley [E-flora]
  • var. glabrescens (Greenm.) C.L. Hichc. [E-flora]
  • Holodiscus glabrescens (Greenm.) A. Heller [E-flora]
  • Holodiscus microphyllus Rydb.
    • var. glabrescens (Greenm.) Ley [E-flora]
    • var. microphyllus Rydb. [superfluous autonym][E-flora]
  • Holodiscus microphyllus
    • var. sericeus Ley [E-flora]
    • var. typicus Ley [E-flora]
  • Sericotheca discolor (Pursh) Rydb. [E-flora]

General Holodiscus discolor is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a fast rate.[PFAF]
Flowers hermaphrodite.[PFAF] "...attractive sprays of creamy blossoms..." [Seymour FNE] "flower clusters turn brown and remain on plants over winter." [PCBC2004]
Fruits Tiny, ligh-brown, hairy achenes.[PCBC2004]
Leaves Alternate. Dull green.[IFBC-E-flora] "reddish-tinged in autumn." [PCBC2004]
Stem "...the young stems ridged, older ones with reddish-grey, peeling bark."[IFBC-E-flora] "stems usually arch."[PCBC2004]
Habitat "Dry to mesic bluffs, rocky slopes, clearings, thickets, forest edges and open forests..."[E-flora] "...mostly at low to middle elevations."[PCBC2004]
Range; "Common in Southern B.C;...south to Idaho, Montana and California." [IFBC-E-flora]
"Woods and rocky places in California[71]. Streambanks and moist woods, canyons and hills from valleys to around 2,100 metres[212]." [PFAF]
Status Native.[E-flora]

Ecological Indicator "A shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to montane, Western North American deciduous shrub distributed equally in the Pacific and Cordilleran regions. Occurs in cool temperate and cool mesothermal climates on very dry to moderately dry, nitrogen-medium soils; its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation, precipitation, and latitude. Scattered to plentiful in open and open-canopy, seral (usually Douglas-fir) forests on disturbed, water-shedding sites. Often associated with Mahonia nervosa and Kindbergia oregana. Characteristic of moisture-deficient sites." [IPCBC][E-flora]


Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


"Holodiscus discolor (Pursh) Maxim. (Rosaceae) is a shrub used in traditional medicine of Native Americans for the treatment of viral and skin diseases. Antifungal [1], antibacterial [2] and cytotoxic [3] activities of leaf extracts have been described." [Mrizova et al.,2007]

"The aim of the study was screening of the immunomodulatory effects of infusions from the leaves and flowers of Holodiscus discolor (Pursh) Maxim. on isolated human leucocytes in vitro and, furthermore, determination of the antioxidant activity of infusions using DPPH bleaching test evaluated as a scavenging concentration SC50. The cellular and humoral factors of non-specific immunity were determined after the incubation of mononuclear cells with extracts. The significant increase the number of cell after eighteen hours incubation with both extracts was shown. A conspicuous stimulation of phagocytic activity and phagocytic index was also determined. The significant changes of lysozyme and peroxidase activity of mononuclear cells show immunomodulatory effect of the flowers and the leaves. Antioxidant activity of flowers infusion was twice more higher than of the one leaves." [Jancová et al.,2010]


From the "... leaves of Holodiscus discolor.... Three flavonoid glycosides of flavonol type were isolated from the methanolic extract: kaempferol-3-O-rhamnoside, quercetin-3-O-glucoside (isoquercitrin) and quercetin-3-O-rhamnoside (quercitrin)." [Haladova et al.]


"Succeeds in a good loamy soil that does not become too dry in summer, in full sun or light shade[200]. A fast-growing plant[188], it thrives in thin woodland[11]. A very ornamental plant[1, 11], when fully dormant it is hardy to about -15oc[200], though the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts[K]. The flowers emit a perfume similar to meadowsweet[245]."[PFAF]


"The seed requires 4 months stratification at 4oc. It is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Stored seed should be sown 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 greenhouse 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 with a heel, July/August in a frame. Can be difficult[200]. Layering in spring. Easy[200]."[PFAF]


Page last modified on Saturday, June 5, 2021 10:38 AM