Cascara buckthorn

(Rhamnus purshiana)

Just ask your pharmacist
Cascara means “bark” in Spanish. The bark of this shrubby tree has been used for at least 1,000 years as a powerful laxative and is still collected for that purpose. Pharmaceutical companies process 5 million pounds of cascara bark from the Pacific Northwest annually for use in laxatives. Due to these laxative properties, it is a good idea NOT to use cascara for hot dog or marshmallow sticks when camping or picnicking.

Usually in the understory, found throughout western Oregon on moist, well-drained sites. It typically grows as a second-generation tree after alders have grown on barren soil.

It is easy to spot because of buds covered only by soft fuzz during winter. Seldom taller than 40 feet and often more shrubby. It features tiny flowers, each with five greenish-yellow petals. Its fruit is bright red at first, quickly changing to deep purple or black.

The cherry-like fruit is inedible to humans. Grouse and raccoons eat the fruit and will pass the seed undigested, so it may be widely distributed.

It grows on the western side of the state, spanning from British Columbia down into northern California.

Cascara sprouts vigorously, so is often found in stands that have been logged or burned.


9755 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 210        
Portland, OR 97225        
Phone: 971-673-2944        
Fax: 971-673-2946

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