Herbs & Plants

Holodiscus discolor

Botanical Name: Holodiscus discolor
Family: Rosaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Rosales
Genus: Holodiscus
Species: H. discolor

Synonyms: Sericotheca discolor. Spiraea discolor. S. ariaefolia.

Common Names: Ocean spray or Oceanspray, Creambush, or Ironwood

Habitat: Holodiscus discolor is native to Western N. America. It grows in woods and rocky places in California. Streambanks and moist woods, canyons and hills from valleys to around 2,100 metres.

Holodiscus discolor is a fast-growing deciduous shrub usually from to 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) in height, and up to 7 feet (2.1 m) tall. Its alternate leaves are small, 5–9 cm long and 4–7 cm broad, lobed, juicy green when new.

Cascading clusters of white flowers drooping from the branches give the plant its two common names. The flowers have a faint sweet, sugary scent. The bloom period is May to July.


It bears a small, hairy fruit containing one seed which is light enough to be dispersed by wind.

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

Edible Uses:
Historically, the plant has been used by Indigenous peoples for many purposes. Raw and cooked seeds were eaten, and leaves were mixed with those of other plants and boiled with small game animals. Many tribes used the wood and bark for making tools and furniture. Noted for the strength of its wood, it was often used for making digging sticks, spears, arrows, bows, harpoons and nails. The wood, like with many other plants, was often hardened with fire and was then polished using horsetail.

Comox natives use oceanspray when flowering as an indicator of the best time to dig for butter clams.

Medicinal Uses:
The seeds are a blood purifier. An infusion has been used in the treatment of smallpox, black measles and chickenpox. The blossoms have been used in the treatment of diarrhoea. The inner bark is tonic. An infusion has been used as an eyewash. The bark can be dried, powdered and then used with oil as a dressing on burns. A poultice of the leaves has been applied to sore lips and sore feet. A powder of the dried leaves has been used as a dressing on sores. A decoction of the leaves has been used in the treatment of influenza.

The Lummi used the flowers as an antidiarrheal and the leaves as a poultice. Several Native American tribes, such as the Stl’atl’imx, would steep the berries in boiling water to use as a treatment for diarrhea, smallpox, chickenpox and as a blood tonic.

Other Uses: Wood – very hard. Used for making small tools, roasting tongs etc. It does not burn easily. It is of special value as a pollinator plant for native bees and butterflies. It is also a larval host to Lorquin’s admiral, pale tiger swallowtail, and spring azure caterpillars.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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