Herbs & Plants

Gaultheria shallon

Botanical Name: Gaultheria shallon
Family: Ericaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales
Genus: Gaultheria
Species:G. shallon

Common Names: Shallon, Salal

Gaultheria shallon is native to western N. America – British Columbia to California. Occasionally naturalized in Britain. It grows on sandy or peaty soils in shady positions from the coast up to elevations of 800 metres.

Gaultheria shallon is 0.4 to 3.05 metres (1+1/2 to 10 feet) tall, sprawling to erect. It is loosely to densely branched and often forms dense, nearly impenetrable thickets. The twigs are reddish-brown, with shredding bark. Twigs can live up to 16 years or more, but bear leaves only the first few years.

Its evergreen leaves are dense, leathery, and tough, of egg-headed shape. They are shiny and dark green on the upper surface, and rough and lighter green on the lower. Each finely and sharply serrate leaf is 5 to 10 centimetres (2 to 4 inches) long. Each leaf generally lives for 2 to 4 years before it is replaced.

The inflorescence of flowers consists of a bracteate raceme, one-sided, with 5–15 flowers at the ends of branches. Each flower is composed of a deeply five-parted, glandular-haired calyx and an urn-shaped pink to white, glandular to hairy, five-lobed petals (corolla), 7 to 10 millimetres (1/4 to 3/8 in) long.

The fruit is reddish to blue, rough-surfaced, covered in tiny hairs, nearly spherical and 6 to 10 mm in diameter. The fruits are ‘pseudoberries’, or capsules made up of a fleshy outer calyx, and each fruit contains an average of 126 brown, reticulate seeds approximately 0.1 mm in length.


Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid soils and can grow in very acid soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.Prefers a moist but not boggy humus rich soil in shade or semi-shade, but it can also succeed in full sun. A peat and moisture loving species, it requires a lime-free soil. One report says that it can succeed in dry shade and another that it can withstand considerable drought once it is established. Plants are hardy to about -20°c. A vigorous suckering plant, it can be invasive when growing in good conditions, but responds to cutting back. It also succeeds when planted under trees. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus]. Special Features: North American native. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 8 through 6. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of “heat days” experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form – tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. An evergreen. The plant growth habit is a running thicket former forming a colony from shoots away from the crown spreading indefinitely . The root pattern is flat with shallow roots forming a plate near the soil surface . The root pattern is stoloniferous rooting from creeping stems above the ground.

The seed requires a period of cold stratification. Pre-chill for 4 – 10 weeks and then surface sow in a lime-free compost in a shady part of the greenhouse and keep the compost moist. The seed usually germinates well, usually within 1 – 2 months at 20°c, but the seedlings are liable to damp off. It is important to water them with care and to ensure that they get plenty of ventilation. Watering them with a garlic infusion can also help to prevent damping of. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are about 25mm tall and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer. The seedlings are susceptible to spring frosts so might need some protection for their first few years outdoors. The leaves remain very small for the first few years. Cuttings of half-ripe wood 3 – 6cm long, July/August in a frame in a shady position. They form roots in late summer or spring. A good percentage usually take. Division in spring when new growth is about 7cm tall. Divided plants can be rather slow to get established. We have found that it is best to pot up the clumps and grow them on in a shady position in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.

Edible Uses:
Fruits are edible, eaten – raw, cooked or dried for later use. Sweet and juicy with a pleasant flavour, it makes good raw eating. The fruit can also be made into preserves, pies, drinks etc or be dried and used like raisins. The fruit is about 10mm in diameter and is produced over a period of several weeks in late summer. A pleasant tea is made from the leaves.

Medicinal Uses:
A poultice of the toasted, pulverized leaves has been applied to cuts. A poultice of the chewed leaves has been applied to burns and sores. The leaves have been chewed to dry the mouth. An infusion of the leaves have been used as a stomach tonic and a treatment for diarrhoea, coughs, TB etc.

Other Uses:
Landscape Uses: Erosion control, Ground cover, Hedge, Massing. A purple dye is obtained from the fruit. It is dark green. A greenish-yellow dye is obtained from the infused leaves. A ground cover plant for a shady position under trees, spreading slowly by means of suckers. It should be spaced about 90cm apart each way.

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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