ERICACEAE, The Heath family
Salal is related to wintergreen, (same genus), but is a much larger plant, ranging from 2 to 10 feet. It’s ericaceous, meaning ‘in the Erica (Heath/Heather) family, Ericaceae’. A lot of good things are, such as blueberries, cranberries and azaleas.
Salal’s edible berry-like things were much used by native peoples. Actually they are fleshy sepals. But they could be dried into cakes, dipped in grease, used as sweetener, or as a thickener for salmon caviar. Nowadays the most popular recipes are for preserves or jelly.
The leathery foliage is much used in floral design. It’s also called Lemon leaf. I would guess people who pay good money for a bunch of in in other parts of the country might swoon to see it lushly rampaging around in abundance in the northwest. It is also a good garden plant, especially for erosion prone areas, but it can be hard to remove once established. Because of the plant’s attractiveness, it was introduced into England in the 1820s. It is now quite invasive there.
While hiking in the Quinalt on the Olympic Penninsula of Washington, we tasted it in in a spruce bog. Kind of insipid taste. Amazing local though. Lots of cute fungi along the way, each remarked upon. Along the streams there was Devil’s club. Sword fern, Polystichum was abundant. It is a huge and hardy fern. There were also many varieties of lichen. Can lichen be plant of the day? I’ve been asked that. Certainly a fungus can not be.