Another Perfect Plant: Oemleria cerasiformis

Oemleria cerasiformis (Skunk bush) is a tough, early spring flowering shrub native to the Pacific Northwest. Offering multiple seasons of interest, Skunk bush provides flowers in the spring, edible fruit during the summer, and yellow fall color.  

Skunk bush is dioecious (Greek for two houses), which means that male and female flowers are not on the same shrub.  If fruit is desired, a male and a female plant will need to be planted. The flowers of the male and female plants smell differently – male flowers can be reminiscent of cat urine, while the female flowers smell like watermelon rind; which certainly should be a consideration when siting specimens!

As an adaptation for pollination, Skunk bush has a disadvantage over monoecious plants (male and female flowers on the same plant) or hermaphroditic plants (male and female parts in the same flower) in that the pollinator has to go from the male plant to the female plant.

Research has shown that male, female, and hermaphroditic plants all give off varying degrees of volatile compounds. Further research will have to uncover the particular attractive factors that lead pollinators from male to female plants. 

References:
NW Plants
The Ecological Society of America
The US National Library of Medicine

Photo reference:
NW Plants

 

Paul Cady

Paul is a landscape designer with a professional background in public horticulture. His years of experience maintaining both public and private gardens provide an informed perspective on choosing, arranging, and placing plants in the landscape. He is committed to creating landscapes that will survive and thrive over time through making informed plant choices and developing written landscape management plans.