Ocean Spray

Holodiscus discolor

Herbs gallery - Ocean Spray

Common names

  • Cream Bush
  • Ironwood
  • Ocean Spray

Ocean spray (botanical name Holodiscus discolor) is basically a shrub that is native to the western regions of North America. This herb is widespread in the Pacific Northwest where it grows in the wild both in open fields as well as in woodlands in regions located between low and moderate altitudes.

Holodiscus discolor is a deciduous shrub that usually grows up to a height of anything between 8 feet and 12 feet and draws a lot of birds. This plant species bears attractive creamy white flowers that appear in compound clusters much like an ocean spray. The flowers appear from the end of spring and continue throughout summer. The plant's new foliage has a soft, bright green hue and offers an excellent background for the blooms. When grown near low water close to the coast, the plants like some amount of shade and inland moisture. Ocean spray has many main stems - the young or tender stems are rigged, while the more mature stems have a brownish hue and their bark is shedding.

The ocean spray plant is a deciduous shrub that not only grows very rapidly, but has numerous stems. The color of this plant's bark may vary from grey to brown. The plant has small, lobed green hued leaves. The flowers of Holodiscus discolor appear in cascading white clusters and have a slight, sweet aroma. They are generally pollinated by insects visiting them for nectar. The flowers give way to fruits that enclose clusters of tiny, hairy seeds which may sometimes be constant all through the winter months.

All through the Pacific Northwest, you can find ocean spray plants in various locations. Often, this shrub is found on the banks of streams, north-facing slopes, as well as damp, open woodlands. Holodiscus discolor plants consume plenty of water and they grow well in sites having partial shade to receiving full sun. In fact, this species usually colonizes in burned and disturbed lands.

Ocean spray shrubs attract a lot of butterflies. Even elk, deer and other wildlife eat the leaves and twigs of this plant. In addition, this plant offers shelter to various species.

It has been found that this plant species possesses the aptitude to endure damp as well as arid situations in almost all sites. However, the plant grows larger when it is grown in locations where there is more water and shade. When grown in such situations, ocean spray plants usually grow up to a height of 10 feet. Holodiscus discolor plants bear flowers that are aromatic and creamy and appear in coral sprays during the period between May and August. While the flowers are fragrant, even the foliage has a delightful sweet aroma which is emitted when it is bruised.

Ideally, ocean spray plants ought to be grown at a little distance from the house, especially in the background. It is best when grown the length of a shaded walk or as a ground cover in a north slope. The plants are not only extremely aromatic, but can also be used in bouquets as a substitute for baby's breath. In fact, the flowers have a somewhat traditional white behind the times appearance.

In fact, people of the First Nation were the first to discover multiple uses of the ocean spray (Holodiscus discolor) shrub, counting its therapeutic utilizes, especially the flowers and leaves of the plant. However, the hard wood of this shrub was more important for the people who used it to make tools for cooking, pegs to lock teepees, arrows and several other items.

On the other hand, the ocean spray bush's foliage has been a preferred food for several larvae of locally found butterflies and moths. In addition, the shrub is a preferred nesting site for Bushtits, besides attracting various different types of pollinators.

The shrub has derived its name ocean spray from the fact that it produces compact panicles of small white flowers that almost cover the entire bush, thereby giving the plant an appearance that bears resemblance to the foam formed on ocean waves. The shrub blooms more copiously when it is grown in full sun. However, Holodiscus discolor plants will also bear some flowers even when grown in dense shade.

When grown in any garden, Holodiscus discolor is a wonderful plant. These shrubs are ideal for growing in the rear of the border so that you are able to take delight in their tiny creamy white flowers during the beginning of summer. Once their flowering season is over, the plants can then withdraw to the background for the remaining part of the year. The flowers begin to fade away slowly and subsequently give way to flimsy brown hued seed heads that remain on the plants throughout the winter months.

Although ocean spray (Holodiscus discolor) produces copious amounts of seeds, this herb is generally propagated from cuttings. In general, this plant has a preference for comparatively arid and sunlit locations. Moreover, ocean spray shrubs also respond excellently to pruning. The plants will grow back quickly even when they are pruned heavily, almost cut to the level of the ground.

Parts used

Seeds, flowers, leaves.


In the past, the ocean spring plant has been employed for several purposes. While members of the Lummi tribe employed the flowers to treat diarrhea, the leaves were used in the form of a poultice to treat a number of injuries. Several other tribes also employed the wood as well as the bark of this shrub to make different tools and furniture. The wood of this shrub is noted for its strength and earlier it was frequently used for making bows and arrows, spears, digging sticks, nails and harpoons. Similar to that of many other plants, the wood of ocean spring was also hardened using fire and subsequently polished with horsetail. Many native tribes, for instance the Stl'atl'imx used to permeate the berries of ocean spring in boiling water and later use them to treat conditions like diarrhea, chickenpox, small pox and even in the form of a blood tonic.

The seeds of ocean spray plant are used in the form of a blood cleanser. An infusion prepared from the seeds of this herb has been traditionally used to treat black measles, small pox and chicken pox. The flowers of the plant have been used to treat diarrhea, while the inner bark has been used in the form of a tonic. An infusion prepared from the blossoms has been employed in the form of eyewash. You can dry the bark and pulverize it into a powder and subsequently use it with an oil to treat burn injuries.

Traditionally, a poultice prepared from the leaves has been applied topically to sore lips as well as tender feet. On the other hand, the leaves were dried and pulverized into a powder form for dressing sores. In addition, a decoction prepared using the leaves of ocean spray has been employed to cure influenza.

The timber of this plant is not only hard, but also very durable. Earlier, several residents of the coastal groups where the plants grow in the wild used its wood to make bows and arrows, harpoons and several other tools. These tribes included the Squamish, Salish, Sechelt, Halqemeylem and the Kwakwakawakw. According to available documents, members of the Cowichan and Saanich tribes used the wood of this shrub to make sticks that were used for barbequing salmon, halibut hooks, inner bark scrapers, and cattail mat needles. In more recent times, they are being also used to make knitting needles.

In earlier days, pegs made from ocean spray wood were utilized in construction work prior to people started using nails. In fact, members of the Nlakapamux tribe employed the hard wood of ocean spray shrubs for armour plating. The Squaxin, on the other hand, used the wood for making canoe paddles.

Habitat and cultivation

Ocean spray (Holodiscus discolor) is commonly found growing in the woodlands and mountainous regions in California. Usually, they are found growing along the banks of streams, damp woods, hills and canyons and also in the valleys that are located at an altitude of about 2,100 meters above the sea level.

In addition, ocean spray is also found growing on rocky or gravely soils in a variety of sites ranging from moist upland forests to coastal bluffs. They are occasionally also found growing in the open areas.

This herb has a preference for full sunlight, though it can also succeed in semi-shaded regions. They like dry to moist conditions, subject to the species you are cultivating. These plants are an excellent collection for any type of butterfly garden, as they attract them.


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