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A deciduous shrub with erect stems, 4 to 6 ft high, glabrous, but armed with fine prickles. Leaves 4 to 6 in. long, composed of three leaflets which are ovate, from 11⁄2 to 4 in. long, doubly toothed, almost or quite glabrous on both surfaces, the terminal one the largest and broadest. Flowers produced singly or a few together on short shoots springing from the older wood; purplish red, 1 in. or so across, fragrant; calyx downy, with broad pointed lobes not so long as the petals. Fruits orange-yellow, large, somewhat egg-shaped.
Native of western N. America; introduced by Douglas in 1827. It flowers freely towards the end of April, and is very pretty then. In this country the fruits do not ripen freely and indeed are not of much value even in the salmonberry’s native country. ‘… children like them, and grown-up people are not above trying a few. The Indians gather baskets full of the young shoots before they have become hard, and, when peeled, eat them with dried salmon roe.’ (George Fraser, Gard. Chron., Vol. 95 (1934), p. 93.) The plant spreads rapidly by means of sucker growths from the base, and soon forms a dense thicket. Plants should be overhauled annually, and the worn-out stems removed. Propagation is easily effected by dividing up the plants or removing offsets.
R. spectabilis was at one time used experimentally in Britain as game-covert, which may explain its occurrence here and there as an apparently naturalised plant.
There is now a clone in a few gardens with almost fully double flowers of a deep magenta pink. It was introduced from British Columbia to the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, and distributed from there.
Found on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, in 1971 and later named by Roy Lancaster (Edwards & Marshall 2019): this may be the double clone alluded to by Bean (1981). It can be just as vigorous and expansive as the single form, but the large flowers in spring make this much more tolerable.