Am back in Sydney, but wrapped in the sort of winter rain that assures me the present has nothing to offer, and it's safe to stay the past.
So one more berry from this great Pacific Northwest August, a tough evergreen rainforest shrub that prevails even in city parks, where exotic holly and ivy are erasing most of the native diversity of the forest floor. Gaultheria shallon, or salal, is my earliest memory of a native fruit that might be called a berry.
Like many tough beasts, it's a bit hairy. (Click any pic to enlarge.) A distinctive fuzz covers all its surfaces, even the precise urn-shaped flowers that announce its membership in the heath family.
But the most striking feature of salal is the way the fruits seem to dwell in each phase of their ripening: green, then red, then finally blue-black. They seem to transition fast from one color to the next, so that most fruits are one of these exact three shades. In their final blue-black form, too, they persist for months, a reliable food-store for bears and hikers both.