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Salal - Gaultheria shallon

(Ericaceae - Heath Family)





Other Uses

Medicinal Uses




Fruit per 100g dry weight;

Fruit (per 100g fresh weight)

Dried Fruit per 100g dry weight;

Dry Berry (per 100g dry weight)


Salal foliage yielded 1.53% (dry weight) of tannin. Other condensed tannin samples from untended shrubs showed 120.9 mg/g from the roots/rhizomes, 175.3 mg/g from the leaves, 130.4 mg/g from young stems, 55.3 mg/g from the old/woody stems, and 7.5 mg/g from the litter. In removal plots, the residual shoots showed 214.5 mg/g from the leaves and 114.9 mg/g from the stems.[Gross, PP2]


"Prefers a moist but not boggy humus rich soil in shade or semi-shade[11, 182], but it can also succeed in full sun. A peat and moisture loving species, it requires a lime-free soil[11, 182]. One report says that it can succeed in dry shade[188] and another that it can withstand considerable drought once it is established[208]. Plants are hardy to about -20°c[184]. A vigorous suckering plant, it can be invasive when growing in good conditions, but responds to cutting back[1, 28]. It also succeeds when planted under trees[28, 49]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]." [PFAF]

"...shrubs such as salal (Gaultheria shallon) in coastal oceanic temperate rainforests and several Vaccinium species (particularly Vaccinium alaskaense) in high elevation forests have been reported to cause growth stagnation of conifers such as western red cedar (Tsuga plicata), western hemlock (Thuja heterophylla), Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and Amabilis fir (Abies amabilis) (Bunnell, 1990; Messier, 1993; Fraser, 1993; Prescott, Weetman and Baker, 1996; Fraser, Turkington, and Chanway, 1993; Fraser, Chanway, and Turkington, 1995)." [Zeng ASA]

Forestry Effects


"Gaultheia shallon is a persistent and pervasive plant and is considered a serious competitor with coniferous species, particularly Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesil) on semi-xeric sites in low elevation coastal British Columbia (Tan et al. 1977; Stanek et al. 1979; Price et al 1986). On wetter sites. G. shallon competes with young planted seedlings of western red cedar (Thuja plicata), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), Pacific silver fir (Abies amabilis) and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) following clear-cut logging (Germain 1985; Weernan et al. 1990; Messier 1991)....salal can grow so rapidly that most plantable sites may become occupied and nearly impossible to clear manually." [Fraser et al.]

"It has been shown that salal is at least partially responsible for this poor growth during the first 15 years after plantation establishment, either by competing directly for nutrients (Germain, 1985; Messier and Kimmins, 1991a,b) or by inhibiting nutrient availability to trees (Germain, 1985; Weetman et al., 1990). On these sites, salal re-establishes itself quickly after disturbance, mainly by resprouting from old rhizomes already present in the undisturbed old-growth forest of western red cedar (Thuja plicata Donn) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla(Raf.) Sarg. )." [messier1991]

"long-term results from a suite of silvicultural trials and associated ecological studies indicated that salal is not the fundamental problem for regenerating conifers on cedar-salal sites. Fertilization of cedar-salal sites caused a large and sustained response in tree growth regardless of the presence of salal, and growth responses to salal removal were much smaller than fertilization responses. Greenhouse experiments indicated that salal does not have allelopathic effects on germination or growth of conifer seedlings. In laboratory studies, salal did not demonstrate a greater capacity to take up organic N forms than the conifers, and molecular studies uncovered a vast diversity of mycorrhizal fungi associated with salal and hemlock roots. Together these findings indicate that the nutrient “short-circuiting” hypothesis, based on assumptions about ericoid versus non-ericoid mycorrhizal plants does not adequately describe the nutrition of plants in these ecosystems. We conclude that salal should be viewed as a symptom of the underlying problem of poor nutrient supply on cedar-salal sites, and that fertilization, rather than salal control, is the optimal solution for improving forest regeneration on these sites."[Prescott,2006]


"Salal forms a very large rooting system with many fine roots and associated microorganisms (mycorrhizae and rhizophere bacteria) in only a few years following clearcutting. Therefore, salal maintains nutrients in the system that would otherwise have been leached and lost. Furthermore, the roots may act to reduce soil erosion on recently disturbed sites and contribute to the organic matter content of the soil (Sabhasri 1961). The leaves of salal also contribute to the organic matter content of the soil, as well as cycling nutrients back into the soil. When salai is abundant, the leaf litter is very large and may serve as a mulch, thus reducing evapotranspiration. This trait is particularly useful in dry habitats. Gaultheria shallon has also been recommended for coastal sand dune stabilization (Brown and Hafenrichtet 1962)." [Fraser et al.]

Floral Industry

"Salal began to be picked as floral greenery early in the 20th century, became the primary wild-harvested floral product in BC in the 1950s, and now comprises approximately 70% (Wills and Lipsey 1999) to 90– 95% (Ross 1998) of all wild-harvested floral greenery from the BC coast. Europe is the primary export market for salal, although large volumes are also shipped to Japan, distributed across North America or sold directly to local retailers on the Pacific coast (de Geus 1995; Ross 1998; Jones et al. 2002)." [Cocksedge2006]

"Florists use the leaves as a foliage supplement (trade name "lemon leaves") for cut flower arrangements (Anonymous 1970). Salal is also grown commercially in greenhouses. In 1980 salal had an annual retail value of approximately $2 million in BC (Hunt 1980)." [Fraser et al.] By 1997, an estimated 12,000 - 15,000 people were harvesting salal (part or full time). The gross revenue was $55-60 million CAD. [cocksedge2006]

"Salal is moderately shade tolerant and tends to grow best under partial shade (Bunnell 1990; Messier 1992), a condition that generally produces the most desirable commercial-quality product with long stems (45–76 cm) and suitable shade leaves for the floral industry (i.e., relatively thin, unblemished leaves with consistent green colouring)." [cocksedge2006]

"Based on this initial study, we conclude that (i) commercial salal harvesting from previously unharvested sites removes the equivalent of 1 year’s above-ground biomass increment, (ii) commercial salal harvesting increases the annual above-ground biomass in the subsequent year, and (iii) there is an increase in the total number of stems in the year after commercial harvesting." [cocksedge2006]



"The seed requires a period of cold stratification. Pre-chill for 4 - 10 weeks and then surface sow in a lime-free compost in a shady part of the greenhouse and keep the compost moist[78]. The seed usually germinates well, usually within 1 - 2 months at 20°c, but the seedlings are liable to damp off. It is important to water them with care and to ensure that they get plenty of ventilation. Watering them with a garlic infusion can also help to prevent damping of[K]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are about 25mm tall and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter[K]. Plant them out in late spring or early summer. The seedlings are susceptible to spring frosts so might need some protection for their first few years outdoors. The leaves remain very small for the first few years[11]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood 3 - 6cm long, July/August in a frame in a shady position. They form roots in late summer or spring[78]. A good percentage usually take. Division in spring when new growth is about 7cm tall. Divided plants can be rather slow to get established[182]. We have found that it is best to pot up the clumps and grow them on in a shady position in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring."[PFAF]


Shrub, glabrous or short- or long-hairy, glandular or not, often smelling of wintergreen, generally rhizomed. Stem: prostrate to erect, rooting at nodes or not. Leaf: alternate, evergreen, leathery, entire to serrate. Inflorescence: raceme, each flower with 1 bract, 2 bractlets, or flowers 1 in leaf axils, each with 4–10 bractlets; pedicel jointed to flower. Flower: sepals generally 5, fused; petals 5, fused, cylindric, urn-, or bell-shaped, white to red; stamens (5,8)10, anthers dehiscing by 2 short, slit-like to rounded pores, awns (0,2)4, sometimes reduced; ovary superior or 1/2-inferior, chambers (4)5, placentas axile, at top. Fruit: capsule, loculicidal or irregularly dehiscing, generally ± enclosed by fleshy, colorful calyx (or a berry and/or with non-fleshy calyx). Seed: few to many per chamber, appendages 0.
± 130 species: circum-Pacific, eastern North America, eastern Brazil, Himalayas. (J.F. Gaulthier, botanist, physician, Quebec, 1708–1756) [Middleton 1991 Bot J Linn Soc 106:229–258] [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Gaultheria humifusa? - alpine-wintergreen [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]
  2. Gaultheria ovatifolia? - western tea-berry [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]
  3. Gaultheria shallon - Salal [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]

Uses of Other Related Sp

Gaultheria fragrantissima (Wintergreen), oil composed of 99.2-99.5% methyl salicylate.[Radulovic et al.]
Gaultheria humifusa (Alpine Spicywintergreen), "Used to make a black dye."[UMDEth]
Gaultheria ovatifolia (Western Teaberry), Fruit eaten fresh, or stewed and made into sauce.[UMDEth]

Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen), is used for its analgesic qualities, draining qualities and opening of the nasal passages. [Tilgner HMHE] Carminative, tonic, antiseptic and aromatic. [PDR] Berries and young tender leaves eaten. The leaves make a very pleasant tea.[Medsgar EWP] "The leaves should not be swallowed, but when gently chewed, they produce a perfectly wonderful Wintergreen flavor..."[Angier FFWE]
The entire plant contains oil of wintergreen. This oil has numerous uses, was once extracted from the plant by means of steam distillation and "is only present in small quantities in the fresh plant". "More is formed by enzyme action after the plant wilts and the cell walls start to break down. The plants were left to ferment for a day or so before being distilled, to allow more oil to form."[Tozer UWP] Monotropitoside (Gaultherin) changes into methyl salicylate when the plant is dried.[PDR]

Caution: Those allergic to aspirin should probably avoid it. [Tozer UWP]


The information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes. Self diagnosis and treatment, without due diligence, could be harmful and is not encouraged. Some information & images may be copyright. Every effort has been made to present the information in the spirit with which it was originally presented. Some data has been omitted for legal and/or practical consideration. There is some data not covered in the scope of this project, including, but not limited to, cell culture and large-dose animal studies. I have made comparisons and links between related species which may later prove erroneous. I have not verified the information for accuracy and I accept no responsibility for its authenticity. Many of the plants presented are poisonous, have poisonous properties, or could cause illness through misuse, allergic reaction, drug interactions and environmental contaminants. Please use caution and mindfulness when harvesting plants for any use.

Page last modified on 21-01-2017