It is a shrub growing to 1–4 m tall, with perennial, not biennial woody stems (unlike other species). The leaves are trifoliate, 7–22 cm long, the terminal leaflet larger than the two side leaflets. The leaf margins are toothed. The flowers are 2–3 cm diameter, with five purple petals; they are produced from early spring to early summer. The fruit matures in late summer to early autumn, and resembles a large yellow to orange-red raspberry 1.5–2 cm long with many drupelets.
In the Pacific Northwest of North America the berries can ripen from mid-June to late-July.
Salmonberries are found in moist forests and stream margins, especially in the coastal forests. They often form large thickets, and thrive in the open spaces under stands of red alder (Alnus rubra).
In Kodiak, Alaska, orange salmonberries are often referred to as "Russian berries". Because the berries are found in abundance there and look a lot like raspberries, one of the islands in the Kodiak archipelago is named Raspberry Island (Alaska). Plain salmonberries are found as far north as Kivalina, Alaska.
Cultivation and uses
Salmonberries are edible and share the fruit structure of the raspberry, with the fruit pulling away from its receptacle. Books often call the fruit "insipid" but depending on ripeness and site, they are good eaten raw and when processed into jam, candy, jelly and wine. They were an important food for indigenous peoples. Traditionally, the berries were eaten with salmon or mixed with oolichan grease or salmon roe. They were not dried because of their high moisture content.
It is widely grown as an ornamental plant for its flowers. A double-flowered form was discovered in at the mouth of the Duckabush River, Jefferson County, Washington, around May 1, 1961, by Dr. R. C. Creelman of Bremerton, Washington. This has been given the cultivar name 'Olympic Double' or 'Olympic'.  Another double salmonberry was found by Phyllis Munday of Vancouver, British Columbia, but neither the date nor the site has been determined. This double may be confused in gardens with 'Olympic Double'.
Salmonberry is easily grown from layering, basal sprouting, rhizomes, root cuttings, and hardwood cuttings. Small offshoots growing from the parent plant under four feet tall are easily transplanted. Branches that touch the ground tend to root, and they can be separated from the parent plant. Hardwood cuttings should be 1-2.5 cm in diameter and 45 cm or more in length with at least three nodes. Rooting invariably occurs at the base of a cutting and at nodes with leaf buds. Store hardwood cuttings over winter in damp sawdust or peat moss; this promotes callusing and prevents desiccation. As with hardwood cuttings of other species, vigorous rooting can be enhanced in Rubus species by using a liquid rooting hormone and burying the cuttings in damp wood shavings.
Salmonberry can be grown from fresh seed. Collect the fruits when ripe (they are orange or red). Extract seeds by macerating in water and floating off the pulp and empty seeds. Seed should be planted in the fall. If seeds are to be stored, they should be dried. Seeds will keep for several years at 5 °C. A warm stratification of 20–30 °C is necessary for spring-sown seeds, although fall sowing provides best germination. Germination is improved if seeds are scarified with sulfuric acid for 20–60 minutes or with a 1% solution of sodium hypochlorite for seven days prior to cold stratification. Seeds need 90 days of cold stratification at 36–41 °F to break seed dormancy. Sow in ground in drills, cover lightly with soil, and mulch over winter. Seeds per kilogram: 315,255.
Mature fruit in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
- "Plants of British Columbia: Rubus spectabilis". Linnet.geog.ubc.ca.
- "Jepson Flora: Rubus spectabilis". Ucjeps.berkeley.edu.
- Pojar, J., & MacKinnon, A., eds. (1994). Plants of the Pacific Northwest coast. Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine.
- Mosquin, Daniel (2007-04-23). "Rubus spectabilis 'Olympic Double' - Botany Photo of the Day". Ubcbotanicalgarden.org. Retrieved 2013-05-08.
- Mulligan, Brian O. (1977). Woody Plants in the University of Washington Arboretum, Washington Park. University of Washington, College of Forest Resources, Seattle.
- Mulligan, Brian O. (1963). Accession records of the University of Washington Arboretum
- Flora of NW Europe: Rubus spectabilis
- Højgaard, A. et al., eds. (1989). A century of tree-planting in the Faroe Islands. Føroya Fróðskaparfelag, Tórshavn.
- US Department of Agriculture Plant Guide: Salmonberry Rubus spectabilis Pursh Plant SYmbol=RUSP plants.usda.gov/
Media related to Rubus spectabilis at Wikimedia Commons