The Cascara Trees are a small tree with gray to black bark that can reach heights of up to 12 m. The leaves are alternate, oblong, with fine teeth along their edges and prominent veins running parallel to the sides. The flowers are nondescript, greenish and clustered near ends of branches. The fruit is purplish to black colored berries.
The bark is thin, dark grayish to black and smooth when young but becomes scaly with age. A cut in the bark reveals a bright yellow inner bark that turns dark brown on exposure to air and light.
The cascara tree is found on Vancouver Island, some parts of the southern BC coast and in scattered locations in the Columbia Valley in the Interior. Creek banks and wetlands are favorite locations.
The Nuu-chah-nulth people used the Cascara wood to make chisel handles, and the Skagit people produced a green dye from the bark. Coastal people also knew it as a tonic and a laxative. The honey from cascara flowers is also reported to have a mild laxative effect. Bitter cascara extract has been used in liquors and a debittered extract as a flavoring for drinks and ice cream.