Pacific Ninebark is native to the Pacific Northwest, from Alaska to California and as far east as Montana. It grows profusely on Vancouver Island forming very dense stands, they grow to 10 meters in height and get quite wide. Their name is in regards to the way bark looks, it peels off in many layers. The leaves of this small tree are quite a lot like maple leaves in appearance. The leaves grow up to 14 cm long, the flowers are in clusters of small five-petaled white blooms with numerous stamen tipped with red. The berries are a bright red when ripe, then they turn a brown color and split open to release the seeds.
The Nuu-chah-nulth on the west coast of the island would make children’s bows, toys and other small items from the wood. The Cowichan peoples used the wood to make knitting needles. The Coast Salish and Kwakiutl would peel a stick of its bark and then steep the stick in the water to use as an emetic or purgative. This tincture was also used as a laxative.
Animals would browse the plant as food and birds would eat the berries as a great food source in the late fall early winter. Deer and Elk will peel off the bark in lean times during the winter months.