One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A shrub or small tree of western North America, Oemleria cerasiformis (family Rosaceae), bearing racemes of fragrant greenish-white flowers and blue-black fruits (drupes).
Late 19th century; earliest use found in William Miller (c1831–1898). Apparently from Spanish oso bear + berry (with reference to the fondness for the fruit attributed to bears, especially grizzly bears, by northern Californian Indians), after Hupa Mit-chā´-e-sahn-me-kew´-e-yel, lit. ‘grizzly-bear food’ or Karok Poóraf.
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