Category Archives: Native Plants

Black Cottonwood

Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa)
Populus trichocarpa

Balsam poplar (Populus balsamifera) is the northernmost American hardwood, and grows across the continent. Though it appears in upland areas, it thrives in floodplains. It is our tallest native broad-leaved tree, and has dark grey bark. In the spring and early summer the sticky resin on leaf buds releases a strong, balsamic fragrance. It is hardy, fast-growing, and relatively short-lived, though some trees have been known to live for 200 years. Other names are balm-of-gilead, bam, tacamahac, cottonwood, or heartleaf balsam poplar.

Wildlife

The leaves of the balsam poplar serve as food for various caterpillars in the order Lepidoptera. It is an important browse for deer and elk and provides nesting habitat for large birds. The anti-infectant property of the resin is used by bees, who seal intruders in it to prevent decay and protect the hive.

Uses

A great riparian restoration species. The light, soft wood is used for paper pulp and construction lumber.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist, Seasonally Wet, Perennially Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 175ft
  • Mature Width: 40ft

False Solomon’s Seal

False Solomon (Maianthemum racemosum)
Maianthemum racemosum

False Solomon’s seal is a clump-forming perennial which typically grows 2-3′ tall and slowly spreads by thick rhizomes, often forming large colonies in the wild. Features unbranched, gracefully arching stems of alternate, oval, pointed, light green leaves with conspicuously parallel veins. Tiny, fragrant, creamy white flowers appear at the stem ends in terminal, plumy, spirea-like racemes (hence the species name) in spring.

Flowers are followed by greenish berries which turn an attractive ruby red in summer, often persisting into fall unless earlier consumed by wildlife. Foliage turns yellow in fall. Foliage resembles that of the true Solomon’s seals (Polygonatum spp.), but the latter have distinctly different flowers (i.e., bell-shaped flowers which droop from the leaf axils all along the stems).


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 1-3ft
  • Mature Width: 1-2ft

Red-osier Dogwood

Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Cornus sericea

Red-osier dogwood is a medium to tall deciduous shrub, growing 1.5-4 m tall and 3-5 m wide, spreading readily by underground stolons to form dense thickets. Cuttings readily root, and it is an excellent shrub for live-staking along stream banks and in wetlands. In the wild, it commonly grows in wetlands and other habitats with damp soil. The branches and twigs are dark red, though they may lack this coloration in shaded areas.

The ovate to oblong leaves are opposite, 5-12 cm long and 2.5-6 cm broad. In the fall, the leaves are commonly bright red to purple. The flowers are small (5-10 mm diameter), creamy white in color and growing in attractive clusters 3-6 cm diameter. This species lacks the showy, petal-like bracts commonly associated with other dogwood species. The fruit is a white berry 5-9 mm diameter.

Red-osier dogwood is a popular ornamental shrub, often planted for the red coloring of its twigs in the dormant season, attractive white spring flowers, and fall color. It is particularly useful for restoration sites, wet areas, and stream banks.

Red-osier dogwood is known by several Latin names, including Cornus sericea, Cornus stolonifera, and Swida sericea. Other common names include redtwig dogwood, red rood, American dogwood, and (subsp. occidentalis) Western dogwood. It is a variable species, with two subspecies commonly accepted:

  • Cornus sericea subsp. sericea – throughout the range of the species. Shoots and leaves hairless or finely pubescent; flower petals 2-3 mm.
  • Cornus sericea subsp. occidentalis (Torr. & A.Gray) Fosberg – western North America. Shoots and leaves densely pubescent; flower petals 3-4.5 mm.

  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet, Perennially Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 15ft
  • Mature Width: 6-9ft

Black Twinberry

Black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)
Lonicera involucrata

Black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) is also known as “twinberry honeysuckle”. Named for its twin-forming flower and fruit, this is a fast-growing, attractive shrub reaching 10 feet or more. Pairs of tubular-shaped yellow to orange flowers bloom mid-spring to early summer, followed by very showy red bracts surrounding dark purple berries. The flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds and the berries are eaten by numerous birds. Twinberry likes sun or partial shade and moist soil.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 8-10ft
  • Mature Width: 4-10ft

Mockorange

Mock orange (Philadephus lewisii)
Philadelphus lewisii

Philadelphus lewisii (Mockorange) is a deciduous shrub native to western North America. It is widespread but not terribly common, usually appearing as an individual plant among other species.

The shrub is rounded and grows to 1.5-3 m in height. It sends out long red stems which fade to gray with age, the bark shredding in small flakes. The pale green, opposite leaves are usually oval and 3-5 cm long and rough in texture. The fragrant white flowers are produced in clusters at the ends of long stems. At the height of flowering, the plant is covered in a mass of blossoms. The flowers have a heavy, sweet scent similar to orange blossoms with a hint of pineapple.

Mockorange has many traditional cultural uses for Native Americans. The wood can be made into tools, snowshoes, pipes, and furniture. The leaves and bark, which contain saponins, can be mixed in water for use as a mild soap.

Cultivation

Mockorange prefers full sun to partial sun. It is drought-tolerant and will grow in poor soils, and provides a landscape with flashy flowers and a fruity scent. Philadelphus lewisii


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 6-10ft
  • Mature Width: 4-10ft

Douglas Spirea

Douglas spirea (Spiraea douglasii)
Spiraea douglasii

Commonly known as Douglas’s spiraea, hardhack or steeplebush. Large clusters of small pink flowers form spires in early summer, later turning dark and persisting. This erect shrub can be thicket-forming in marshy areas.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 6ft
  • Mature Width: 3-7ft
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