Category Archives: Native Plants

Narrow-leaved Mules Ear

Narrow-leaved mules ear (Wyethia angustifolia)
Wyethia angustifolia

Also known as “Narrow-leaved Mule’s Ear” or “California Compassplant”. The inflorescence produces one or more large sunflower-like flower heads at the top of the hairy stem. Large lance-shaped, basal leaves with several smaller, alternate, stem leaves.

  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing:
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 2ft
  • Mature Width: 1ft

Bigleaf Maple

Bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum)
Acer macrophyllum

Acer macrophyllum (Bigleaf or Oregon Maple) is a large deciduous tree. It grows to 35 m tall, but more commonly 15 m to 20 m tall. It is native to western North America, mostly near the Pacific coast, from southernmost Alaska south to southern California. Some stands are also found inland in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of central California, and a tiny population occurs in central Idaho.

It has the largest leaves of any maple, typically 15-30 cm across, with five deeply-incised palmate lobes, with the largest running to 61 cm. The flowers are produced in spring in pendulous racemes 10-15 cm long, greenish-yellow with inconspicuous petals. The fruit is a paired winged samara, each seed 1-1.5 cm diameter with a 4-5 cm wing.

In the more humid parts of its range, as in the Olympic National Park, its bark is covered with epiphytic moss and fern species.

Cultivation and Uses

Maple syrup has been made from the sap of bigleaf maple trees. While the sugar concentration is about the same as in sugar maple (Acer saccharum), the flavor is somewhat different. Interest in commercially producing syrup from bigleaf maple sap has been limited.

The lumber from this tree has diverse uses, such as furniture, piano frames and salad bowls. Highly figured wood is not uncommon and is used for veneer and guitar bodies.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 90ft
  • Mature Width: 70ft

Salal

Salal (Gaultheria shallon)
Gaultheria shallon

Salal is a low-growing, leathery-leaved evergreen shrub that tolerates a wide variety of conditions. Its dark blue “berries” (actually swollen sepals) are edible raw and can be made into jams, preserves, and pies. Salal berries are mildly sweet, and are often used in combination with the more tart Oregon grape.

In the Willamette Valley, salal prefers full to partial shade. In coastal areas it can form deep, nearly impenetrable thickets, and easily tolerates full sun. It grows as far north as Baranof Island, Alaska.

Salal leaves are also harvested and sold to florists worldwide for use in floral arrangements.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 1-5ft
  • Mature Width: 1-5ft

Incense Cedar

Incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens)
Calocedrus decurrens

Incense cedar is a conifer native from central-western Oregon through most of California and the extreme west of Nevada, and also a short distance into northern Baja California. It grows at altitudes of 50-2900 m.

It is a large tree, typically reaching heights of 40-60 m and a trunk diameter of up to 3 m (maxima, 69 m tall and 4.5 m diameter), and with a broad conic crown of spreading branches. The bark is orange-brown weathering grayish, smooth at first, becoming fissured and exfoliating in long strips on the lower trunk on old trees. The bright-green foliage is produced in flattened sprays with scale-like leaves 2-15 mm long.

The seed cones are 20-35 mm long, and look like the open beak of a duck. They turn orange to yellow-brown when mature about 8 months after pollination.

This tree is the preferred host of a wood wasp, Syntexis libocedrii, a living fossil species which lays its eggs in the smoldering wood immediately after a forest fire.

Cultivation and Uses

The wood is the primary material for wooden pencils, because it is soft and tends to sharpen easily without forming splinters.

It is also a popular ornamental tree, valued for its drought tolerance. It is grown particularly in cool summer climates for its very narrow columnar crown. This narrow crown is not restricted to selected cultivars but is an unexplained consequence of the climatic conditions in these areas, and is not shown by trees in the wild.

  • Light Requirements: Full Sun
  • Water Requirements: Dry
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 100-150ft
  • Mature Width: 30ft

Evergreen Huckleberry

Evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)
Vaccinium ovatum

Evergreen Huckleberry is a small to medium sized evergreen shrub native to the Pacific Northwest regions of the United States and British Columbia. In the Willamette Valley, it prefers full to partial shade, but will tolerate full sun in coastal areas. It grows slowly and prefers acidic soils.

The shiny, alternately arranged leaves are 2-3.0cm long and 1-1.5cm wide with finely serrated edges. In mid-summer, the plant produces round, edible black berries about 0.5 – 1.0cm in diameter. The berries are a valuable traditional food for many Native American cultures in the Pacific Northwest.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 4-8ft
  • Mature Width: 3-6ft

Slough Sedge

Slough sedge (Carex obnupta)
Carex Obnupta

Slough sedge is native to western North America from British Columbia to California where it grows in wetland habitats. The plant produces upright, angled stems approaching 1.2 meters in maximum height, growing in beds or colonies from rhizome networks. The inflorescence is a cluster of flower spikes accompanied by a long leaflike bract.

Wildlife

The lens-shaped seeds are eaten by many kinds of wildlife. Birds known to eat sedge seeds include coots, ducks, marsh birds, shorebirds, upland game birds, and songbirds. In addition to providing food for many wildlife species, sedges are also valuable for cover. Frequently they provide nesting cover for ducks, and their tufted growth furnishes concealment and bedding for other animals. Beavers, otters, muskrats and minks make their way through the sedges as they go to and from the water.

Ethnobotanic

The leaves of slough sedge are used for both wrapping and twining in the grass baskets that are well known and widely marketed by Nitinaht and Nootka women even today.

The Nitinaht believed that picking grasses such as slough sedge for baskets and mats causes fog. The fisherman were always getting annoyed with the women who harvested these materials, because they were always making it foggy. It is said that Hesaquiat men shaved with this grass because the edges are so sharp. There is a saying in Hesaquiat which translates as “you’re just like citapt (slough sedge)” – you never change, because slough sedge is always the same and never seems to change in appearance.

Erosion Control

Slough sedge provides erosion control and streambank stabilization. The dense swards of slough sedge provide sediment retention and nutrient uptake, thus contributing to water quality improvement. Emergent wetland plant communities dominated by slough sedge provide the following hydrologic functions: maintaining river or stream meander patterns; providing a broad, shallow plain where streams slow and sediment deposition occurs; stormwater abatement; a mixing zone where brackish and freshwaters meet; and nutrient-rich habitat for aquatic organisms, fish, waterfowl, and predators such as otter, bald eagles, herons, and raccoons to feed.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part sun
  • Water Requirements: Perennially Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 2ft
  • Mature Width: 1ft
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