Category Archives: Native Plants

Cascara

Cascara (Rhamnus pershiana)
Rhamnus purshiana

Cascara, also known as Frangula purshiana, is found along the Pacific coast from British Columbia to northern California along riverbanks and in other moist locations. It forms an attractive shape, and is often planted in Portland’s parking strips. It will sometimes reach 50′ but also grows as a shrub to only 15′. The dark green, glossy leaves are highly decorative and stand out against the small, green-white flowers that form in loose clusters. In late autumn, the leaves turn a delicate yellow and persist through many a winter storm.

Wildlife

Birds relish the cherry-like fruit, but they are potentially toxic to humans and should be avoided.

Uses

The cured bark is used extensively as a potent laxative (hence the name “cascara” which means “skin” in Spanish). The tree can be cut at the soil line for harvest, and will usually re-sprout to form a new tree.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 30ft
  • Mature Width:20ft

Star-flowered Solomon’s Seal

Star-flowered Solomon's seal (Maianthemum stellatum)
Maianthemum stellatum

Beautiful blue-green foliage, white flowers spring through summer, and red and white striped berries. Great for woodland gardens.

  • 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
  • Fire-resistant: No
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 1-2ft
  • Mature Width:1ft

Douglas Aster

Douglas Aster (Aster subspicatus)
Aster subspicatus

Douglas Aster is a tall spreading perennial that blooms into the late summer and thrives on saltwater shorelines. The rather lanky stems are topped with bluish purple flowers that look like miniature daisies (ray flowers). The prolific blooms will draw lots of butterflies.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: No
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 1-4ft
  • Mature Width:2ft

Western Bleeding Heart

Western bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa)
Dicentra formosa ssp. formosa

Bleeding heart’s showy flower resembles a heart split open at the base, releasing its contents. It has delicate-looking fernlike leaves, with pink flowers that bloom from April to June. Bleeding heart prefers rich soil and some shade. It will thrive planted under evergreen trees or along stream banks. Heights of 26 inches can be reached though 12-16″ is more common.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 1-1.5ft
  • Mature Width:1.5-2ft

Dagger-leaf rush

Daggerleaf rush (Juncus ensifolius)
Juncus ensifolius

This rhizomatous rush grows in large upright clumps. The green dagger shaped leaves fold over along the mid-vein towards the stem, similar to iris leaves.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: No
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 1-2ft
  • Mature Width:1-2ft

Broad-leaf Shooting Star

Henderson’s shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii)
Dodecatheon hendersonii

This bulb-producing perennial begins in late winter with thick spoon shaped leaves at the base of the plant. Showy flowers appear in early spring on top of a tall 12 in (30 cm) leafless flower stalk. Flowers are inside out with petals magenta to deep lavender to white, with a white strip before the black fertile part. It blooms February to May and is summer deciduous, dying back to the ground after the rains cease.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects
  • Fire-resistant: No
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 1ft
  • Mature Width:6in

White Alder

White alder (Alnus rhombifolia)
Alnus rhombifolia

Alnus rhombifolia is a medium-sized deciduous tree growing to 49-82 ft rarely to 115 ft tall, with pale gray bark, smooth on young trees, becoming scaly on old trees.

The flowers are produced in catkins. The male catkins are pendulous, yellowish, and produced in clusters of two to seven; pollination is in early spring, before the leaves emerge. The female catkins are ovoid, when mature in autumn and resemble a small conifer cone. The small winged seeds disperse through the winter, leaving the old woody, blackish ‘cones’ on the tree for up to a year after.

The White Alder is closely related to the Red Alder (Alnus rubra), differing in the leaf margins being flat, not curled under. Like other alders, it is able to fix nitrogen atmospheric nitrogen, and tolerates infertile soils.

If used domestically they should be planted well away from drainpipes, sewage pipes, and water lines, as the roots may well invade and clog the lines. These fast-growing trees often grow 3 ft. per year until 20 years of age. They are a relatively short lived species compared to other PNW native tree species.

  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: No
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 90ft
  • Mature Width:40ft

Hooker’s Fairy Bells

Hooker’s Fairy Bells (Disporum hookerii)
Disporum hookerii

Lovely, outwards-flaring flowers of greenish-white to cream over deep green leathery foliage, with characteristic long, drip-tips to the leaves.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: No
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height:
  • Mature Width:
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