Category Archives: Native Plants

Oceanspray

Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor)
Holodiscus discolor

Oceanspray is native to western North America. It is most common in the mountainous Pacific Northwest. This fast-growing deciduous shrub reaches 5 m tall. Its leaves are small, 5-9 cm long and 4-7 cm broad, toothed, juicy green when new. Cascading clusters of white flowers drooping from the branches give the plant two of its common names, oceanspray and creambush. The flowers have a faint sugary scent. It bears a small, hairy fruit containing one seed which is light enough to be dispersed by wind.

Oceanspray is found in a variety of habitats, from wet coastal forests to drier, cooler mountain peaks further inland. It often grows in areas dominated by Douglas-fir. The plant is found in areas prone to wildfire, such as chaparral communities. It is often the first green shoot to spring up in an area recovering from a burn or logging.

It will thrive in a sunny or part-sunny garden, growing numerous arching branches with stems terminating in white flowers.

In Native American cultures, oceanspray flowers and leaves have a variety of medicinal properties and practical uses. The wood is very hard, and is traditionally used for both furniture and small hand tools.


  • 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
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 8-10ft
  • Mature Width:3-7ft

Douglas Fir

Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
Pseudotsuga menziesii

The Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii subsp. menziesii), a subspecies of Douglas-fir, is an evergreen conifer. It is native to the coastal regions from west-central British Columbia southward to California. In Oregon and Washington its range is continuous from the Cascades crest west to the Pacific Ocean.

Characteristics

Coast Douglas fir is a very tall tree, the second-tallest conifer in the world (after Coast Redwood). Trees 60-75 m (200-250 feet) or more in height and 1.5-2 m (5-6 feet) in diameter are common in old growth stands, and heights of 100-120 m (300-400 feet) were reported by early lumbermen. It commonly lives more than 500 years and occasionally more than 1,000 years.

The bark on young trees is thin, smooth, gray, and contains numerous resin blisters. On mature trees, it is 10-30 cm thick (4-12 inches) and corky. The needle-like leaves are spirally arranged and 2-3.5 cm long. Coast Douglas fir foliage has a noticeable sweet fruity-resinous scent, particularly if crushed.

The mature cones are pendent, 5-11 cm (2-4 inches) long, 2-3 cm broad when closed, opening to 4 cm broad. They grow in spring, green at first, maturing orange-brown in the autumn 6-7 months later. The male cones disperse yellow pollen in spring.

In forest conditions, old individuals typically have a narrow, cylindrical crown beginning 20-40 m (65-130 feet) above a branch-free trunk. Self-pruning is generally slow and trees retain their lower limbs for a long period. Young, open-grown trees typically have branches down to near ground level. It often takes 70-80 years for the trunk to be clear to a height of 5 m (17 feet) and 100 years to be clear to a height of 10 m (33 feet). Douglas fir is shallow rooting, and there is potential for windthrow in thin or disturbed soils. It provides a good wind break when planted in groupings.

Wildlife

Douglas fir seeds are an extremely important food for small mammals. Mice, voles, shrews, and chipmunks consumed an estimated 65 percent of a Douglas-fir seed crop following dispersal in western Oregon. The seeds are also important in the diets of the pine siskin, song sparrow, golden-crowned sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, red crossbill, dark-eyed junco, and purple finch. Coast Douglas fir seedlings are not a preferred browse of black-tailed deer and elk, but can be an important food source for these animals during the winter when other preferred forages are lacking.

The Douglas squirrel harvests and caches great quantities of Douglas fir cones for later use. They also eat mature pollen cones, developing inner bark, terminal shoots, and tender young needles.

Mature or ‘old-growth’ Coast Douglas-fir is the primary habitat of the red tree vole and the spotted owl. Red tree voles may also be found in immature forests if Douglas fir is a significant component. This animal nests almost exclusively in the foliage of Douglas-fir trees. Nests are located 2-50 m (6-160 feet) above the ground. The red vole’s diet consists chiefly of Coast Douglas fir needles.

In many areas Coast Douglas fir needles are a staple in the spring diet of blue grouse. In the winter, porcupines primarily eat the inner bark of young conifers, especially Douglas-fir. Douglas-fir snags are abundant in forests older than 100-150 years and provide cavity-nesting habitat for numerous forest birds.

The leaves are also used by the adelgid Adelges cooleyi; this 0.5 mm long sap-sucking insect is conspicuous on the undersides of the leaves by the small white ‘fluff spots’ of protective wax that it produces. It is often present in large numbers, and can cause the foliage to turn yellowish from the damage in causes. Exceptionally, trees may be partially defoliated by it, but the damage is rarely this severe.

Ecology

Coast Douglas fir is the dominant tree in the Pacific Northwest, occurring in nearly all forest types. It is adapted to a moist, mild climate. Associated trees include sitka spruce, ponderosa pine, grand fir, western redcedar, incense-cedar, bigleaf maple and others. Shrub associates include vine maple (Acer circinatum), salal (Gaultheria shallon), pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum), Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium), red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium), and salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis), oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) and others. In wet coastal forests, nearly every surface of old-growth Coast Douglas fir is covered by epiphytic mosses and lichens.

The shade-intolerance of Douglas fir plays a large role in the forest succession of lowland old growth communities of the Pacific Northwest. While mature stands of lowland old-growth forests contain many Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) seedlings, and some Western Red cedar (Thuja plicata) seedlings, Douglas fir dominated stands contain almost no Douglas fir seedlings. This seeming contradiction occurs because Douglas-firs are intolerant of shade and rarely survive for long within the shaded understory.

When a tree dies in a mature forest the canopy opens up and sunlight becomes available as a source of energy for new growth. The shade-tolerant Western Hemlock seedlings that sprout beneath the canopy have a head-start on other seedlings. This competitive advantage allows the Western Hemlock to grow rapidly into the sunlight, while other seedlings still struggle to emerge from the soil. The boughs of the growing Western Hemlock limit the sunlight for smaller trees and severely limit the chances of shade-intolerant trees, such as the Douglas-fir. Over the course of centuries, Western Hemlock typically come to dominate the canopy of an old-growth lowland forest.

Douglas-firs are pioneer trees, and possess thicker bark and a somewhat faster growth rate than other climax trees of the area, such as the Western Hemlock and Western Redcedar. This quality often gives Douglas-firs a competitive advantage when the forest experiences a major disturbance such as fire. Periodically, portions of a Pacific Northwest lowland forest may be burned by wildfire, may be logged, or may be blown down by a wind-storm. These types of disturbances often create conditions where Douglas-firs have an advantage over less drought and fire-tolerant species.

Conifers dominate the climax forests of the Coastal Douglas-fir. All of the climax conifers that grow alongside Douglas-fir can live for centuries, with a few species capable of living for over a millennium. Forests that exist on this time scale experiences the type of sporadic disturbances that allow mature stands of Douglas firs to establish themselves as a persistent element within a mature old-growth forest. When old growth forests survive in a natural state, they often look like a patchwork quilt of different forest communities. Western Hemlock typically dominate old growth forests, but contain sections of Douglas firs, red cedar, alder, and even redwood forests on their southern extent, near the Oregon and California border.

The logging practices of the last 200 years created artificial disturbances that caused Douglas-firs to thrive. The Douglas fir’s useful wood and its quick growth make it the crop of choice for many timber companies, which typically replant a clear-cut area with Douglas fir saplings. The low-moisture conditions that exist within a clear-cut also naturally favor the regeneration of Douglas-fir. Because of clear-cut logging, almost all the Pacific Northwest forests not strictly set aside for protection are today dominated by Douglas fir, while the normally dominant climax species, such as Western Hemlock and Western red cedar are relatively rare.

Commercial Uses

Coast Douglas fir is one of the worlds best timber producers and yields more timber than any other tree in North America. The wood is used for dimensional lumber, timbers, pilings, and plywood. Creosote treated pilings and decking are used in marine structures. The wood is also made into railroad ties, mine timbers, house logs, posts and poles, flooring, veneer, pulp, and furniture. Coast Douglas-fir is used extensively in landscaping. It is planted as a specimen tree or in mass screenings. It is also a popular Christmas tree.


  • 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: Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 120-240ft
  • Mature Width:30ft

Red Flowering Currant

Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)
Ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum

Red flowering currant is native to western coastal North America from central British Columbia to central California. It is a deciduous shrub growing to 4 m tall. The bark is dark brownish-grey with prominent paler brown lenticels. The leaves are 2-7 cm long and broad, with five palmate lobes; when young in spring, they have a strong resinous scent. The early spring flowers emerge at the same time as the leaves, on racemes 3-7 cm long with 5-30 flowers. Each flower is 5-10 mm diameter, with five red or pink petals. The fruit is dark purple oval berry 1 cm long, edible but bland.

Cultivation and uses

Red-flowering currant is a popular garden shrub, grown for its brightly colored and scented flowers in early spring. It was introduced into cultivation by David Douglas, and numerous cultivars have been selected with flowers ranging from white to dark red. While cultivars are genetic clones often selected for aesthetic value, open-pollinated, “straight native” plants grown from seed are likely to have the greatest benefit for wildlife.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads:
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 4-10ft
  • Mature Width:3-10ft

Sword Fern

Sword fern (Polystichum munitum)
Polystichum munitum

Polystichum munitum (Western Sword Fern) is an evergreen fern native to western North America, where it is one of the most abundant ferns occurring along the Pacific coast from southeast Alaska south to southern California, and also inland east to southeastern British Columbia, northern Idaho and western Montana, with isolated populations in interior northern British Columbia, the Black Hills in South Dakota, and on Guadalupe Island off Baja California.

The dark green fronds of this fern grow to 50-180 cm tall, in a tight clump spreading out radially from a round base. They are single-pinnate, with the pinnae alternating on the stalk. Each pinna is 1-15 cm long, with a small upward-pointing lobe at the base, and the edges are serrated with bristly tips. Individual fronds live for 1.5-2.5 years and remain attached to the rhizome after withering. The round sori occupy two rows on either side of the midrib of each pinna and are covered by a centrally-attached, umbrella-like indusium with fringed edges. They produce light yellow spores.

The favored habitat of this fern is the understory of moist coniferous forests at low elevations. It grows best in a well-drained acidic soil of rich humus and small stones. Sword ferns are very tough, and can survive occasional dry periods once established.

While this fern is a favored horticultural subject in western North America, it has been found to be difficult or impossible to grow satisfactorily in the eastern part of the continent.


  • Light Requirements: Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible:
  • Mature Height: 2-5ft
  • Mature Width:2-4ft

Grand Fir

Grand fir (Abies grandis)
Abies grandis

Grand fir or giant fir is native to the Pacific Northwest of North America, occurring at altitudes of sea level to 1,800 m. It is a large, evergreen, coniferous tree growing to 40-70 m (exceptionally 80 m) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 2 m.

The glossy dark green leaves are needle-like and 3-6 cm long. They lie in two more-or-less flat ranks on either side of the shoot. The cones are 6-12 cm long and 3.5-4.5 cm broad. The cones do not fall to the ground whole, but disintegrate on the tree and release their seeds at maturity, about 6 months after pollination.

Uses

The foliage has an attractive scent, and is sometimes used for Christmas decoration, including Christmas trees. It is also planted as an ornamental tree in large parks.

  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Hummingbirds, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: No
  • Edible: No
  • Mature Height: 200ft
  • Mature Width:40ft

Nootka Rose

Nootka rose (Rosa Nutkana)
Rosa nutkana var. nutkana

The Nootka rose is an attractive shrub growing up to 9′ high. The straight, erect stems are usually green, but occasionally may be reddish. The prickles are larger and thicker than those of the other native rose species.

The leaves are alternate on the stems and pinnately compound with 5-7 leaflets, dark green above, paler and slightly hairy below. The leaflets are elliptic or ovate in shape with serrate margins, and range from 1-7 cm long and 0.7-4.5 cm wide.

The sweet-scented, pink flowers are usually solitary, occasionally growing in groups of 2 or 3. They are large and showy, ranging from 5-8 cm across. Individual petals are 2.5-4 cm long, and 5 petals are the norm for the flowers. The rose hips are spherical, orange-red and large, ranging from 1-2 cm wide.

Uses

Wild rose is spindly and tends to form loose thickets, which in large spaces makes it useful as a hedgerow or as a wildlife-friendly ornamental. The leaves and fruits are important food sources for herbivores and upland game birds, and rose thickets provide excellent nesting and escape habitat for songbirds. The plant also has many traditional uses in Native American culture. Rose hips can be made into jam, tea, and used as flavoring, and the leaves have a variety of medicinal uses. Dried flower petals are used for scents and potpourri.

Habitat

Nootka rose may be found in open upland woods or in open shrub wetlands. In areas where both Rosa nutkana and Rosa woodsii occur, the former may be found at higher elevations and often in woods.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Spreads: Yes
  • Wildlife Support: Pollinators, Pest-eating Insects, Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 6-10ft
  • Mature Width:3-4ft

Osoberry

Indian plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)
Oemleria cerasiformis

Osoberry is a fast-growing, multi-stemmed shrub to small tree with purplish-brown bark. In open sunny locations it may form a dense shrub, while in the shade it becomes more open to sprawling. This is one of our first native shrubs to leaf and flower in the spring, providing an important early nectar source for pollinators.

In the early spring, female plants produce attractive, dangling clumps of whitish flowers. These are followed by small hard fruit. A favorite of birds (and technically edible, but bitter for people), the fruit is peach-colored early in the season and matures to blue-black.

Note: all plants are dormant at the time of the plant sale, so we are unable to determine gender.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Dry, Moist
  • Ease of Growing: Easy to grow
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Spreads: No
  • Wildlife Support: Birds or Mammals
  • Fire-resistant: Yes
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 15ft
  • Mature Width:5-10ft

Cusick’s Checkermallow

Cusick's checkermallow (Sidalcea cusickii)
Sidalcea cusickii

A delightful, hollyhock-like perennial rarely found outside its native Oregon, and not in every county. Stands of this perennial have been reported in Washington, Multnomah, Yamhill, Benton, Linn, Lane, Douglas, Coos and Jackson counties, but not all are documented.


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