Category Archives: Small Shrubs

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

Pacific Ninebark

Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)
Physocarpus capitatus

Pacific ninebark, or tall ninebark, is native to western North America from southern Alaska to southern California, and east to Montana and Utah.

It is a dense deciduous shrub growing to 1 to 2.5 meters tall. The name references the appearance of the bark, which peels in many layers. The shrub has distinctive maple-like lobed leaves 3-14 cm long and broad, and clusters of small white flowers with five petals and numerous red-tipped stamens. The unique fruit is an inflated glossy red pod which turns dry and brown and then splits open to release seeds.

It is often found in wetlands, but also forms thickets along rivers and in moist forest habitats. While it grows robustly in wet environments, it is drought-tolerant to a degree and is a popular garden plant.


  • Light Requirements: 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: 8-12ft
  • Mature Width: 4-7ft

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
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 4-10ft
  • Mature Width: 3-10ft

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
  • Edible: Yes
  • Mature Height: 6-10ft
  • Mature Width: 3-4ft

Thimbleberry

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
Rubus parviflorus

Rubus parviflorus, commonly called thimbleberry, is a species of Rubus, native to western and northern North America, from Alaska east to Ontario and Michigan, and south to northern Mexico. It grows from sea level in the north, up to 2,500 m altitude in the south of the range.

It is a dense shrub up to 2.5 meters tall with canes no more than 1.5 centimeters in diameter, often growing in large clumps which spread through the plant’s underground rhizome. Unlike most other members of the genus, it has no prickles. The leaves are palmate, up to 20 centimeters across, with five lobes; they are soft and fuzzy in texture. The flowers are 2 to 6 centimeters in diameter, with five white petals and numerous pale yellow stamens. The flower of this species is among the largest of any Rubus species, making its Latin species name parviflorus (‘small-flowered’) a misnomer.

Like other raspberries it is not a true berry, but instead an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets around a central core. The drupelets may be carefully removed separately from the core when picked, leaving a hollow fruit which bears a resemblance to a thimble, perhaps giving the plant its name. Thimbleberry fruits are larger, flatter, and softer than raspberries, and have many small seeds. Because the fruit is so soft, it does not pack or ship well, so thimbleberries are rarely cultivated commercially.

The species typically grows along roadsides, railroad tracks, and in forest clearings, commonly appearing as an early part of the ecological succession in clear cut and forest fire areas.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, 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: 4-6ft
  • Mature Width: 3-6ft

Salmonberry

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)
Rubus spectabilis

Rubus spectabilis (Salmonberry) is a species of Rubus native to the west coast of North America from southern Alaska to California.

It is a shrub growing to 1–4 m tall, with perennial, not biennial woody stems (unlike other species). The leaves are trifoliate, 7–22 cm long, the terminal leaflet larger than the two side leaflets. The leaf margins are toothed. The flowers are 2–3 cm diameter, with five purple petals; they are produced from early spring to early summer. The fruit matures in late summer to early autumn, and resembles a large yellow to orange-red raspberry 1.5-2 cm long with many drupelets.

In our area the berries can ripen from mid-June to late-July.

Salmonberries are found in moist forests and stream margins, especially in the coastal forests. They often form large thickets, and thrive in the open spaces under stands of Red Alder (Alnus rubra).

Salmonberries have a mild flavor, and are often made into jams, candies, jellies, and wines.


  • Light Requirements: Full Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
  • Water Requirements: Moist, Seasonally Wet
  • 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: 4-10ft
  • Mature Width: 4-10ft
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