Nature Notes 3: May is Native Plant Month!

Welcome to EMSWCD’s Nature Notes series! Nature Notes shares small moments and interesting observations from our property, as well as related natural history tidbits, on a weekly to monthly basis.

May 7th, 2018

May is Native Plant Month!

This month in celebration of Native Plant Month, we’ll be highlighting a variety of native plants, all of which you can come see any time at our Conservation Corner!

This week we’re seeing purple everywhere with common camas, Henderson’s shooting star, Menzie’s larkspur, and Oregon Iris in full bloom.

Common camas (Camassia quamash)

Camas is an iconic Pacific Northwest species, blooming by the tens of thousands in moist, open meadows that dry out by summer. Mixed in with other bulbs or by itself, it is a showy and elegant addition to borders, rock gardens, perennial beds, and even green roofs! Camas is both ecologically and culturally significant. The flowers are visited by bees, bugs, beetles, ants, and bumblebees (but not deer!), and the edible bulbs were a food staple for many indigenous western North Americans.

Henderson’s shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii)

The delicate yet dramatic pink flowers of Henderson’s shooting star make this little perennial a must-have for the rock garden, dry wildflower meadow, or green roof. Often found growing with camas, it blooms before the trees leaf out, then goes dormant for the summer. These flowers make more pollen than nectar, which encourages bees to visit. Bees pollinate the flowers by sonication, or buzz pollination, where they literally buzz their bodies to shake the pollen loose.

Menzies’ or coastal larkspur (Delphinium menziesii)

The deep purple flowers of Menzies’ larkspur will add interest to any rocky hillside or wildflower meadow. This lovely little plant can tolerate full sun to part shade, and likes its feet wet but not stagnant. It is often found on steep bluffs, rocky hillsides, and damp depressions in open meadows. Plant this bumblebee and hummingbird favorite in among other perennial bulbs and groundcovers, and enjoy its blooms from spring through mid-summer.

Oregon iris (Iris tenax)

Oregon iris is a beautiful, versatile little perennial equally at home in the rock garden or wildflower meadow, at the edge of a woodland glade or in a perennial border. It is a favorite of bees and butterflies, but mostly ignored by deer and rabbits. This plant likes full sun to light shade, and needs moist but well-drained soil. Transplant only in the fall or early spring when roots are white, plump, and actively growing.

Get involved in Native Plant Month!

The Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO) Portland Chapter is hosting a full month of activities, including hikes, guides tours, workshops and more!

Visit the Native Plant Month website to learn more.