PACIFIC NW NATIVE
PLANTS BY PLANT COMMUNITY
By Lisa Albert
4-H Wildlife Steward for Deer Creek Elementary School
Hemlock-Douglas Fir Forest
> Mixed Deciduous Forest/Steep Dry Slope
> Scrub-Shrub Wetlands
HEMLOCK-DOUGLAS FIR FOREST
The most common plant community in the Pacific Northwest is dominated
by large conifers, with a wide range of trees, shrubs and groundcovers
as understory plants. Groundcovers will vary depending on amount of
sunlight and moisture. A number of species are common throughout the
moist to dry range with a few species found at one end of the gradient
or the other. For instance, in places where the soil is well drained
and the slope is south-facing, or in open canopy sunny conditions, you
will find plants more tolerant of dry conditions. Many of these plants
will grow in mixed deciduous forest conditions as well.
tree. Ht. 20’. Part sun/shade. Tolerates seasonal wet. Birds
(8) eat seeds; branches are good for nesting sites. Butterfly
larvae host plant.
Notes: Understory tree. Only plants nursery grown
in sun should be planted in sun conditions. Shade-grown plants
do not transplant well to sun conditions. Flowers in April before
leaves. Lovely fall color.
tree. Ht. 8-15’. Full sun/full shade. Tolerates seasonal
dry. Birds (6) eat berries.
Notes: More open form in shade. Generally grows
less wide than tall. Often suckers at base. Hi transplant success.
Need male and female plants for fruit to develop (female fruits).
First to flower (Feb) and leaf out in spring, flower scent described
as Hawthorne-like, almond-scented or a cross between melon rinds
and cat urine. Beauty is in the nostrils of the sniffer. Pollinated
by bees and flies. First to fruit (June), eaten quickly by birds,
quite palatable fruit. Often seed planted by birds. Fast grower.
Leaves have strong cucumber smell when crushed.
Ht. 6-8’. Part shade/full sun. Tolerates seasonal dry.
Birds (10) eat berries, Hummingbirds, Butterfly adult, Butterfly
Notes: Alternate host for White Pine Blister
Rust. Many named forms available, some garden origin, some naturally
found varieties. Generally upright but can develop interesting
form, esp. in shade - becomes leggier. Powdery blue/black berries
ripen from June to August, are edible but “insipid”
according to P&M. Almost always eaten by summer’s end
by birds. Fruit eaten by mammals (deer, foxes, beavers, raccoons,
squirrels, etc), twig/foliage browsed by deer. David Douglas brought
this plant to European horticulturists.
4-6’ usually, up to 10’. Part sun/full shade. Tolerates
Birds (13) eat fruit, Hummingbirds.
Notes: Plant with rotting wood, decaying organic
matter. Supposedly transplant success high but that’s not
my experience. Can look “dead” for up to 2 years so
don’t give up hope and pull it. Alternate leaves, square
shrub. Ht. 3-8’ usually, up to 15’. Part sun/full
Birds (13) eat fruit, Hummingbirds, Butterfly adult, Butterfly
Notes: Will take formal pruning – good
substitute for boxwood (toxic). New spring growth is lovely burgundy/bronzy
color. Slow grower. Fairly compact in sunny areas, more upright,
taller with more shade. Berries better with more sun, which get
supposedly sweeter after frost. Important food source in late
summer/early fall for wildlife. Foliage used in florist trade
5’-9’. Full sun/full shade. Tolerates seasonal wet.
Birds (25) eat raspberry-like fruits.
Notes: Large felty leaves – Woodsmen’s
TP. No thorns. Thicket forming bramble – good to compete
(with help) against Himalayan blackberry. Vigorous, not for the
small garden. White flowers appear after many other natives are
done flowering. Good soil-binding characteristics, good for erosion
control. Transplant success high.
2-6’. Full sun/full shade, Tolerates seasonal wet. Birds
(25) eat raspberry-like fruits.
Notes: Sparsely thorned, thicket forming bramble
– good to compete (with help) against Himalayan blackberry.
Vigorous, not for the small garden. Hot pink flowers before foliage.
Fruit is quite mushy but some clones are tastier than others.
Good soil-binding characteristics, good for erosion control. Transplant
shrub. Ht. 2-6’. Part sun/full shade. Tolerates seasonal
Birds eat berries, Hummingbirds, Butterfly adult, Butterfly larvae.
Notes: Slow to establish. Can take 2-3 years
before spreads. Most prevalent understory shrub in the region.
Can form dense thickets; can be difficult to remove. Generally
stays at 3’ or under in the valley, taller on the coast.
Tasty jam. Another whose foliage is used in the florist trade.
perennial. Ht. 1’-2’. Part shade/full sun. Tolerates
Notes: Name “fringe cup” describes
the flower in which the petals, highly divided, create a fringe
around the floral cup. Legend is that this is eaten by woodland
elves to improve night vision. Can seed around, off sets easy
to transplant, easy to naturalize.
perennial. Ht. 1.5’. Part shade/full sun. Tolerates seasonal
Notes: Most widespread of our 4 native species.
Easy to grow but slow from seed (can take 2 years to germinate),
7 years to flower. Goes dormant after flowers. Flowers are white,
fade to pink, darkening as they fade. Squirrels and chipmunks
eat the seeds. Do not cut. 3 leaves, 3 petals. Difficult to salvage,
has been over salvaged, take only when colony is doomed and with
Out Flower or Duckfoot
perennial. Ht. 12”-18”. Part sun/full shade.
Notes: Spreads by rhizomes, nice habit, not pushy.
Kruckeberg recommends mixing with Salal, rhodies, pachystima.
Closest relative is Epimedium. Seeds dispersed by wasps and ants.
Named after explorer Capt. George Vancouver.
perennial. Ht. 1’-1.5’. Part shade/full sun. Moist
but not standing water. Hummingbirds, Butterfly adult, Butterfly
Notes: Foliage is toxic if ingested. White flowered
form available. NWF lists this as one of the top 10 plants for
habitat gardening. Transplants and spreads easily but is not aggressive
(YMMV). Greenlace wings.
perennial. Ht. 4”-6”. Full shade. Moist soil all year
Birds, Butterfly adult.
Notes: Plant with rotting wood, decaying organic
matter. Rich, moist, acidic soils. Difficult to establish, more
luck with well-grown seedlings than transplanted clumps. In mild
winters, leaves are semi-evergreen and burgundy colored. Partners
well with twinflower, vanilla leaf. Flowers May to June.
perennial. Ht. 4”-5”. Part sun/full shade. Moist soils.
Butterfly Adult, butterfly larvae, Ants.
Notes: Largest native violet with yellow flowers.
Explosive seed capsules will carpet the ground (take care when
harvesting seed). Mix with woody plants, great for wetter woodland
garden. Spring bloomer.
DECIDUOUS FOREST/STEEP DRY SLOPE
Extremely well drained, exposed
south slopes, this community is predominately a mixture of deciduous
trees with scattered conifers. Garry oak and bigleaf maple are the dominant
trees. Conifers do not favor the dry conditions and thin, rocky and
well-drained soils. Where the tree canopy is more open, a wider variety
of herbaceous plants and grasses can be found.
tree. Ht. 8’-15’, can reach 30’. Full Sun/part
Birds (21) eat fruit, Hummingbirds, Butterfly adult, Butterfly
Notes: Avoid planting less than 30 feet from
Incense Cedar – alternate host for rust. Roots sensitive
to competition, slow to establish. Lovely flowers on par with
mock orange and pearl bush. Great fall color. Common name of Serviceberry
is for other regions more than ours but they have been interchangeable.
Serviceberry got its name because bloom would signal that the
ground was soft enough to dig graves and hold services. Susceptible
to rust though usually not disfiguring. Take care not to plant
with other plants affected by same rust (crabapples, pears, junipers).
tree. Ht. 8’-12’. Full Sun/part shade.
Songbird shelter, Butterfly adult, Butterfly larvae.
Notes: June to August bloom with the fruit, a
tiny, persistent capsule, drying very nicely to buff color, adding
year-long interest. Transplantation success is high. Growth rate
is fast. Good soil binding qualities, tolerates salt air, extremely
drought tolerant and good for disturbed sites. Provides winter
forage for insectivorous birds such as chickadees and bushtits.
Birds eat the seeds. Incredibly hard wood made stronger by heat,
pegs can be used in construction.
tree. Ht. 6’-10’. Full sun/part shade
Birds, Butterfly adult, Butterfly larvae.
Notes: Poisonous seeds. Fragrant bloom in early-mid
summer. Fast grower, easy to grow, high transplant success, good
erosion control. Great for back of borders, informal hedges or
specimen plant when lightly shaped.
shrub. Ht. 2’-3’. Part sun/full shade. Tolerates seasonal
Birds (6) eat fruit, Butterfly adult, Butterfly larvae, Mason
Notes: Slow spreading, makes an attractive ground
cover, suffocating weeds and requires no pruning or special care.
Can tolerate deep shade. Reputed deer resistant foliage but other
sources don’t confirm. Blue fruits are edible (jam, jellies
with lots of sugar, can also make wine) but the flesh is minimal
and the seed big. Lot of work.
fern. Ht. 2’-3’. Part sun/full shade.
Provides winter protection for birds.
Notes: Transplants well, easy to establish. Looks
best planted in groups or drifts in the woodland or rhodie garden.
Spores spread around garden for new plants. Our only fern, which
can handle more sun/more dryness than all others. With age, can
reach heights of 5’. Leaf looks like sword, hence the name.
This community is most common
in the middle and southern Willamette Valley, although some prairies
did exist within the Columbia Corridor, on Sauvie Island, and in the
Tualatin Valley. Historically these areas were burned by Native Americans,
which helped maintain their open grassy character. Today the extent
of this type of plant community is gone due to development, elimination
of burn practices and the subsequent natural process of forest succession.
Prairies are comprised primarily of grasses on well-drained dry upland
sites. If trees and shrubs are present, they are typically found alone
or in small groups. The number of trees and shrubs present will depend
on the depth of the soil and available moisture and they are tolerant
of shallow dry soils and sunny exposed conditions.
shrub. Ht. 6’-15’. Fun sun/part shade.
Notes: Foliage fragrant when brushed/crushed.
Very drought tolerant. Great hedge plant. Will take shearing.
Flower is insignificant. Small nutlet is eaten by birds. Coastal
perennial. Ht. 3’-4’. Full sun.
Hummingbirds, Butterfly adults, bees.
Notes: Pioneer plant for disturbed sites. About
2 weeks of bloom in late summer. Source of excellent honey. Fruits
are pod-like capsules. Seeds prolifically – do not expect
it to remain in a restricted area. Cut it to the ground before
it seeds to contain its habit. Kruckeberg recommends “lovely,
non-invasive white form” which is in limited cultivation.
Leaves are rich in Vitamin C, can be used to make tea. Prevalent
on outer coast.
perennial. Ht. 3’. Full sun.
Butterfly Adult, bees.
Notes: Great late season bloomer. Varieties can
range from alpine types forming compact mounds of 6” to
open branched forms 6’ tall. Flowers white, shades of blue,
pink, red, lavender, or purple, mostly with yellow centers. Compact
or cushion forms make tidy edges, mounds of color in rock gardens
and good container plants. Open meadow species are better for
perennial border use. Member of sunflower family, flower is compound
flower, which attracts many different pollinators. Easy to grow
from seed or division.
perennial. Ht. 2’-3’. Full sun/part shade.
Birds (3) eat seed, Hummingbirds, Butterfly adult.
Notes: Spring/early summer bloom. Easily grown
from seed. Cross breeds with other species with seedlings differing
from parents. Older, less hybridized varieties better for pollinators.
Cut back old stems for second crop of flowers; leave some to self-sow
and for seed eating birds. Reputably less prone to powdery mildew
than hybrids. Leaf minors a problem, just cut foliage back for
new flush of undamaged growth.
perennial. Ht. 1’-2’. Full sun.
Butterfly adult, Beneficial insects.
Notes: Relative of asters, compound flower heads.
Easy perennial, long bloom (summer/early fall). Leaves are aromatic.
Pure species is white flowered but varieties can be red, pink,
yellow or white. Tall species can spread quickly and are easily
divided when clumps get crowded.
perennial. Ht. 18”-2’. Full sun.
Butterfly adult, Butterfly larvae, beneficial insects (syrphid
fly, small wasps)
Notes: Dried flower even in bloom (papery bracts).
Easy to grow, late summer bloomer. Spread by rhizomes and seeds
(easy to grow from seed).
perennial/subshrub. Ht. 4”-12”. Full sun. Tolerates
Hummingbirds, Butterfly adult, bees, night-flying moths.
Notes: Needs good drainage, plant in gravel or
pumice (pumice best – more air pockets). Plant in weed barrier
tube. Most common form around here – OR has about 30 species
of penstemons. All forms cross breed easily so seed may not be
true to parent. Can be short-lived, will root along where branches
touch the ground. Root run is 8”-10” deep usually.
Prefers acidic soils. Partners – Oregon sunshine, California
fuchsia, Scarlet gilia, Lewisia.
perennial/sub shrub. Ht. 2”-4”. Full sun. Tolerates
Hummingbirds, Butterfly adult, bees, night-flying moths.
Notes: Needs good drainage, plant in gravel or
pumice. Same as above. Rupicola means “growing on rocks”.
Usually grows on vertical rock. Doesn’t need full sun, can
take north side.
shrub. Ht. 6”. Full sun/part shade. Tolerates seasonal dry.
Birds, Butterfly larvae, bees.
Notes: Slow to establish but once established
very drought tolerant, takes foot traffic. Great replacement for
lawn in parking strip, for hard-to-mow slopes. Lovely peeling
bark on older plants. Planted on top of a rock wall for drapery
of greenery. Roots along branches as it grows. Longest palindromic
word in the English language. Fruits are edible but mealy, tasteless
and have hard seeds. Birds like them though. Leaf tips sometimes
deformed due to aphid but only cosmetic damage, no worry. Do not
leave fall leaves/plant debris on top. It must be raked off.
perennial. Ht. up to 6”. Fun sun/part shade. Well-drained
Butterfly adult, Butterfly larvae, Bees.
Notes: Bright yellow flowers in early to mid
summer. Easy to propagate by rooting a piece of stem.
perennial. Ht. 4-6”, indefinite spread. Full sun. Tolerates
seasonal dry. Birds, Butterfly larvae.
Notes: One parent of cultivated strawberry, very
tasty fruit. Propagates easily from runners. Great, quick-growing
groundcover for around woody shrubs, robust perennials. Can overrun
daintier perennials. Thrives on sand dunes and beaches.
This plant community occurs
on lake shores, gravel bars and in poorly drained areas. Growing conditions
range from moist soils, to periodic flooding, to standing water. Plants
are adapted to seasonal changes in water levels. Some riparian areas
are dense thickets of willows, red osier dogwoods, roses. In other areas,
scattered trees such as cottonwoods and ash are present. At the edges,
where the ground if higher and less wet, plants that tolerate somewhat
drier conditions will be found.
6’-15’. Full sun/part shade. Tolerates seasonal wet/standing
Birds (20) eat fruit, Butterfly Adult, Butterfly larvae.
Notes: Edible, but tart fruit. Fruit eaten by
mammals as well. One source listed as fragrant flowers. Good fall
color. Great for wetland restoration. No thorns. Can grow into
dense thicket and up to 30’ tall and wide eventually. Very
salt-tolerant. Cavity nesting birds and other wildlife may nest
or roost in tree cavities of large trees.
Osier or Red Twig Dogwood
Cornus sericea (var. stolonifera)
4-10’ can be up to 18’. Full sun/full shade.
Birds (24) eat fruit, Butterfly adult, Butterfly larvae.
Notes: Transplant success is high. Fast growth.
Can be thicket forming. Good barrier plant. To control size, root
prune; prune to ground every 3rd year; prune back 1/3 yearly;
or prune 1/3 out yearly. Pruning improves winter appearance –
new growth is bright red. White flat cluster of flowers May to
July. White berries are bitter and contain a large seed (berries
reportedly can be bluish). Good fall color – deep purplish
color. Dwarf forms available – ‘Isanti’, ‘Kelseii’.
5’-10’. Full sun/part shade. Tolerates seasonal dry.
Birds, Butterfly adult, Butterfly larvae, leaf-cutter bee.
Notes: Good for all sites listed. One of 4 native
roses. Once blooming, large single pink flower. Pear-shaped hips
are reddish/purplish – feed many birds and mammals. All
varieties will eventually form thickets, providing excellent nesting
cover. Require no tending, summer water and fertilizer will produce
larger, more robust plants. Suitable for informal gardens, wildlife
gardens, hedgerows, and fence lines. Will sucker (own roots, not
bud union). Can propagate from suckers. Attracts aphids, which
are food source for birds and ladybugs. Gymnocarpa rose (baldhip
rose) will also grow in this plant community.
Other plant partners: rushes,
sedges, blue camass, Wapato.
Plants and Mushrooms of North America. Turner & Szczawinski.
Gardening With Native
Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Arthur R Kruckeberg University
of Washington Press, revised 1996
Grow Your Own Native
Landscape. Michael Leigh.
Washington State University Extension, Thurston County
To order: firstname.lastname@example.org
Landscaping for Wildlife
in the Pacific Northwest. Russell Link University of Washington
Landscaping Partnership with Nature. Oregon Department of Fish
and Wildlife. Revised edition 2001.
Plants Of the Pacific
Northwest Coast. Pojar & MacKinnon
Lone Pine, 1994
Encountered in Oregon. Circular #801.
Oregon State Extension Service.
Portland Plant List. City of Portland, Bureau of Planning,
amended 1997. Also available through the Naturescaping for Clean Rivers