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Top Ten Native Plants for Alaska

Western Hemlock
(Tsuga heterophylla)

The western hemlock is the largest hemlock, with long, slender, often fluted trunk. It produces cones that hang down at the ends of twigs. Cones produce paired, long-winged seeds.

Did you know? Western Hemlock is one of the most common trees in the Pacific Northwest, forming vast, dense groves. This important timber species is one of the best pulpwoods and a source of alpha cellulose for making cellophane, rayon yarns, and plastics. Indians of southeastern Alaska used to make coarse bread from the inner bark.

Alaska Cedar
(Chamaecyparis nootkatensis)

The Alaska cedar has a narrow crown and horizontal or slightly drooping branches. Leaves are evergreen and are bright yellow-green in color.

Did you know? The durable wood of the Alaska cedar has a pleasant, resinous odor. It is used for furniture, interior finish, and boats. Northwest Coast Indians made canoe paddles from the wood and carved ceremonial masks from the trunks.

Black Cottonwood
(Populus balsamifera)

The tallest native cottonwood, the black cottonwood has an open crown of erect branches and sticky, resinous buds with a balsam odor. Black cottonwoods bear catkins, small clusters of tiny flowers. The catkins mature into fruit, which split open and disperse many cottony seeds.

Did you know? Black cottonwood is the tallest native western hardwood. The current champion in Yamhill County, Oregon, measures 147' (44.8 m) in height, 30.2' (9.2 m) in trunk circumference, and 97' (29.6 m) in crown spread. The wood is used for boxes and crates, pulpwood, and excelsior.

(Rubus spectabilis)

Also known as the salmon raspberry, the salmonberry is an erect or sometimes leaning shrub with weakly armed stems, bright pink flowers, and yellow or salmon-red fruits that resemble a cultivated blackberry in all but color. The fruit is juicy and slightly sweet.

Did you know? On moist, sunny slopes in the Cascades, Salmonberry can form impenetrable thickets. The juicy fruit, which looks like a yellow or orange blackberry, is a welcome trailside snack, though too bland for some tastes. Indians ate not only the berries but also the tender young shoots. Numerous birds and animals also feast on the fruits, which may be abundant in good years. The deep pink flowers are distinctive and may occur along with the fruits.

Common Snowberry
(Symphoricarpos albus)

This hollow-stemmed shrub has tiny, pinkish-white, bell-shaped flowers.

Did you know? This plant was once popular in old-fashioned dooryard gardens; variety laevigatus of this shrub is also cultivated. Two other species are often encountered: Coralberry (S. orbiculatus), with sessile, axillary, purplish-green flowers and showy clusters of pink berries; and Wolfberry (S. occidentalis) a dry prairie shrub with pale pink flowers, leathery, oval leaves, and greenish-white fruit.

Nootka Rose
(Rosa nutkana)

The Nootka rose is a thorny shrub with pale pink flowers with the largest (often only) thorns in pairs near leaf stalks. This plant produces reddish-purple berry-like fruit.

Did you know? The hips, or fruit, of any wild roses may be eaten and are often used to make jams and jellies.

(Cornus canadensis)

Bunchberry grows in extensive low patches, with one bunch of leaves at top and just above that, a cluster of tiny greenish flowers surrounded by 4 ovate white or pinkish bracts. The flower cluster resembles a single large flower held on a short stalk above leaves. Bunchberry produces bright red, round berries in a tight cluster.

Did you know? Among the smallest of a genus of mostly shrubs and trees, Bunchberry makes an excellent ground cover in the moist woodland garden, and is equally attractive in flower or fruit. This showy wildflower and Northern Dwarf Cornel (C. suecica) of the northern forests are the only herbs in the dogwood group.

Heartleaf Arnica
(Arnica cordifolia)

The heartleaf arnica has stems with 2-4 pairs of heart-shaped leaves that are topped by 1-3 broad yellow heads. This plant flowers from April to June, occasionally flowering to September.

Did you know? In alpine areas or in open places along roads, the leaves may be narrower and without the notch at the base of the blade. All western species have paired leaves on the stems, but only this one has heart-shaped leaves.

Broadleaf Fireweed
(Chamerion latifolium)

Also known as dwarf fireweed and river beauty, broadlead fireweed is a low, bushy plant with clustered stems 4-16 inches tall. They bear pairs of somewhat waxy, bluish-green, lance-shaped leaves which increase in length up the stem. At the end of the leaves is a group of large, four-petaled, rose-purple flowers.

Did you know? Broadleaf Fireweed is a member of the evening-primrose family. The family of about 17 genera and 675 species is found worldwide, but is especially abundant in temperate regions of the New World.

Douglas Aster
(Symphyotrichum subspicatum)

Douglas aster is a patch-forming perennial aster with hairy stems and purple flowers.

Did you know? This Northwest native grows in both fresh and saline situations. It is a handsome plant with pretty late summer flowers. It is often offered in native plant nurseries.

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