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Top Ten Native Plants for the Pacific Northwest

Douglas Fir
(Pseudotsuga menziesii)

The Douglas-fir is a large to very large tree with a narrow, pointed crown of slightly drooping branches. There are 2 distinct geographic varieties: Coast and Rocky Mountain. Coast Douglas-fir, the typical Douglas-fir of the Pacific Coast, is a very large tree with long, dark yellow-green needles and large cones. From each cone come many paired, long-winged seeds.

Did you know? One of the world's most important timber species, Douglas-fir ranks first in the United States in total volume of timber, in lumber production, and in production of veneer for plywood. It is one of the tallest trees as well and a popular Christmas tree. David Douglas (1798-1834), the Scottish botanical collector, who sent seeds back to Europe in 1827, is commemorated in the common name. The foliage is consumed by grouse and by deer and elk; birds and mammals eat the seeds.

Oregon White Oak
(Quercus garryana)

The Oregon white oak tree is a dense, rounded tree with a spreading crown of stout branches. Leaves are shiny dark green above, light green and usually hairy beneath. Leaves of the Oregon white oak sometimes turn reddish in autumn. Acorns are stalkless or short-stalked and are sweetish and edible.

Did you know? The oak of greatest commercial importance in the West, this species is used for furniture, shipbuilding, construction, cabinetwork, interior finish, and fuel. It is the only native oak in Washington and British Columbia. The sweetish acorns, often common in alternate years, are relished by livestock and wildlife and were eaten by Indians.

Western Serviceberry
(Amelanchier alnifolia)

The western serviceberry - also known as junebery - is a shrub or small tree, usually with several trunks, and star-shaped white flowers. The serviceberry bears fruit in early summer. The fruit is the size of a small apple, is purple or blackish and is juicy and sweet.

Did you know? The fruit of this and related species are eaten fresh, prepared in puddings, pies, and muffins, and dried like raisins and currants. They are also an important food for wildlife from songbirds to squirrels and bears. Deer and livestock also browse the foliage.

Hollyleaf Oregon-grape
(Mahonia aquifolium)

The hollyleaf Oregon-grape has leathery, holly-like leaflets on stems ending in dense, branched clusters of small yellow flowers.

Did you know? This stout shrub is the state flower of Oregon. The berries of this and other Oregon-grape species are eaten by wildlife and make good jelly. Native Americans made a yellow dye from the bark and wood of this shrubby species. Several are used as ornamental garden plants; in the nursery trade some of them are known by the common name Mahonia.

Blue Elderberry
(Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea)

The blue elderberry is a large, many-branched, thicket-forming shrub or small tree, often with several trunks, with compact, rounded crown and numerous small, whitish flowers in large clusters. Elderberry fruit is dark blue in color and matures in summer and autumn.

Did you know? The sweetish berries are used in preserves and pies but should never be eaten when fresh and raw. Lewis and Clark first reported Blue Elder as an "alder" with "pale, sky blue" berries. A remedy for fever has been concocted from the bark. Blue Elderberry is planted as an ornamental for the numerous whitish flowers and bluish fruits.

(Gaultheria shallon)

Salal is a shrub-like plant with spreading or erect, hairy stems and whitish to pale pink, hanging urn-shaped flowers. The fruit of the salal is a dark purple berry.

Did you know? The berries are a source of food for wildlife and were once also eaten by coastal Native Americans. The leaves are often used in flower arrangements.

(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.

Hooker's Evening-primrose
(Oenothera elata)

Hooker's evening-primrose has a tall, erect, usually unbranched stem with large yellow flowers. This primrose flowers from June to September.

Did you know? Common Evening-primrose, found throughout most of the United States, has similar erect stems, but its petals are less than 1" long. Both are closely related to the Garden Evening-primrose, scattered in the wild from western Washington to California, which is a taller plant with redder sepals, paler petals about 1 1/2" long, and crinkled leaves.

Red Columbine
(Aquilegia formosa)

Also known as crimson or scarlet columbine, red columbine has handsome red and yellow flowers hanging over the leaves.

Did you know? The species name formosa, Latin for "beautiful," aptly describes this large plant, especially when it has hundreds of lovely flowers nodding over it. There are other species with mostly red flowers, which also attract hummingbirds as pollinators.

Beach Strawberry
(Fragaria chiloensis)

The beach strawberry plant is a low plant connected to others by runners. This strawberry plant often grows in patches and has white flowers on stalks slightly shorter than the leaves. The beach strawberry flowers from March to August.

Did you know? The word strawberry comes from the Anglo-Saxon streawberige, referring to the berries "strewing" their runners out over the ground. This plant also grows in South America; Chilean plants of this species were the parents in the production of hybrid domestic strawberries. Several species of wild strawberries in the West strongly resemble Beach Strawberry but have thin leaflets.

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