Even when you think of native plants as you would plants from anywhere else- easy to grow, attractive in the landscape, and available in nurseries- the list of candidates is long. What follows is a brief description of over fifty native plants from Washington and Oregon suitable for landscapes west of the Cascades. Anyone interested in natives can think of others, but most of the really useful ones are here.
No giants here, just small to moderate species suitable for urban landscapes. Also missing are our two prettiest- madrone and Pacific dogwood- which usually do fine in just the right environment but are hardly easy.
Acer circinatum / VINE MAPLE
Multi-stemmed, to 20-30 ft. tall. Beautiful form, dazzling fall color. Rounded leaves shallowly divided into 7-11 lobes. Snaky, pale green stems give winter interest. Red flowers, seeds are showy. Best in part shade, where it is drought hardy; foliage may burn in hot sun without water.
Acer glabrum / DOUGLAS MAPLE
Like vine maple, or sometimes single stemmed, 40-60 ft. tall. Leaves deeply three-lobed, sometimes divided. Twigs and leafstalks red. Bright fall color. Sun or shade, good drainage. Hard to find in nurseries.
Betula papyrifera v commutata / NORTHWEST PAPER BIRCH
Slender tree to 60 - 80 ft. tall, with creamy, pink or rusty, peeling trunk. Yellow fall color. Likes moist soil, but tolerates drought. This local variety is rare in nurseries.
Calocedrus decurrens / INCENSE CEDAR
Very slender tree to 80 ft. tall with bright green foliage in lacy sprays. Good tall screen or accent, growing well on moist or dry soils. Slow growing in heavy clay.
Malus fusca / OREGON CRABAPPLE
Shrub or small tree to 25 ft. tall, with flaking bark. White flowers lead to gold fruit, edible but tiny. Toothed and lobed leaves give bright fall color. Native to wetlands, but fine on average soils. Scarce in nurseries; branches sometimes spiny.
Pinus contorta / SHORE PINE
Narrow, pyramidal tree with short, dark green needles on billowy branches. Picturesque form in age. Takes wet or dry soils. Attractive, useful, adaptable and commonly planted.
Populus tremuloides / QUAKING ASPEN
Slender tree to 60 ft. with pale bark, fluttering rounded leaves, gold fall color. Bark is seldom as white west of the Cascades as it is in the interior, but still nice. Best where moist; attracts aphids when dry. Suckering can be a nuisance.
Quercus chrysolepis / CANYON LIVE OAK
Evergreen tree to 60 ft. with small, shiny, holly-like leaves on beautifully gnarled limbs. Fast growing if given occasional summer watering, but very drought-hardy. Fine climbing tree, but fallen leaves are prickly. Hard to find.
Quercus garryana / OREGON WHITE OAK
Rounded deciduous tree to 80 ft. tall. Dark, lobed leaves on gnarled branches make an open crown. Slow growing, but speeds up if watered in spring and early summer (but old, established trees should never be watered).Uncommon in nurseries; requires good drainage.
Sambucus caerulea / BLUE ELDERBERRY
A small tree, to 20-30 ft., often shrubby. It is scarce, but not for lack of showy beauty. Large, compound leaves give a tropical luxuriance to its spreading crown. Showy, flat, 8-12 in. clusters of tiny cream flowers lead to even showier clusters of powder blue fruits that bend the branches in late summer. These are sweet and good if cooked. Sadly, hard to propagate and thus hard to find.
Tsuga mertensiana / MOUNTAIN HEMLOCK
Picturesque, narrow tree to 20-30 ft. tall. Sharp, angular branches clothed in blue-gray needles. A high-elevation species surprisingly at home in lowlands. Needs sun, decent drainage.
Umbellularia californica / OREGON MYRTLE, CALIFORNIA BAY
Rounded evergreen tree 40-80 ft. tall, with shiny, aromatic leaves. Beautiful bright green canopy casts heavy shade. Takes moist or dry conditions. Often creates a 'family' of seedlings around the neighborhood.
Xanthocyparis (Chamaecyparis) nootkatensis / ALASKA YELLOW CEDAR
Gracefully drooping branches give this mountain native great drama. Slow growing to 50-70 ft., fairly narrow except for a few wider branches. Takes wet or dry soil.
Next time: Shrubs
A Spatial View of a Wet Winter
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