Monthly Archives: January 2016

Western Azalea, Rhododendron occidentale

Western Azalea                 The Heath Family– Ericaceae

Rhododendron occidentale (Torr. & A. Gray) A. GrayRhododendron occidenale bush

(roe-doe-DEN-dron  ahk-sih-den-TAY-lee)

Names: Occidentale means western; so Rhododendron occidentale, literally means, “western rose-tree.” It is sometimes called Pacific Azalea or California Azalea.

Relationships: Azaleas are divided into two subgenera (deciduous and evergreen) in the very large genus of rhododendron (see Pacific Rhododendron). This species is a parent of many hybrid deciduous azaleas.

 

Distribution of Western Azalea from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Western Azalea from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Western Azalea is native to the coasts of central and southern Oregon and California, in the Umpqua Valley, and the Siskiyou and Sierra Mountain ranges. There have been some anecdotal accounts in the Puget Sound region.

Growth: Western Azalea grows rapidly to about 9-15 ft. (3-5m) and is long-lived.Rhododendron occidentale pink white flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Habitat: It grows in moist, open woods and streambanks. Wetland designation: FAC, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.

Rhododendron occidentale leavesDiagnostic Characters: Fragrant, funnel-shaped flowers are borne in trusses and vary from white to pale rose, with or without a yellow blotch, sometimes streaked with darker rose markings.  Leaves are oval to lance-shaped; downy, new leaves are clustered toward the ends of twigs, rosette-like.  Seeds are borne in woody, brown capsules that open into flower-like, five-pointed stars.

In the Landscape: Western Azalea is one of our most popular natives for landscapes. It prefers humusy, acid soil like most rhododendrons and azaleas. Its fragrant, flowers are especially enchanting.  It is beautiful in a woodland setting, but can also be grown as a specimen plant in full sun.  Leaves turn reddish in the fall and are often persistent in mild winters.

Rhododendron occidentale yellow blotch2

Phenology: Bloom time: May-July. Capsules ripen: Late August-September.

Western Azalea Hybrids in various colors.

Western Azalea Hybrids in various colors.

Propagation: Western Azaleas can be propagated by seeds, cuttings or layering.  Seeds germinate best when sown in midwinter on a humusy, acid soil mix in a cool greenhouse.  Success with cuttings is often difficult. Softwood cuttings taken in spring and treated with 75 ppm IBA stuck in a sand-peat-perlite mix, with bottom heat and intermittent mist, will likely yield the best results.  After rooting, they should be kept in a cold frame over the winter.  Rooted cuttings often have a low survival rate and may need extended daylengths, using artificial light, to break bud in spring.

 

Rhododendron occidentale yellow blotch

 

 

Use by People: Western Azalea flowers were used in ceremonial dance wreaths by some native tribes.  Otherwise this species’ only common use is in the ornamental landscape and in hybridizing cultivated varieties for the same.

Use by wildlife: Azaleas are well-known to be toxic.  Even honey made from the nectar will cause illness in people.    Flowers are visited by bees and hummingbirds, the Green Comma Butterfly and the Hoary Comma Butterfly.  The leaves are also eaten by their caterpillars, perhaps making the butterflies toxic to eat as well.

 Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

Beaked Hazelnut, Corylus cornuta

Beaked Hazelnut                                                                            Birch Family–Betulaceae

 Corylus cornuta Marsh.                                

(kor-ih-lus kor-NU-tuh)

Corylus cornuta shrubNames: Cornuta means “horn.”  The “horn” or “beak” refers to the husk that encloses and projects past the nut. This species is also known as beaked hazel, beaked filbert; American cuckold nut, western hazelnut or western hazel.

Relationships: There are about 15 species of hazels, also known as filberts, found in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere.  One other species, the American Hazelnut, Corylus Americana, is found in the eastern North America.  Most commercially grown filberts are from the European species C. avellana and C. maxima.  “Filazels” are hybrids of C. avellana and C. cornuta.

Distribution of Beaked Hazelnut from USDA Plants Database; on the left is the distribution of Western or California Hazelnut.

Distribution of Beaked Hazelnut from USDA Plants Database; on the left is the distribution of Western or California Hazelnut.

Distribution: The species is found from British Columbia to California, east to Newfoundland and Georgia; but it is separated into two varieties.  The California Hazelnut, or Western Beaked Hazelnut, C.C. var. californica, is found from B.C. to California, mostly on the west side of the Cascades.  The “Eastern” Beaked Hazelnut, C.C. var. cornuta is a found from B.C. and the northeastern corner of Washington State to the eastern shores of North America.  The 2 varieties will hybridize where their ranges overlap in southern B.C. and eastern Oregon.

Corylus cornuta large shrubGrowth: Beaked Hazelnut grows 3 to 15 ft. (1-5m); California Hazelnut may grow even bigger, to 45 ft (15m).

Habitat: It grows best in moist, well-drained sites; open forests and edges of forests.  It will regenerate from the root crown after a fire. Wetland designation: FACU, Facultative upland, it usually occurs in non-wetland but is occasionally found in wetlands.

Corylus cornuta leavesDiagnostic Characters: Beaked hazelnut is easily recognized by its rounded oval, fuzzy leaves with doubly saw-toothed margins.  They turn a bright yellow in fall.  Male catkins appear before the leaves.  The spherical nuts are enclosed in a husk that projects beyond the nut to form the “beak.”  The beak can be 2-4 times the length of the nut, but on the California Hazelnut it is much shorter, usually less than twice the length of the nut.

IHazel bloomingn the Landscape: Hazelnut is the earliest shrub to bloom.  Its long catkins are a welcome sight in the garden in late winter.  It is an attractive shrub in a woodland garden.  Its autumn yellow leaves are one of the brightest in fall.

Phenology: Bloom time: January to March; pollinated by the wind. It is a major allergen. Nuts ripen September to October.  Nuts are dispersed and cached by squirrels and jays– in fact you are lucky, if you find any with nuts inside before them!Hazelnut catkin

 

Corylus cornuta catkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

hazulnut huskPropagation:  Hazelnuts should pass the float test; any floaters are empty and should be discarded. (You could crack a couple open to be sure.)  Seeds are best sown as soon as they are harvested in a cold frame.  Stored seed need a 3 to 6 month cold stratification.  Presoaking in warm water for 48 hours and a two-week warm period prior to cold stratification may be helpful. Sown seed needs to be protected from rodents. Hazelnuts may also be propagated by layering or division.

Use by people: Natives ate the nuts; some ate them fresh, others buried them to eat later.  Twisted twigs were used to tie things. Stems were used for weaving baskets and fish traps. Straight stems were used for arrows.

Use by wildlife: Many birds and mammals eat the nuts including Steller’s Jays, Douglas Squirrels and Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels.  This shrub is good for cover and nesting sites.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Natural Resources Canada

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

National Register of Big Trees

 

 

Sweet Gale, Myrica Gale

Sweet Gale                                                                                       Bayberry Family–Myricaceae

 Myrica gale L.

(My-RIH-kuh GAY-lee)

Myrica gale flowersNames: Sweet Gale is also known as Bog Myrtle, or Sweet Bayberry.  Myrica is the Greek name for Tamarix.  Gale supposedly comes from old English, gagel, or gaggle, perhaps because it is where geese may congregate?

Relationships: Since many species have been moved from Myrica to Morella, very few remain in this genus.  The Sierra Bayberry, M. hartwegii, found only in the Sierras of California, is the only other Myrica in the United States.

 

 

 

Distribution of Sweet Gale from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Sweet Gale from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Sweet Gale has a wide distribution and is native to Northern and Western Europe, Canada, and Northern United States, but mostly only grows in bogs west of the Cascades in Washington and coastal Oregon.

Growth: Sweet Gale grows to about 4.5 feet (1.5m).

Habitat: It grows in wetlands, bogs, marshes, lake margins, and can tolerate brackish water in the upper reaches of salt marshes and estuaries. Wetland designation: OBL, Obligate, it almost always occurs in wetlands.

Myrica gale budsDiagnostic Characters: It’s aromatic, bluish, lance-shaped leaves are dotted above and below with yellow wax glands.  Greenish-yellow catkins appear before the leaves; male and female on separate plants.  Spikes of clustered “cones” produce tiny winged nutlets.

In the landscape: Sweet Gale is an important nitrogen-fixing plant in moist, boggy areas; often found growing alongside Douglas Spiraea and Labrador Tea. Its sweet, resinous scent is welcome addition to the garden.

Phenology: Bloom Period:  March-April; Fruit ripens in October.

Myrica gale may be the dominant shrub on boggy lakeshores.

Myrica gale may be the dominant shrub on boggy lakeshores.

Propagation: Sweet Gale seeds are best sown in autumn as soon as they are ripe.  Stored seed should be given a 3-month cold stratification period.  Heel cuttings of half-ripe wood can be taken in July/August– or of mature wood in November/December.  It can also be propagated by layering or division.

Use by People: The sweet-scented foliage of Sweet Gale is often used as an insect repellant.  Its fruit and leaves are used as a flavoring, especially for beer–however, its use for beer has largely been replaced by hops.  An essential oil derived from the fruits is used in perfumes and soaps, purportedly good for sensitive skin and acne.  A tea made from the leaves is also supposed to aid in dream recall and lucidity.  Because of toxicity concerns, it should be consumed cautiously and never by pregnant women. One tribe called it “monkey bush” because it was supposedly used by Sasquatch.

Use by wildlife: The fruit of Sweet Gale are eaten in small quantities by birds.  It is a favorite food of beavers and provides good habitat for salmon and water birds.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

Western White Clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia

Clematis ligusticifolia vineNames: This species is also known as Western White Virgin’s Bower, Creek Clematis, Creekside Virgin’s Bower, Deciduous Traveler’s-joy, Old-man’s Beard, Pipestems, Peppervine, or Yerba de Chiva (Goatbeard plant).  “Klema” comes from a Greek word meaning twig or branch.  Ligusticifolia refers to its Lovage or Licorice-leaf (Ligusticum)-like leaves.

Relationships: There are about 300 species of Clematis, mostly found in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere; most are climbing vines; with about 30 native to North America; and 5-7 species in the Pacific states. Many species and cultivated varieties are grown for their attractive flowers; some have escaped cultivation.

Distribution of Western White Clematis from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Western White Clematis from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Western White Clematis is found throughout much of western North America.  In southern British Columbia and Washington it is mostly an eastside species, but it can be found on the west side in a couple of southern Washington counties and in Oregon. It is found throughout much of California into northwest Mexico.

Growth: Western White Clematis is a climbing vine with stems often to 18 feet (6m), but they may climb up to 60 feet (20 m).

Habitat:  It often grows along creek bottoms, forest edges, riparian thickets, and in Ponderosa Pine forests and sagebrush deserts. Wetland designation: FAC-, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.

 

Diagnostic Characters:  Opposite leaves are pinnately compound with 5-7 leaflets.  Leaflets are coarsely toothed, sometimes lobed or entire; the petioles persist, acting like tendrils.  Clusters of white flowers arise from the leaf axils; male and female flowers on separate plants.  Flowers lack petals but have four showy sepals.  Female flowers have numerous sterile stamens.  Fruit are silky, feathery achenes in clusters that are likened to an “old man’s beard” or a goat’s beard.

Clematis ligusticifolia2

Clematis ligusticifolia flower

 

In the Landscape: Western White Clematis can be used in the landscape just as are ornamental varieties.  It can be trained on a trellis or allowed to climb a tree.  It has attractive white flower clusters; and interesting fluffy seed clusters.   It is drought tolerant and may be useful for erosion control and hillside plantings.

Phenology: Bloom Period:  June-September; Seeds ripen:  August-November

The silky, feathery achenes or "seed floss" of clematis.

The silky, feathery achenes or “seed floss” of clematis.

Propagation: Although most clematis species require 60-180 days of cold stratification, Western White Clematis seeds do not appear to require a prolonged stratification period, but are best soaked in a 0.001M solution of giberellic acid or water. Softwood cuttings are the easiest method; for quickest results they may be treated with a 3000 ppm IBA, and then placed in a misting chamber with bottom heat. Hardwood cuttings are also possible with variable success.

Use by People: The seed floss has been used by natives as tinder for starting fires, as insulation in shoes, and as an absorbent in baby diapers; the stems to make carrying nets and bow strings; the roots to make a shampoo. An infusion or poultice of this plant was applied to sores, wounds, bruises, swellings, painful joints, and was also used to treat chest pain and backaches and to treat horses and other animals.  Crushed roots were reportedly placed in the nostrils of tired horses to revive them.  Stems and leaves, which have a peppery taste, were chewed for colds or sore throats.  According to one source, “there are no reports of toxicity for this species, but many members of this genus are mildly toxic.”  Another source states that all parts cause a burning sensation of mouth and mouth ulcers if eaten and skin redness and a burning sensation if touched or inhaled.

Use by Wildlife: Western White Clematis attracts birds, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Small birds and rodents use the canopy for cover.   Birds like to nest in the thick, tangled vines and the fluffy seeds heads seem a perfect material for lining nests. Flowers are pollinated by bees and other insects.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

E-Flora BC, Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn