Author Archives: habitatdana

Red Stem Ceanothus, Ceanothus sanguineus

Redstem Ceanothus                Rhamnaceae– The Buckthorn Family

Ceanothus sanguineus Pursh

(See-uh-NO-thus   sang-GWIN-ee-us)

Names: Redstem Ceanothus is also known as Redstem Wild Lilac, Redstem Buckbrush, Oregon Tea Tree, Northern Buckbrush, or “Soapbloom.”  Sanguineus means blood red, referring to the stems or flower stalks.

Relationships: The genus Ceanothus consists of about 60 shrubs or small trees found only in North America with about 40 occurring only in California.  Many have blue or purple flowers, earning the genus the common name, “Wild Lilacs,” but our creamy white-flowered northwestern species are generally called “Buckbrushes.” Snowbrush, Ceanothus velutinus, is discussed in the evergreen shrub section. Red Stem Ceanothus is very similar to Snowbrush, it mainly differs in that it its leaves and stipules are deciduous and its stems are red.

Distribution of Red Stem Ceanothus from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Red Stem Ceanothus from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: This species is native on both sides of the Cascades from British Columbia to northern California; eastward to western Montana, with reported occurrences in South Dakota and on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan (Listed as threatened in Michigan).

Growth: It grows 3-9 feet (1-3m) tall .

Habitat: This species grows in dry open sites and forest edges, often in recently burned areas. Wetland designation: It almost always occurs in non-wetlands areas in our region.

 

 

 

Diagnostic Characters: The leaves of Redstem Ceanothus are thinner than those of C. velutinus; but similarly are finely toothed and oval with 3 main veins branching from the base of the leaf.  Flowers are fragrant, small and white in clusters at the ends of side branches.  Fruits are 3-chambered explosive capsules, each with a shiny brown seed.  Smooth, greenish stems turn purplish-red.

In the Landscape: The white flowers are showy in early summer and the reddish stems are attractive in the winter.  Redstem Ceanothus also is able to fix nitrogen so is good for areas with poor soils.

Phenology: Bloom time:  May-July; Capsules ripen: June-August.

Propagation:  Seeds usually germinate after a fire.  They have a hard seed coat and dormant embryos; and require heat (185-212º F, 85-100º C) or treatment with sulfuric acid for 20 to 30 minutes followed by a neutralization of lime or by water and a 48 hour running water soak; then a 90 day cold stratification period.  Semi-hardwood cuttings in May have the best success, treated with 2000ppm IBA and placed in a mist bed with bottom heat.—just the right amount of moisture is critical—too much and the cuttings will rot.  This plant is not often available nurseries due to its difficult propagation requirements.

Use by People: A tea has been made from the leaves; a poultice of the dried, powdered bark has been applied to burns, sores and wounds; and a green dye was made from the flowers.  It was called “Soapbloom” because all parts of the plant contains saponin, and was mixed with water and beaten into a soapy foam.   The foam is good for cleaning dirt but does not remove oil; so it will not dry skin.  The flowers, especially, were nice for use as a body soap because of their pleasant perfume.  Natives burned the wood for fuel and to smoke deer meat.

Use by Wildlife: Redstem Ceanothus is a favorite browse species of elk and deer as are other Buckbrushes.  Snowshoe Hares also eat the foliage and rodents eat the seedlings.  Birds, rodents, ants, and other insects consume large amounts of the seeds.  The shrub provides good cover for birds and small mammals. Flowers are pollinated by bees.  Ceanothus sanguineus is a larval host for the Pale Swallowtail Butterfly.

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

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

 

  Deerbrush , Ceanothus integerrimus, is another similar species found from the Columbia River Gorge in Washington State to Baja California; also in Arizona and New Mexico.  Integerrimus means completely entire, not toothed, referring to its leaves.  Deerbrush grows in dry, open forests; it is drought-deciduous, meaning that most leaves are shed during dry summers and a few leaves are retained throughout winter.  It has white, pink, lilac, or pale blue pyramidal clusters of flowers.  Deerbrush could make an attractive addition to a dry garden, but should be avoided in moister areas.  Its shoots were used by natives for basketry.  Deerbrush is a valuable honey plant, and as the common name suggests, is an important browse species for deer.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

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

Western Burning Bush, Euonymous occidentalis

Western Burning Bush      Celastraceae–The Spindle Tree Family

Euonymus occidentalis Nutt. ex Torr.

(yew-ON-ih-mus  ok-sih-den-TAY-lis)

Names: Western Burning Bush is also known as Western Wahoo, Western Strawberry Bush or Pawnbroker Bush.  Occidentalis means western.  Burning Bush refers to the fall foliage color; Strawberry Bush alludes to its colorful fleshy seeds. Plants in this genus are generally called Spindle Trees because the wood of some species was traditionally used to make spindles for spinning wool.

Relationships: There are about 175 species of euonymus, or Spindle Trees; mostly native to Asia, they are also found in Europe, Australasia, Madagascar, and North America.   Only four are native to North America, but many ornamental species have been introduced and have naturalized in the east, such as Burning Bush, E. alatus, and European Spindle Tree, E. europaeus. 

Distribution of Western Burning Bush from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Western Burning Bush from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Western Burning Bush is the only native euonymus on the west coast.  It is found west of the Cascade Mountains from Thurston County in southwest Washington to southern California. In British Columbia, it is only known to occur on Vancouver Island.  It is listed as sensitive in Washington State.

Growth: This species is a straggly shrub growing 6-15 feet (2-5m) tall.

Habitat: It is mostly found in moist woods; sometimes in grassy areas with a few trees.

 

 

Diagnostic Characters: Opposite leaves are oval-shaped, finely toothed with a pointed tip.  Small, greenish or purplish-mottled to bronzy, dark purplish-red flowers are borne in clusters of three in the leaf axils.  Fruit is a 3-lobed capsule, which opens to expose seeds that are covered by a reddish-orange, fleshy aril.  Non-hairy branches have narrow, parallel, longitudinal lines or grooves.

In the Landscape: Hitchcock writes that Western Burning Bush “is probably classed as a botanical collector’s item rather than a plant of much horticultural merit.”  This spindly shrub may, however, be useful in a shady corner of the garden.  It has a nice yellow to orange-red fall color–although not as brilliant as the cultivated Burning Bush, E. alatus, it is bright enough in stand out in the shade.  The fleshy orange-red arils are an interesting feature of this plant.

Phenology: Bloom time:  May-June; Fruit ripens: September-November.

Propagation:  No information is available for the species, but seeds of plants in the genus Euonymus generally require 3-4 months stratification at 32-50º F (0-10º C).  Euonymous is easily propagated from cuttings (hardwood cuttings in early spring) or from layering.

Use by People:

Use by Wildlife:  Birds digest the fleshy seed coat and disperse the seeds in their droppings.  Flowers are pollinated by insects.  The ASPCA lists this plant as toxic to horses, cats and dogs.

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

Soapberry, Shepherdia canadensis

Soapberry                                                          Eleagnaceae–The Oleaster Family

Shepherdia canadensis (L.) Nutt.

(Shep-HER-dee-uh  Kan-uh-DEN-sis)

shepherdia-canadensis-shrub

Names: Soapberry is also commonly known as Canadian or Russet Buffaloberry, Rabbitberry, Soopolallie, or Foamberry.  Common names refer to how its crushed red berries can be whipped into a foam.  In Chinook Jargon “soop” means soap and “ollalie” means berry. Shepherdia is named for John Shepherd,” once a curator of Liverpool Botanic Gardens; canadensis means “of Canada.”

 

 

 

The related species Silverberry, Elaeagnus commutata

The related species Silverberry, Elaeagnus commutata

Relationships: Several shrubs in this family, such as Oleaster, Elaeagnus angustifolia, are grown ornamentally for their silvery or golden foliage.  Silverberry, Elaeagnus commutata, is an inland native, also grown ornamentally.  Shepherdia is a genus with only three species native to northern and western North America.

 

 

 

 

 

Distribution of Soapberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Soapberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Soapberry is found throughout most of northern and western North America; all across Canada; from the Arctic Circle to northern Arizona and New Mexico in the west; through the Great Lakes Region and New York and Maine to the east.  On the west coast, it is more common inland, but can be found on Vancouver Island, and other smaller islands in British Columbia; the San Juan Islands, and surrounding shores in the Olympic rainshadow.  In Oregon, it is mostly limited to the east side of the Cascades; in California, documented specimens have been found in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

 

Growth: Soapberry grows 3-6 feet (1-2m) tall.

Habitat: It grows in dry to moist open woods, often on sandy, rocky, or gravelly soils.

shepherdia-canadesis-leavesDiagnostic Characters: Leaves are opposite; mostly green on the upper surface, with fuzzy, silvery-white hairs, and rusty brown scales on the undersides.  Flowers are small, yellowish-brown, clustered on small branches, often appearing before the leaves; with male and female flowers on separate plants.  Fruits are oval, translucent orange-red berries; soapy to the touch when crushed.  Stems are covered with brown scales, like Russet Potatoes.

In the Landscape: Soapberry is a good choice for nitrogen-poor sites due to its association with a nitrogen-fixing, filamentous bacteria, (Frankia sp.), which live in its root nodules.  This silvery, shrub with its “flocked” appearance could be perfect for a dry, rock garden.  Its red berries are attractive in summer.

Phenology: Bloom time:  May-June; Fruit ripens: July.

Propagation:  Seeds exhibit erratic germination and are susceptible to greenhouse pathogens; they should not be allowed to dry out.  Plant seeds immediately in a cold frame in fall, or cold stratify for 60-90 days.  Sulfuric acid scarification for 20 to 30 minutes increases germination rates.  Vegetative propagation is best accomplished using root cuttings; stem cuttings, reportedly, have been unsuccessful but one source recommends trying half-ripe wood in July or August.

soapberry

Use by People: The fruit was eaten raw, cooked or dried into cakes.  Most report that it is bitter tasting; although some say it is sour and gets sweeter after a frost.  The favorite way of preparing the berries is to make “Indian ice cream.”   Berries were collected by shaking the bushes over a mat.  They were then put in a grease-free container, mixed with an equal amount of water, and whipped until frothy.  The foam was then flavored with a sweeter food such as cooked camas, or salal berries.  The bittersweet flavor, however, may be an acquired taste.  Because of the saponin content, the berries should be consumed in moderation.  The berries can also be made into a jelly.  After consumption, the berries are thought to provide protection from mosquitoes.  Different parts of this plant were also used for various medicinal purposes.  A brown liquid made from boiling the branches was used to curl and dye hair.

The red, almost translucent, berries are high in saponins and can be whipped into a froth.

The red, almost translucent, berries are high in saponins and can be whipped into a froth.

Use by wildlife: Soapberry is rarely abundant enough to be very valuable to wildlife.  Deer, Elk, and Bighorn Sheep consume the foliage, while bears, Snowshoe Hares, chipmunks, grouse, quail, and Catbirds consume the berries.

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

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

Red-Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea

Red-Twig Dogwood                                            Cornaceae-Dogwood Family

 Cornus sericea L.

(KOR-nus  sir-IH-see-uh)

Red Twig Dogwood variety with a Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea') in the background.

Red Twig Dogwood variety with a Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’) in the background.

Names:   Cornus sericea is synonymous with Cornus stoloniferaCornus means horn or antler, or “the ornamental knobs at the end of the cylinder on which ancient manuscripts were rolled”—which may refer to the hard wood or the knobby-looking inflorescence of some dogwoods.  Sericea means covered with fine, silky hairs, which are found on the undersides of the leaves, especially on the veins; or on the young branches.  Stolonifera means “bearing stolons (running stems),” due to this shrub’s habit of spreading by the layering of prostrate stems.  It is often called Red-osier Dogwood; other common names include: Red-stemmed, Rose, Silky, American, California, Creek, Western, or Poison Dogwood, Squawbush, Shoemack, Waxberry Cornel, Red-osier Cornel, Red-stemmed Cornel, Red Willow, Red Brush, Red Rood, Harts Rouges, Gutter Tree and Dogberry Tree.  “Osier” is a name for willows whose branches are used for making baskets or wicker furniture.

Relationships:  There are about 100 dogwood species worldwide found primarily in temperate regions.  Three Dogwood trees and a couple of shrub species are found in the eastern or Midwestern United States.  In our region, we also have the Pacific Dogwood tree, and a groundcover, Bunchberry, Cornus canadensis.

Distribution of Red Twig Dogwood from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Red Twig Dogwood from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Red-Twig Dogwood is found throughout most of northern and western North America, extending into Mexico in the west; but barely into Kentucky and Virginia in the east.  The variety found west of the Cascades, C. s. occidentalis, tends to be more hairy.  Red-Twig Dogwood is extremely variable; many cultivated varieties are available varying in stem color, size, and leaf variegation.  Notable varieties include ‘Flaviramea,” a yellow-twig form; “Isanti,” a compact form (to 5’) with bright red stems; ‘Kelseyi,’ a dwarf form to 1.5’; and ‘Silver and Gold’ with yellow branches and creamy-edged foliage.

Growth: The species grows 6-18 feet (2-6m) tall, often reaching tree stature in our area.

red-twig-dogwood-flowers

Habitat: It usually grows in moist soil, especially along streams and lakesides, in wet meadows, open forests and along forest edges.  Wetland designation: FACW, It usually occurs in wetlands, but is occasionally found in non-wetlands.

red-twig-dogwood-leafpngDiagnostic characters: Leaves are opposite, oval-shaped, pointed at the tip with the typical dogwood veining pattern; 5-7 secondary veins arise at the midvein, and run parallel to each other out to the margin, converging at the tip.  White threads run through the veins.  Flowers are small, white to greenish in dense, flat-topped clusters (bracts not large and showy as in other dogwoods).  Fruits are white, sometimes blue-tinged with a somewhat flattened stone pit.  Stems are often bright red, especially in winter, but also can be greenish, or yellow.

 

cornus-sericea-shrubIn the Landscape: Red-Twig Dogwood is most often grown for its striking red twigs for winter interest. In fall, its white berries are a striking contrast against its brilliant red fall foliage.  It is especially useful for planting in Rain Gardens, around water retention swales, and for stabilizing streambanks, especially where seasonal flooding is a concern.  It is good for a quick space-filler and can be used as an effective screen in the summer.  This species also  shows promise for being useful in reclaiming mining sites with high saline tailings.

Phenology: Bloom time:  May-July; Fruit ripens: August-September.

Propagation: Cold stratify seeds at 40º F (4º C) for 60-120 days.  Scarifying seeds or a warm stratification period for 60 days prior to cold stratification may increase germination rates.  Red-Twig Dogwood is easily propagated from division, layering and cuttings taken in late summer.

red-twig-dogwood-berriesUse by People: Some natives smoked the dried bark during ceremonies (hence the common name kinnikinnik which usually refers to Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).  They also boiled it and used it medicinally for coughs, colds, fevers, and diarrhea.  The sap was used on arrowheads to poison animals.  The berries were eaten by some tribes, often mixed with Serviceberries.  The bark was used for dye and the stems for basketry, fish traps, and arrows.  The branches are attractive in floral arrangements.

Use by Wildlife: Red-twig Dogwood is an important browse for deer, elk, moose, Mountain Goats, and rabbits.  Although not as desirable as other fruits, the berries often persist through winter, providing food when other fruits are gone.  Mice, voles and other rodents eat the bark and the berries.  Turkeys, pheasants, quail, and grouse eat the fruit & buds.  Bears, ducks, and trout also eat the berries along with many songbirds, the primary agents of seed dispersal.  Beavers use Red-twig Dogwood for food and to build dams and lodges.  Red-Twig Dogwood provides cover and nesting habitat for small mammals and birds and along with other riparian species provides good mule deer fawning and fawn-rearing areas.  Flowers are primarily pollinated by bees.  This species is also a larval host of the Spring Azure Butterfly.

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

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

 

Lewis’ Mock Orange, Philadelphus lewisii

Lewis’ Mock Orange                              Hydrangeaceae-Hydrangea Family

Philadelphus lewisii Pursh

(fil-uh-DEL-fus  loo-IH-see-i)

mock-orangeNames:   Lewis’ Mock Orange is also known as Wild, Western, Pacific, Idaho or California Mock Orange.  Presumably due to its growth habit, it is sometimes also called Syringa, the name for the unrelated lilac genus.  Philadelphus means “brotherly love;” named after Pharoah Ptolemy II Philadelphus.  The common name, Mock Orange comes from the similarity of the flowers, in fragrance and appearance, to citrus flowers.   Lewis’ Mock Orange was discovered by Meriwether Lewis in 1806.

Relationships: There are about 60 species of Philadelphus native to North America, Central America, Asia, and southeastern Europe; about 27 Philadelphus species are native to North America.

Distribution of Lewis' Mock Orange from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Lewis’ Mock Orange from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Lewis’ Mock Orange is the state shrub of Idaho. It is native from southern British Columbia to the Sierras of central California, to Idaho and Montana in the east.  It is the only common Philadelphus species in the northwest; but it is extremely variable in vegetative and floral characters; a tall form west of the Cascades that has more hairy leaves is sometimes identified as var. gordonianus.  Plants of the dry interior lowlands often have smaller more oval-shaped leaves. There are a few cultivated varieties; “Goose Creek” is a double-flowered form.

 

 

 

Growth:  Lewis’ Mock Orange grows 4.5 to 9 feet (1.5-3 m) tall.  It grows in a variety of habitats from streamsides and moist open woodlands and forest edges, to dry, rocky hillsides, pine forests and sagebrush deserts.

philadlphus-lewisii-flowers

Diagnostic Characters:    Stems grow erect, in a vase-like shape.  Leaves are opposite, short-stalked, oval narrowing to a point, with 3 major veins from the leaf base to the tip.  Younger leaves are often toothed on vigorous new shoots.  Flowers are white and fragrant, usually with 4 petals, in clusters of 3-15.  Fruits are woody, 4-chambered capsules.  The bark is reddish-brown, turning gray and flaking off as it ages.

 

In the Landscape: Mock Oranges have long been prized by gardeners for their fragrant, white flowers. Lewis’ Mock Orange, with its pure white, sweetly scented flowers, has been popular as an ornamental shrub since David Douglas introduced it to Britain in 1825.  The fragrance of the flowers is most often compared to orange blossoms; some compare it to jasmine; others say it has a fruity hint of pineapple.  It is beautiful in the back of a shrub bed, or as a single specimen.  It can be used in a mixed hedge for screening purposes.  The care of mock oranges is similar to lilacs; pruning out old stems, leaving the younger, more vigorous shoots encourages a more spectacular floral display.  It is useful to attract pollinators to your fruit and vegetable garden

philadlphus-lewisii-shrub

 

A double-flowered form.

A double-flowered form.

Phenology: Bloom time:  May-July; Fruit ripens: August-September.

Propagation:  Stratification of the seeds in coarse sand at 41º F (5º C) for 8 weeks increases germination rates.  Lewis’ Mock Orange is easy to propagate from cuttings of half-ripe wood in July/or August or hardwood cuttings taken in December.  Layering is also possible.

 

 

 

 

Use by People: The wood was used by natives for making combs, arrow & harpoon shafts, netting shuttles, cradle hoops, snowshoes, digging sticks and more recently knitting needles and tobacco pipes.  The flowers and leaves are rich in saponins; they were used almost like a bar of soap; mixed with water they can be rubbed into a frothy lather and used to wash hands, body and hair.

Use by Wildlife: Lewis’ Mock Orange is sometimes browsed by deer and elk.  The seeds are eaten by quail and squirrels.  The flowers are pollinated by insects, especially bees.

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

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

Gummy Gooseberry, Ribes lobbii

Gummy Gooseberry                          The Currant Family–Grossulariaceae

Ribes lobbii A. Gray

(rye-BEEZ  lob-BEE-i)

Names:  Gummy Gooseberry is also known as Fuchsia-Flowered Gooseberry, Lobb’s or Lobb Gooseberry, Gummy Currant, Pioneer Gooseberry, or Oregon Gooseberry.  It is named after William Lobb, an English plant collector.  It is called “Gummy” due to its hairy-sticky berries and sticky stems and leaves.

Relationships:  Currants and gooseberries belong to the genus Ribes (from the Arabic or Persian word ribas meaning acid-tasting). Some taxonomists separate gooseberries into the genus or subgenus, grossularia. In general, gooseberry plants have prickles; currants do not. Ribes is the only genus in grossulariaceae; which is closely allied with escalloniaceae, and iteaceae; all formerly included in saxifragaceae. There are about 150 species of Ribes in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, northwest Africa, Central America and in the Andes of South America; with about 50 native to North America. 30 are listed in the Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest. About 7-8 are native to the west side of the Cascades with about a dozen more found chiefly on the east side of the Cascades and ~17 limited to California or Oregon.

Distribution of Gummy Gooseberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Gummy Gooseberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Gummy Gooseberry is found from Vancouver Island in British Columbia to northern California, mostly on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.

Growth: This species grows 1.5-3 feet (0.5-1m) tall.

Habitat:  It is found in moist to dry sites along streambanks, in open woodlands, lowland valleys, and mountain slopes.  It is more frequent in drier areas; decreasing in frequency with increasing elevation, precipitation, and continentality.

 

 

 

 

Diagnostic Characters:   Stems are spreading, finely hairy, usually with 3 nodal spines; bark brownish at first, turning deep grayish-red.  Small leaves are 3-5 lobed, deeply toothed, sparsely hairy or smooth on the upper surface, more or less hairy and glandular below.  Fuchsia-like flowers (borne singly or doubly) have white or pinkish petals and red calyces; stamens have white to pink filaments and purple or reddish anthers.  Berries are round to elliptic, reddish-brown, and coarsely bristly-glandular.

In the Landscape: With its attractive fuchsia-like flowers, Gummy Gooseberry is well-worth growing in an ornamental landscape.  It needs to be in a drier, well drained site in the garden, and could be a charming addition to a rock garden or hillside.

Phenology: Bloom time:  April-June; Fruit ripens:  August.

Propagation:  Seed is best sown outside or in a cold frame in fall. Stored seed may be stratified at 35º F (2º C) for 120 days.  Hardwood cuttings may be taken in fall or semi-hardwood, earlier in summer.

Use by people: The berries were generally considered unpalatable but were eaten raw or cooked by a few native tribes.  One author writes, “…it was covered with hair so sticky that the berry would adhere to one’s fingers, and gave the fruit a bitter taste, although the pulp itself was agreeable.”  The roots were used in medicinal preparations or boiled with cedar and wild rose roots, pounded and woven into rope or reef nets.  Thorns were used as probes for boils, for removing splinters and for tattooing.

Use by wildlife: Gummy Gooseberry, with its fuchsia-like flowers is attractive to hummingbirds.

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

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

Black Swamp Gooseberry, Ribes lacustre

Black Swamp Gooseberry            The Currant Family–Grossulariaceae

Ribes lacustre (Pers.) Poir.

(rye-BEEZ  luh-KUSS-ter)

ribes-lacustreNames: Lacustre means “found in lakes.” Black Swamp Gooseberry has many common names including:  Black Swamp Currant; Swamp Black Gooseberry (or Currant); Prickly Black Gooseberry (or Currant); Black Prickly Currant; Bristly Black Gooseberry (or Currant); Black Bristly Currant; Spiny Swamp Gooseberry (or Currant); Swamp Goose Current; Marsh Currant; Lake Gooseberry; and Lowland Gooseberry.

Relationships:   Currants and gooseberries belong to the genus Ribes (from the Arabic or Persian word ribas meaning acid-tasting).  Some taxonomists separate gooseberries into the genus or subgenus, grossularia.  In general, gooseberry plants have prickles; currants do not.  Ribes is the only genus in grossulariaceae; which is closely allied with escalloniaceae, and iteaceae; all formerly included in saxifragaceae.  There are about 150 species of Ribes in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, northwest Africa, Central America and in the Andes of South America; with about 50 native to North America.  30 are listed in the Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest.  About 7-8 are native to the west side of the Cascades with about a dozen more found chiefly on the east side of the Cascades and ~17 limited to California or Oregon.

Distribution of Black Swamp Gooseberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Black Swamp Gooseberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution:   Black Swamp Gooseberry is found from Alaska to northern California in the west; all across Canada, through the Rocky Mountain States, the Great Lakes region and the North Atlantic states.

Growth:   This species grows 2-6 feet (0.5-2m) tall.

Habitat: It is found in moist woods, swamps and along streambanks, to drier forest slopes and subalpine ridges. Wetland designation: FAC+, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.

 

 

 

ribes-lacustre-flowersDiagnostic Characters:   Stems are erect in sun, spreading or trailing in shade; covered with many golden, bristly, prickles with spines (usually smaller than on R.divaricatum) at the leaf nodes.  Leaves are small with 5 deeply indented lobes.  Small flowers, 5-15, are borne on pendulous, drooping clusters.  Calyces range to a pale yellowish green to a mahogany-red; petals are pinkish.  Fruits are dark-purple with glandular hairs.

In the Landscape:   Black Swamp Gooseberry is a good choice for wet areas in a wild garden.  Its bristly prickles and nodal spines aren’t quite as wicked as the spines on Coast Black Gooseberry, but some people have experienced an allergic reaction (some swelling) after contact.  Its pendulous, mahogany-bronze flowers are interesting.

Phenology:   Bloom time:  April-July; Fruit ripens:  August.

Propagation:  Seed is best sown outside or in a cold frame in fall. Stored seed may be stratified at 35º F (2º C) for 120 days; scarification in a 2 to 10% sulfuric acid solution enhances germination.  Hardwood cuttings may be taken in fall or semi-hardwood, earlier in summer.

ribes-lacustre-berriesUse by People:   The berries were eaten fresh by most of the native tribes of the northwest, although some considered them poisonous.  The fruit is said to have an “agreeable flavor,” tart and very juicy, but when crushed it has an offensive odor.  The fruit can be made into sauces, jams or preserves.  This prickly shrub was thought to have protective qualities to ward off evil and was used to discourage snakes.  A tea made from the bark was used drunk during childbirth or as an eyewash for sore eyes.  The roots were used to make rope and reef nets.

Use by Wildlife:    Black Swamp Gooseberry berries are eaten by rodents, bears, and birds.  Elk, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, and Mountain Goats eat the foliage.  This species is good cover for upland game birds, songbirds, and small mammals.

 

 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

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

Coast Black Gooseberry, Ribes divaricatum

Coast Black Gooseberry                The Currant Family–Grossulariaceae

Ribes divaricatum Douglas

(rye-BEEZ  di-vair-ih-KAY-tum)

coast-black-gooseberryNames:  This species has many common names including Wild Black Gooseberry, Spreading Gooseberry, Coast (or Coastal) Black Gooseberry (or Currant), Straggly Gooseberry (or Currant), and Straggle Bush.  In the UK it is known as Worcesterberry.  Divaricatum means spreading or branching with two forks.

Relationships:  Currants and gooseberries belong to the genus Ribes (from the Arabic or Persian word ribas meaning acid-tasting).  Some taxonomists separate gooseberries into the genus or subgenus, grossularia.  In general, gooseberry plants have prickles; currants do not.  Ribes is the only genus in grossulariaceae; which is closely allied with escalloniaceae, and iteaceae; all formerly included in saxifragaceae.  There are about 150 species of Ribes in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, northwest Africa, Central America and in the Andes of South America; with about 50 native to North America.  30 are listed in the Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest.  About 7-8 are native to the west side of the Cascades with about a dozen more found chiefly on the east side of the Cascades and ~17 limited to California or Oregon. Coast Black Gooseberry is one of the parents of the cultivated variety, Jostaberry, which is a complex cross in the Ribes genus, commonly described as a cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant.

Distribution of Coast Black Currant from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Coast Black Gooseberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Coast Black Gooseberry is found from southern British Columbia to the south-central California coast; mostly on the west side of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington.

Growth: It grows 4-9 feet (1.5-3m) tall.

Habitat: It can be found in open woods, prairies and moist hillsides. Wetland designation: FAC*, Facultative, it is equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands.

 

 

 

 

ribes-divaricatumDiagnostic Characters: Coast Black Gooseberry stems grow erect, tending to arch, or they spread with 1-3 stout, chestnut-colored spines at the nodes with occasionally bristles on the internodes (more frequent on young twigs).  Bark is gray to somewhat brownish.  Leaves are usually 3-lobed, the lower lobes unequally divided again.  The leaf petioles are often longer than the leaf blades.  Flowers are borne in fuchsia-like, drooping clusters of 2-3.  The 5-lobed calyx is usually red or red-green; 5 petals are white to red; 5 stamens and 2 styles extend past calyx lobes.  Purplish-black berries are round and smooth.

 

 

In the Landscape:  Coast Black Gooseberry is a little too wild and wicked for a formal garden, but can find a place in a wild garden away from paths where an unsuspecting ambler could be poked by its nasty spines.  Flowers are small but a colorful red and white.

ribes-divaricatum-flowerPhenology: Bloom time:  April-May;  Fruit ripens:  July-August.

Propagation:  It is easily grown from seed sown outside or in a cold frame in fall. Stored seed may be stratified at 35º F (2º C) for 120 days.  Hardwood cuttings taken in fall or semi-hardwood, earlier in summer, are also possible.

 

 

 

 

 

Use by People:  Natives variously ate the berries fresh, dried them for storage or baked them into cakes. Unripe berries were sometimes eaten fresh, dried or made into a sauce. The inner bark was chewed and swallowed to treat a sore throat and cold.  The bark or roots were boiled and used as an eyewash, or for sore throats.  The Nisqually used the spines for tattooing using charcoal for coloring.  Some consider this to be one of the finest of the wild North American gooseberries.  It is sweet and juicy, though a bit on the acid side, with a “very acceptable flavor.”

Use by Wildlife:  The flowers attract hummingbirds.  The berries attract many birds including grosbeaks.

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


 

Trailing Black Currant, Ribes laxiflorum

Trailing Black Currant                                                            The Currant Family—Grossulariaceae
Ribes laxiflorum Pursh
(rye-BEEZ Lax-ih-FLOOR-um)
Names: Trailing Black Currant is also known as Spreading Currant. Laxiflorum means loose-flowered.

Distribution: It is found from southern Alaska to northwestern California, mostly west of the Cascades and along the coast; it can also be found in isolated areas of the Rocky Mountains, from Alberta to New Mexico, more frequently in Colorado. It also is native to Siberia.

Distribution of Trailing Black Currant from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Trailing Black Currant from USDA Plants Database

Growth: This species usually trails or spreads along the ground, reaching less than 3 feet (1m); but it can grow, vine-like, up to 21 feet (7m) tall.

Habitat:  It grows in in dense woods and wet, coastal forests and mountain slopes.
Diagnostic Characters: Leaves have 5 sharp-pointed lobes with toothed margins; they are heart-shaped at the base, smooth on top, and hairy-glandular below, with a strong odor when bruised. Six to twenty greenish-white to reddish purple flowers are borne on ascending or erect clusters. Fruits are purplish-black berries with glandular hairs and a waxy bloom.
In the Landscape: This species has potential to perform well as a groundcover in the garden.

Phenology: Bloom time: Late March-early May; Fruit ripens: Summer.
Propagation: Methods are likely to be the same as for other currants.

Use by People: The berries were eaten fresh, boiled or as preserves by native tribes. An infusion of the roots or branches was used to make an eyewash. The bark was boiled and used as a cold medicine and for tuberculosis. The stems were used for pipe stems.

Use by Wildlife: The berries are enjoyed by 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

Mapleleaf Currant, Ribes acerifolium

Mapleleaf Currant                             The Currant Family—Grossulariaceae

Ribes acerifolium Howell

(rye-BEEZ  ay-ser-ih-FOAL-ee-um)

Names:  Ribes acerifolium is also known as R. howellii.  Both the common name and the specific epithet, acerifolium, refer to its maple shaped leaves.  It was named and described by Thomas Jefferson Howell, an Oregon botanist.

Distribution of Maple-leaf Currant from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Maple-leaf Currant from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: This species is found from southwestern British Columbia to central Oregon; to Idaho in the east; mostly in the Cascade and the Olympic Mountains; but “also at the mouth of the Columbia River,” and on Vancouver Island.

Growth: Mapleleaf Currant is a small shrub to 3 feet (1m) tall.

 

 

 

Habitat: It grows in the mountains, along streams, in meadows and on open, rocky ridges.  Its small, maple-shaped leaves have five lobes and are finely hairy.  Seven to fifteen greenish-bronze to pinkish flowers are borne on drooping clusters.  Black, round berries have a whitish bloom and are slightly hairy.

In the Landscape: This species has good potential in the garden where a smaller shrub is desired.

Phenology: Bloom time: June-August; Fruit ripens: Autumn.

Propagation:  Methods are likely to be the same as for other currants.

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

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet