Category Archives: Evergreen Shrubs

Snowbrush, Ceanothus velutinus

Snowbrush                                The Buckthorn Family–Rhamnaceae

Cceanothus velutinuseanothus velutinus Douglas ex Hook

 (See-uh-NO-thus  vel-OO-tin-us)

Names: Ceanothus is a Greek name for a spiny shrub.  Velutinus means soft and velvety, referring to short, dense, silky hairs on the undersides of the leaves.  This feature is more pronounced on shrubs found in drier areas east of the Cascades.  When in bloom, it is covered with clusters of tiny white flowers, hence the name “Snowbrush.”  It is also commonly known as Tobacco Brush or Red Root; other common names: Cinnamon Brush, Sticky Laurel, Shiny-leaf Ceanothus, and Mountain Balm allude to its sticky, scented leaves.  Although it is also sometimes called Deerbrush, that name is more often applied to the related species, C. integerrimus (discussed in the section on deciduous shrubs).

Blueblossum, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus,

Blueblossum, Ceanothus thyrsiflorus,

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.” (Redstem Ceanothus , C. sanguineus, and Deerbrush, C. integerrimus, will be discussed in the deciduous shrub section.) Blueblossom, C. thyrsiflorus,, one of the tallest and hardiest Ceanothus sp., which is native to southwestern Oregon and the California coast, is often planted in northwest landscapes.

 

 

Distribution of Deerbrush from USDA Plants Database.

Distribution of Deerbrush from USDA Plants Database.

Distribution: Snowbrush is found from British Columbia and Alberta south to California and east to South Dakota and Colorado.

Growth: Snowbrush grows to about 9 feet (3m) tall.  It sometimes sprawls as it competes for sunlight, growing best in full sun.

 Snowbrush flowers

 

 

Diagnostic Characters: Snowbrush is easy to identify by its shiny, often sticky, evergreen leaves with 3 main veins.  Its small, creamy white flowers are borne in pyramidal clusters.

Ceanothus leaves

 

ceanothus leaves2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowbrush roundaboutIn the Landscape:  Snowbrush is an attractive evergreen shrub in the landscape for dry areas.  It also is able to fix nitrogen, so is useful on restoration sites.

 

 

 

 

ceanothus flower budsPhenology: Bloom Period:  May -June.  Seedpods ripen in late June to early August; dispersal begins in August when seeds are ejected from the pods and fall to the ground.

 

 

 

Propagation:  Snowbrush seeds are able to remain viable in the soil for several centuries.  They sprout in response to the heat of a fire.  Temperatures of 176-203ºF (80-95ºC) are necessary to break the seed coat.  Other scarification methods such as abrasion may also be used to break the seed coat and allow water imbibition.  After scarification a cold stratification period is also required. They are difficult to keep alive in pots at the nursery, so are often difficult to find.

Use by people: Deer brush was used by natives in various preparations as a cleansing solution in the sweathouse, a hair wash for dandruff, and for skin ailments such as diaper rash. It was also used for other ailments such as arthritis.

Use by wildlife: Snowbrush is eaten by deer, elk and mountain goats.  Small mammals and birds eat the seeds. Butterflies are attracted to the flowers.

Ceanothus natural

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

 

Common Buckbrush or Wedgeleaf Ceanothus, C. cuneatus is found from the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Cascades southward, throughout much of California to Baja California in Mexico.  Douglas writes that it is “abundant near the sources of the Multnomak river.” It usually grows 3-6 feet (1-2m), sometimes taller and has attractive white flower clusters, sometimes tinged with blue or lavender.  Harvester ants have been known to cache its seeds, which require fire in order to germinate.

 

 

Oregon Boxwood, Paxistima myrsinites

Oregon Boxwood           The Spindle Tree FamilyCelastraceae

 Paxistima myrsinites (Pursh) Raff.

(Paks-IH-stih-muh  mur-sin-EYE-tees)

Names: The genus has been alternatively spelled Pachistima or Pachystima; it means thick stigma.  The species has also been known as Paxistima myrtifolia.  Myrsinites means like myrsine, or myrtle, referring to its boxwood-like appearance.  Other common names include Falsebox, Boxleaf Myrtle, Mountain Lover or the mnemonic, “pa-kissed-ma.”

Relationships: There are only 2 recognized species of Paxistima, Cliff Green, P. canbyi occurs in the eastern United States.

Distribution of Oregon Boxwood from USDA Plants Database.

Distribution of Oregon Boxwood from USDA Plants Database.

Distribution:  Oregon Boxwood is found from British Columbia to Marin County, California and in the Rockies from Alberta to New Mexico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growth: With a slow to moderate growth rate, Oregon Boxwood rarely exceeds 3 feet (1m), usually only reaching 8-30 inches (20-80 cm).  It is fairly long-lived.

Habitat: Oregon Boxwood is most often found in the mountains in relatively dry, open, sunny sites or open forests.

Distinguishing Characters: Oregon Boxwood is easily distinguished from other native evergreens by its opposite leaves with toothed margins.  Its flowers are maroon or mahogany, very small but fragrant.  Small, oval capsules contain only one or two seeds.  Each seed is mostly surrounded by a white fleshy aril.

Tiny Maroon or Mahogany Flowers are interesting.

Tiny Maroon or Mahogany Flowers are interesting.

In the Landscape: Oregon Boxwood can be used similarly as are the cultivated shrubs it resembles, Boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, or Japanese Holly, Ilex crenata.  It can be used as a border or a low-growing hedge, or in a woodland garden or rock garden.  It needs a well-drained soil; it will not perform well with too much water.

Phenology: Bloom Period:  April-June; Seed capsules ripen July-September.

Propagation: Oregon Boxwood is easily propagated by softwood cuttings or by layering.  Seed propagation is difficult but success may be achieved with a cool stratification period for several months.

Use by people: Oregon Boxwood is sometimes used as greenery in floral arrangements, but care should be taken not to decimate native populations when collecting.

Use by Wildlife: It is considered an important forage food for deer, elk and moose.  Mountain Sheep and grouse also eat it.  Although there is no evidence that seeds are disseminated by anything but gravity, the white, fleshy arils may entice ants to distribute the seeds.

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

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

Fremont Silktassel, Garrya fremontii

Fremont Silktassel                         The Silk Tassel Family–Garryaceae

Garrya fremontii Torr.

Names: Fremont Silktassel is also known as Bearbrush, Mountain Silktassel, Green-leaf Silktassel, California Feverbush, Quinine Bush, Flannel Bush, or Upland Silktassel Bush.  Garrya is named after Nicholas Garry of the Hudson’s Bay Company. This species is named for John Charles Fremont “the Pathfinder,” an explorer and politician of the American West.

Relationships: There are about 18 species of Garrya in North and Central America and the Caribbean; with 8 species from the U.S, mostly limited to the southwest and southern Pacific Coast.

Distribution of Fremon Silktassel from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Fremon Silktassel from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Fremont Silktassel reaches the farthest north, barely reaching into Washington along the Columbia River Gorge.  In Oregon, it is mostly found west of the Cascades.  In California, it is found in the Sierras and coast ranges; with a disjunct population in and around San Diego County.  Garrya elliptica, the Coast Silktassel, also native to the coast ranges of Oregon and California, is often grown ornamentally for its long pendulous catkins.

Growth; The Fremont Silktassel grows 3-9 feet (1-3 ft.).

Habitat: It growsin woodlands and chaparral canyons.

Diagnostic Characters: The opposite leaves of Fremont Silktassel are oval-shaped, yellow-green, with light undersides.  (In contrast, Garrya elliptica has wavy-edged, dark green leaves with gray, wooly undersides). Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants in yellowish to purple catkin-like racemes, 3-9cm long.  Flowers are in cup-like bracts, which are densely silky on female plants.  Fruit are round, purple berries that are hairy when young.  Young branches are brownish-purple.

In the Landscape: Silktassels are grown ornamentally for their interesting, long, winter-blooming catkins, which are most impressive on male plants.   You need both male and female plants to produce the attractive purple fruit.  Fremont Silktassel may also be useful as a screen.  It is great for dry areas and tolerates heat and cold better than Coast Silktassel

Phenology: Bloom Period:  January to May. Fruit ripens:  August to December.

Propagation:  Seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Germination requires overwinter stratification (30-120 days) and may take two or more years to germinate.  Seeds may benefit from soaking in 100ppm of gibberellin for 17 hours following the stratification period.  Cuttings should be taken from a parent plant of the desired gender.  They may be taken of half-ripe wood, with a heel in August, or of mature wood with a heel in December or January.  This shrub sprouts quickly from its root crown to recover from wildfire.

Use by People: Early settlers used the leaves of this plant to make a tonic, for fevers, as a substitute for quinine.

Use by Wildlife: Fremont Silktassel is browsed by Mule Deer in winter and spring.  The fruit is eaten by songbirds, mountain quail, gray fox, and rodents.  It provides good cover for black bear, mule deer, and various birds and small mammals.

Hybrids of Garrya elliptica and G. fremontii are given the name (Garrya x issaquaensis).  They have spectacular long catkins like Garrya elliptica but are more cold tolerant.  The first known hybrid, ‘Pat Ballard’ was grown from a seed that occurred in its namesake’s garden in Issaquah, Washington.  Another cultivar, ‘Carl English’ is named for the Army Corps of Engineers horticulturalist who designed and built the botanical garden at the Hiram S. Chittenden Locks in Ballard, Washington.   Another variety, ‘Glasnevin Wine,’ was more recently developed in Ireland.

Garrya elliptica

Garrya elliptica is much more common in landscapes.

Links:

USDA Plants Database

Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

WTU Herbarium Image Collection, Plants of Washington, Burke Museum

Jepson Eflora, University of California

Calphotos

USDA Forest Service-Fire Effects Information System

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Plants for a Future Database

Other Evergreen Ericaceous Plants

Several Evergreen Ericaceous Plants found mostly in wetlands:

Ledum groenlandicum

Labrador Tea, Ledum* groenlandicum Oeder      OBL

Labrador Tea is found throughout the northern latitudes, including Greenland as its name suggests.  It has white flowers.  The undersides of older leaves are covered with a rusty brown-colored fuzz.  Natives and European settlers and traders used the leaves for tea, both as a beverage and medicinally.  It should be consumed in moderation and not be confused with Trapper’s Tea, Bog Laurel, or Bog Rosemary which all lack brown fuzz and are toxic.

The undersides of older Labrador Tea leaves are covered with rusty-brown fuzz. (Younger leaves may have whitish fuzz.)

The undersides of older Labrador Tea leaves are covered with rusty-brown fuzz. (Younger leaves may have whitish fuzz.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trapper’s Tea, Ledum* glandulosum Nutt.          FACW+

   Trapper’s Tea is also known as Western Labrador Tea.  It is similar to Labrador Tea but the leaves have whitish hairy undersides.  It is more common east of the Cascade crest in Washington and in Oregon and California.  Although it is known to be toxic, some interior tribes drank a tea made from the leaves of this plant.

*Many now place Ledum in the larger genus Rhododendron.

 

Alpine Laurel, Kalmia microphylla (Hook.) A. Heller FACW+

    Alpine Laurel is also known as Western Bog Laurel, K. polifolia.  It is native to western North America.  Its small, attractive, rose pink flowers are borne in a truss.  This small shrub is sometimes grown in gardens but is somewhat difficult to keep alive.

 

Bog Rosemary, Andromeda polifolia L.     OBL

    Bog Rosemary is also found throughout the northern latitudes.   With its small, pinkish urn-shaped flowers, this small shrub has long been prized as a garden ornamental.  I have never seen it live for long in the landscape—it needs to be planted in an appropriate location with plenty of moisture.  In nature, Bog Rosemary grows on little moss hummocks surrounded by swamp.  Similarly, in Greek mythology, Andromeda was a beautiful princess that was chained naked to a rock in the midst of the sea, as a sacrifice to a sea monster.  The Greek hero, Perseus rescued her and subsequently married her.

 

Bog Cranberry, Vaccinium oxycoccus L.    OBL

    Bog Cranberry is another bog plant found throughout the northern latitudes. It is also known as Small Cranberry. Cranberries are sometimes placed in their own genus, Oxycoccus (oxy: acid; coccus: round berry).   Bog Cranberry is a low, creeping shrub with small pink, nodding flowers like miniature shooting stars.  The fruits are pink to dark red, smaller than the commercially grown V. macrocarpon.  Natives ate the tart berries fresh or cooked; or stored them in moss or dried into cakes for later use.

 

Alpine Heather-like Plants

 

White Mountain Heather

White Mountain Heather

Pink Mountain Heather

Pink Mountain Heather

We have four mountain heathers almost exclusively found in alpine or subalpine parkland.   They are White Mountain Heather, Cassiope mertensiana, Alaska Bell heather, Harrimanella stelleriana, Pink Mountain Heather, Phyllodoce empetriformis, and Yellow Mountain Heather, P. glanduliflora.  All are very difficult to keep alive in lower elevation gardens.  It is perhaps better to find cultivated varieties of similar species to use in your garden and leave these gems in their natural environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two other alpine heather-like plants can be adapted to the garden.  The Alpine Azalea, Loiseleuria procumbens has pink bell-shaped flowers and makes a charming addition to a rock garden.  It is easily propagated by cuttings or layering but is listed as a “sensitive” species in Washington, so any wild collecting should be undertaken judiciously.  Black Crowberry, Empetrum nigrum, is not an ericad but is in a related family, empetraceae.  It has black berries, sometimes eaten by natives, but a favorite of bears.  This low, creeping, mat-forming shrub is easily propagated by cuttings.

 

 

Hairy Manzanita, Arctostaphylos columbiana

Hairy Manzanita                                        The Heath Family–Ericaceae

Arctostaphylos columbiana Piper                 

(Ark-toe-STAFF-ih-loess  kohl-um-bee-ANN-uh)

Arctostaphylos columbiana

Names: This species is also known as Columbia or Redwood Manzanita. Arcto means bear; staphylos means a bunch of grapes.  Columbiana is derived from the Columbia River, which got its name from Captain Gray’s Ship, Columbia, which in turn was named for Christopher Columbus. Manzanita is Spanish for “little apples.”  Hairy refers to the gray-green hairs that cover its leaves

Relationships: There are about 70 species of Arctostaphylos.  All, but one, are evergreen.  Shrub forms are called Manzanita; low-growing groundcovers, and alpines are usually called Bearberries.  Most are native to the Western United States with about 55 species confined to California.  Three of the Bearberries have a circumpolar distribution, found in Northern North America and the northern regions of Europe and Asia. They and other low-growing Arctostaphylos sp. will be discussed in the section on groundcovers.

Distribution of Hairy Manzanita from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Hairy Manzanita from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Hairy Manzanita is found from Vancouver Island in British Columbia to the coast of Northern California, mostly on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.

Hairy Manzanita can reach tree size. It has very interesting branching patterns.

Hairy Manzanita can reach tree size. It has very interesting branching patterns.

Growth: Hairy Manzanita grows at a moderate rate up to 15 feet (5m).

Habitat: It is found in dry, open, sunny places and rocky hillsides, often in disturbed areas.   It is a bushy shrub that may be erect or spreading.

 

Hairy Manzanita leaves

 

 

Diagnostic Characters: Its grayish-green, hairy foliage and branches with peeling reddish, brown bark give it a very distinctive appearance in the Northwest.  The flowers are the typical white to pinkish bells of many of our Ericads.  The berries are a brownish-orange.

 

Arctostaphylos columbiana branching

Hairy Manzanita bushIn the landscape: it is an attractive addition to southern or western exposures.  The gray-green foliage makes a subtle contrast with other shades of green.  The reddish-brown, peeling bark adds interest along with its delicate pinkish-white, bell-shaped flowers and the orange, almost coppery, colored berries.   It is often sought out by gardeners, but unfortunately is not readily available due to difficulty in propagation.

Phenology: Bloom Period:  March-June, Fruit ripens July to August.

Arctostaphylos columbiana flowersHairy Manzanita fruit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Propagation:  Hairy Manzanita has a very hard seed coat.  In nature it must go through the digestive tract of an animal or a fire before it will germinate.  Many sources suggest different methods of scarification including soaking in sulfuric acid for 24 hours, soaking in boiling water for 10- 20 seconds, or burning straw on top of them.  After scarification, seeds need to be stratified at 40ºF (4ºC) for 2 months, some recommend a warm stratification for 60 days prior to the cold stratification.  Heel cuttings taken from August to December should be treated with a hormone and stuck in a sand-peat media.  Layering is perhaps the easiest method of propagation, but these plants do not like their roots disturbed and transplanting should be performed with great care.

Use by people: A yellowish-brown dye may be made from its leaves.  The hard wood burns with a bright light and is useful for making small tools.  Some native people ate the berries.

Use by Wildlife: Birds such as sparrows and grosbeaks and small mammals such as skunks and chipmunks also eat the fruit.  Deer browse on the foliage.  The dense evergreen foliage provides excellent cover for wildlife.

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

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

Other species and naturally-occurring hybrids in our area:

(Click on LInk to see the USDA treatment of each species)

Greenleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos patula  In Washington, this species is only known to occur on the north shores of Lake Chelan and in Klickitat County near the Columbia River.  It is found in the Cascades of Oregon and throughout much of the Southwest.  It grows 3-6 feet (1-3m) tall and has nearly round leaves and the characteristic smooth, red bark.

Media Manzanita, Arctostaphylos x media Green (pro sp.), is a natural hybrid between Hairy Manzanita and Kinnikinnick (A. uva-ursi). Although it is most common on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State, it may occur wherever the ranges of its parents overlap.  It is intermediate in both form and leaf characteristics.  Media Manzanita only reaches a little over 2 feet (0.75m) tall but may spread up to 15 feet (5m).  Leaves are dark, gray-green and not as hairy as Hairy Manzanita.  Branches are a brighter red than Kinnikinnick.  It is an attractive, spreading shrub or groundcover for dry, gravelly areas but is difficult to find in the nursery trade.  Seeds are not usually produced; when they are, they either are not viable or are have a dormancy that is difficult to break.  Propagation may be achieved by cuttings or layering.

Media Manzanita at the nursery.

Media Manzanita at the nursery.

Media Manzanita in flower.

Media Manzanita in flower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arctostaphylos columbiana x A. nevadensis: Hairy Manzanita also hybridizes with Pinemat Manzanita, A. nevadensis,where ranges of the two species overlap, most notably in the Mount Hood region and the Big Lava Bed in Oregon.

Arctostaphylos patula x A. nevadensis may be found where A. patula occurs.  Reportedly, in some areas, this hybrid may be so common that it is hard to find pure A. patula.

Arctostaphylos patula x A. uva-ursi may also occur in the Lake Chelan area, but is not confirmed.

Arctostaphylos columbiana x A. patula occurs in Oregon but is not known in Washington.

*Many of these hybrids have been studied by the esteemed native plant expert, Arthur R. Kruckeberg.

 

Pacific Rhododendron, Rhododendron macrophyllum

Pacific Rhododendron                                                                The Heath Family–Ericaceae

Rhododendron macrophyllum shrubRhododendron macrophyllum D. Don ex G. Don

(roe-doe-DEN-dron  mak-row-FILL-um)

Names: The Pacific Rhododendron is also known as the Coast Rhododendron, California Rhododendron, or California Rosebay.  Rhododendron macrophyllum literally means, “Rose tree with big leaves.”  It is the state flower of Washington State.

Relationships: The rhododendron genus includes plants commonly known as azaleas.  It is a very large genus with about 1200 described species.  Most are found in China, Japan and neighboring countries; tropical species are found from Southeast Asia to New Guinea and Northern Australia.  Relatively few are native to Europe and North America.   The Rhododendron Species Foundation in Federal Way, Washington, which is dedicated to the conservation, public display, and distribution of Rhododendron species has about 600 species in their display gardens along with many of the over 28,000 cultivated varieties.  About 30 species are native to North America; the Pacific Northwest is home to only 5 species; two of which (Kamcahatka Rhododendron, R. camtschaticum and Lapland Rosebay, R. lapponiocum) are small prostrate shrubs from Alaska or Northern British Columbia.  The other 2 species will be discussed in the section on deciduous shrubs. Labrador Teas, Ledum sp. are also now often lumped into the Rhododendron genus.

Distribution of Pacific Rhododendron from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Pacific Rhododendron from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: The Pacific Rhododendron is found west of the Cascades from southern British Columbia to Northern California.

Growth:  It reaches to about 24 feet (8m); taller in the shade than in the sun.

Pacific Rhododendron habitatHabitat: It grows in in fairly dry open forests and edges. It commonly grows along roadsides in the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains.

 

 

 

 

Rhododendrons have the largest, showiest flowers in the family, as in this Pacific Rhododendron.

Rhododendrons have the largest, showiest flowers in the family, as in this Pacific Rhododendron.

Diagnostic characters: The thick, leathery leaves of Pacific Rhododendron are oblong, 3-8 inches (8-20cm) long.  The pink, sometimes white, bell-shaped flowers are borne in showy clusters called trusses.  Each flower has 5 lobes with wavy edges.  Seeds are produced in woody capsules.

 

Pacific Rhododendron

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Landscape: Rhododendrons have long been a favorite of landscapers in the Pacific Northwest.  Although many may prefer the variety of flower colors, and forms in cultivated varieties, our native Rhododendron with its bold green leaves and spectacular pink flower clusters can find a place in both wild settings and more traditional landscapes.  Even those that steer away from rhodies due to the fact that they are so common in northwest gardens may be convinced to include this native species in their yard!  Pacific Rhododendron is also useful for erosion control on steep watersheds.

Rhododendron macrophyllum landscape

Phenology: Bloom Period:  April-May. Seed capsules ripen August to September.

Propagation:  Seeds do not require stratification, but require light to germinate.  Seeds remain viable for 2 years.  Collect softwood cuttings, May to September.  Wounding and dipping in an IBA hormone aids rooting of cuttings.  Peat and perlite is a preferred rooting medium; bottom heat and misting is also beneficial.

Rhododendron truss

Rhododendron truss2Use by people: Pacific Rhododendrons are of little use to people, except as an ornamental shrub. Flowers were used by natives as decoration, especially for dance wreaths.

Use by wildlife: This shrub provides all year cover for wildlife but has very little food value.  Deer and Mountain Beavers are among the few that browse on Pacific Rhododendron.

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 American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

Evergreen Huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum

Evergreen Huckleberry                                                       The Heath Family–Ericaceae

Vaccinium ovatum Pursh.            Vaccinium ovatum bush

(Vax-IH-nee-um Oh-VAH-tum)

Names: Evergreen Huckleberry is also called California Huckleberry, Evergreen Blueberry or Box Blueberry.  Ovatum refers to its oval-shaped leaves.

Relationships: There are about 450 species of Vaccinium worldwide, about 40 in North America with about 15 in the Pacific Northwest.  The genus Vaccinium includes Blueberries, Huckleberries, Cranberries, Lingonberries, Whortleberries, Bilberries and Cowberries.  Other Northwest Vacciniums will be discussed later under the sections on Deciduous Shrubs and Groundcovers.

Distribution of Evergreen Huckleberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Evergreen Huckleberry from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Evergreen Huckleberry is found on the west side of the Cascade Mountains from British Columbia to California.  Along the coast of California, it is common to the redwoods but sporadic further south.

Growth: Evergreen Huckleberry grows slowly, reaching 3-6 feet (1-2m) in the sun and 12 feet (4m) or more in the shade.

Habitat: It is very common in second growth forests, especially along edges and openings.

 

 

 

 

Attractive evergreen foliage is often used for floral arrangements

Attractive evergreen foliage is often used for floral arrangements

Diagnostic Characters: Its oval to lance-shaped foliage is evergreen, leathery and irregularly toothed (1-2 inches or 2-5cm long); often with a pinkish-brown or purplish tinge.  The flowers are pinkish-white bells, typical of many of our ericads.  The fruits are usually small purplish-black berries.  Sometimes you may find plants with berries that are larger and bluer with a waxy bloom resembling blueberries.

 

Pinkish-white bell-shaped flowers are attractive to many different pollinaters, including hummingbirds!

Pinkish-white bell-shaped flowers are attractive to many different pollinaters, including hummingbirds!

Foliage is sometimes purplish or bronzy, especially in winter.

Foliage is sometimes purplish or bronzy, especially in winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Landscape: Evergreen Huckleberry is very versatile in the landscape and should be included in almost any natural revegetation project.  It will form an attractive hedge given time.

New growth of Evergreen Huckleberry is often reddish.

New growth of Evergreen Huckleberry is often reddish.

Phenology: Bloom Period:  April-May. Fruit ripens August to September but often remain on the plant through December.

Huckleberries taste sweeter after a frost!

Huckleberries taste sweeter after a frost!

Evergreen Huckleberry fruit with snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Propagation: Seeds are slow to germinate, but have no special requirements. However, stored seed may benefit from a stratification period.  Seedlings grow slowly and require 2-3 years to produce a saleable plant.  Even so, it is better to plant container-grown nursery stock with intact root systems. Wild-dug Evergreen Huckleberry does not transplant well.  Hardwood cuttings are someitmes successful.

Use by People:  Natives ate the berries fresh or dried them into cakes.  Today, common lore asserts that they are sweeter after the first frost.  The berries are a bit tedious to pick and separate from the foliage, but are delicious baked into muffins.  As for Salal, “Brush-pickers” collect Evergreen Huckleberry foliage for the florist trade.

Huckleberry Cleaning Machine on display by the Key Peninsula Historical Society at the 2015 KP Farm tour. The machine separated leaves and other debris  from the berries.

Huckleberry Cleaning Machine on display by the Key Peninsula Historical Society at the 2015 KP Farm tour. The machine separated leaves and other debris from the berries.

Evergreen HuckleberriesUse by Wildlife: Many songbirds and mammals eat the berries, including black bears, chipmunks, and mice. Deer, elk, rabbits, and grouse browse the foliage. Flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators.

 

 

 

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

 

Salal, Gaultheria shallon

Salal                                                                                                     The Heath Family–Ericaceae

Gaultheria shallon berriesGaultheria shallon Pursh.                                         

(Gawl-THER-ee-uh  shal-LAWN)

Names: Salal is also known as Oregon Wintergreen.  Its genus name comes from Dr. Hugues Jean Gaulthier, a Canadian Botanist and Physician.  Shallon is the name commonly used in Britain where it was introduced—it is derived from its native name, Salal.

Relationships: There are about 175 species of Gaultheria worldwide but only about six in North America.  Most notable is its eastern relative, Wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens, a popular groundcover for shade; the traditional source for Wintergreen flavoring.

 

Distribution of Salal from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Salal from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Salal is found along the Pacific coast from Southeast Alaska to central California, mostly on the west side of the Cascade Mountains and along the California coast.

New growth can be reddish.

New growth can be reddish.

 

 

 

 

Growth: Salal grows slowly, but will grow to over 6 ft (2m) in shady conditions.  Plants in the sun usually grow only to about 3 ft (1m).  It spreads by sprouting from underground stems.

Habitat: It is one of the most common understory shrubs in our second-growth coniferous forests.  Wetland designation: FACU, Facultative upland, it usually occurs in non-wetland but is occasionally found in wetlands.

Salal flowersDiagnostic Characters: Its oval-shaped, leathery, evergreen leaves are about 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) long and about 1-3 inches (3-7 cm) wide.  Pendant, urn-shaped flowers are white to pink. Its edible, dark-purple berries are actually fleshy sepals.

 

 

Salal and Evergreen Huckleberry are important greens for the floral industry.

Salal and Evergreen Huckleberry are important greens for the floral industry.

In the Landscape: Salal is very versatile in the landscape and should be included in almost any natural revegetation project.  It is very useful along roadsides and highways.  Although often slow to establish, in time it will aggressively fill in and develop into large patches of verdant foliage.

Phenology:  Bloom Period:  April-May. Fruit ripens July to September.

Propagation:   Seeds germinate readily but require at least 8 hours of light each day to sprout.  Seedlings grow slowly and require 2-3 years to produce a saleable plant.  Even so, it is better to plant container-grown nursery stock with intact underground stems and root systems. Wild-dug Salal does not transplant well.  Even if the plant survives, it may take several years before you may witness any new growth.

Salal berries

Use by people: Salal berries were eaten fresh by natives and mashed and dried into cakes.  The fruit is sweet, but the texture is somewhat mealy.  Today, the berries are sometimes made into jams or jellies often in combination with other berries.  Natives used salal leaves to line cooking pits.

 

 

Modern “Brush-pickers” collect Salal and Evergreen Huckleberry foliage for the florist trade; although most ask permission before collecting on private property, some have been known to trespass in order to sell the valuable greenery to wholesalers.

Salal and insectUse by wildlife: Deer and Elk eat Salal foliage, mostly in the winter.  Salal is a preferred food for some Mountain Beavers (Aplodontia).  The fruit is eaten by many kinds of birds and mammals including the Douglas Squirrel.  Hummingbirds will visit Salal flowers.

 

 

 

Pernettya, Gaultheria mucronata, is an evergreen shrub native to South America.  Its common name, Prickly Heath refers to its small leaves with pointed leaf tips.  The berries of this plant, which can be in shades of white, pink, red, rose, purple, or nearly black, all have an interesting metallic sheen.  Gaulnettya ‘Wisley Pearl’ is a hybrid of Salal and Pernettya discovered at the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley England.  It looks much like a smaller Salal, but has fleshy, red-purple berries.

Two other Gaultherias occur in montane subalpine and alpine habitats of the northwest: Western Tea-Berry, Gaultheria ovatifolia and Alpine Wintergreen, Gaultheria humifusa.   Both are small prostrate shrubs.  Neither has been very successful in landscapes but may be successful if given the right conditions (a moist, humusy site).  Hybridization of these two species sometimes occurs naturally producing a plant with intermediate characteristics.  The fruits of Tea-berry were eaten fresh or made into sauces, or jellies by the Hoh and Quileute tribes.

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


Low Oregon Grape, Mahonia nervosa

Low Oregon Grape                                                             The Barberry Family–Berberidaceae

Mahonia nervosa (Pursh) Nutt.

Mahonia nervosa woodland(Ma-HOE-nee-uh  nerv-OH-suh)

Names: Low Oregon Grape is also called Cascade Oregon Grape, Cascade Barberry, Dull Oregon Grape, Dwarf Oregon Grape or Longleaf Mahonia.  Nervosa refers to the fan-like veins in its leaves. It is called “dull” because its leaves are not as shiny as Tall Oregon Grape’s leaves and “long-leaf” because it has more leaflets making a longer compound leaf.

 

Low Oregon GrapeThis shorter species is referred to as Low Oregon Grape to distinguish it from Tall Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium.  It is also known as Berberis nervosa. Some botanists have argued that the genus Mahonia is not different enough from the genus Berberis to warrant its own genus. Mahonia is named after American Horticulturist, Bernard McMahon.  Horticulturists have consistently continued to use the genus Mahonia to refer to those species with compound leaves that give them a very different appearance from barberries.

Distribution of Low Oregon Grape from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Low Oregon Grape from USDA Plants Database

Relationships: There are about seventy species of Mahonia in Asia, and Central and North America, about 13 in North America.  Three are found in the Pacific Northwest. Some cultivated varieties have been developed.

Distribution: It is found from southern British Columbia to central California, mostly west of the Cascade and Sierra Mountains; but it also occurs in northeastern Oregon and Washington and the Idaho panhandle.

Growth: Low Oregon Grape usually grows slowly to about 2 ft. (60cm), but may grow taller, especially in deeper shade.  It forms clumps, spreading by underground rhizomes to about 3 ft (1m) wide.

 

Habitat: It grows in dry to fairly moist, open to dappled, shady woods.

Mahonia nervosa flowersDiagnostic Characters: Mahonia nervosa is the easiest to distinguish from other native Mahonias; it has more leaflets, (9-19 per leaf) per ~12-inch (30cm) long leaf.  Leaves are clustered toward the tip of the stem in a terminal “rosette.”  Otherwise it is very similar to other Oregon Grapes with its spiny, leathery, often bronzy, compound leaves, bright yellow flowers and blue berries.

In the landscape, Low Oregon Grape is an excellent choice for dry shade.  With its leathery, fern-like, leaves, it is an attractive groundcover or border plant for a shady woodland garden. Its prickly leaves make it useful for a low barrier.  Sprays of golden-yellow flowers brighten gloomy, rainy spring days.  Flowers are followed by large clusters of blue berries with a waxy, whitish bloom.

Mahonia nervosa berriesPhenology:  Bloom Period:  April-May.  Fruits ripen August-September.

Propagation:  Seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame; seeds should not be allowed to dry out.  Stored seed requires a stratification period of at least 3 weeks.  Cuttings are best taken September-March, treated with hormone, and stuck in peat/perlite media; leaving only 1 or 2 leaflets and wounding the base of the cutting.  Applying bottom heat is also beneficial.  Layering and division are also possible.

Low Oregon Grape berries

 

Use by people: The tart berries were eaten by natives, but not in quantity; they were more often mixed with sweeter berries such as salal.  Today they are more frequently used in jelly or wine.  The yellow roots were used for dying basket materials; especially Beargrass.  The roots were also boiled to make a medicinal tea.

Use by wildlife: In some areas, Low Oregon Grape is browsed by Black-tailed Deer and Roosevelt Elk.  Many small mammals also eat the foliage, especially the White-footed Vole.  The fruits are eaten by many small birds and mammals.  The nectar of the flowers are favored by Anna’s Hummingbirds.  The plant provides cover for small birds and 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

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn


Tall Oregon Grape, Mahonia aquifolium

Tall Oregon Grape    The Barberry Family–Berberidaceae

Mahonia aquifolium plantMahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt.

(Ma-HOE-nee-uh  ak-wih-FOAL-ee-um)

Names: Oregon Grapes have leaflets with sharp spines along their margin.  Because of this feature they are often confused with holly.  In fact, the species gets its name from the name for English Holly, Ilex aquifolium.  Aquifolium literally means leaves that have curved hooks like an eagle’s beak (aquiline is similarly derived).  Other common names include Oregon Grape-Holly, Holly-leaved Barberry, Holly-leaved Oregon Grape, Oregon Hollygrape and Mountain Grape.  It is the state flower of Oregon.

Tall Oregon Grape

 

This species is referred to as Tall Oregon Grape only to distinguish it from Low Oregon Grape, Mahonia nervosa.  Mahonia aquifolium is also known as Berberis aquifolium.  Some botanists argue that the genus Mahonia is not different enough from the genus Berberis to warrant its own genus. Mahonia is named after American Horticulturist, Bernard McMahon.  Horticulturists have consistently continued to use the genus Mahonia to refer to those species with compound leaves that give them a very different appearance from barberries.

 

Relationships: There are about seventy species of Mahonia in Asia, and Central and North America, about 13 in North America.  Some cultivated varieties have been developed.  Low Oregon Grape, Mahonia nervosa, is another common Oregon Grape in our region. Creeping Oregon Grape, Mahonia repens, is chiefly an east of the Cascades species. Mahonias easily hybridize; intermediate forms often appear.

Distribution of Tall Oregon Grape from USDA Plants Database

Distribution of Tall Oregon Grape from USDA Plants Database

Distribution: Tall Oregon Grape is native along the Pacific Coast from southern British Columbia to Northern California.  Its range stretches across eastern Washington to the Idaho panhandle and Western Montana.  It also has been found growing in the Eastern United States, mostly in the Great Lakes Region.  Having long been valued as an ornamental shrub, it may have been introduced to some of those other areas.

Growth: Tall Oregon Grape grows to about 6-8 feet (2-2.5m) tall and spreads by underground stems to about 5 feet (1.5m) wide.  It may grow slowly at first as it becomes established, then will quickly grow to its mature size.

Habitat: Tall Oregon Grape is usually found on somewhat dry, rocky, open sites.  It is often found along roadsides; in fact it is a preferred native for new plantings along major highways.

Tall Oregon Grape has 5-9 shiny leaflets per leaf.

Tall Oregon Grape has 5-9 shiny leaflets per leaf.

Diagnostic Characters: All Mahonias have compound leaves.  Tall Oregon Grape has 5-9 leaflets per leaf with one central vein per leaflet.  The leaves are generally shinier that those of Low or Creeping Oregon Grape. New growth in the spring is usually a bronzy red.  Cold weather in the winter often causes leaves to turn purplish or bronze.  Yellow flowers are borne in erect terminal clusters.  Dark blue, grape-like berries are about 1 cm across with a silvery bloom.

Oregon Grape shrub

 

In the Landscape: Tall Oregon Grape has long been recognized as an outstanding landscaping choice.  It can be used as an accent plant or as a screen.  Its bronzy foliage, bright yellow, lightly scented flowers and bold texture can make an attractive addition to any landscape, but because of its prickly nature it should not be planted along walkways, where people may inadvertently brush up against it.  Old or disfigured stems can be pruned all the way to the ground.Oregon Grape flowers

Phenology:  Bloom Period:  April-May. Fruits ripen September-October.

Propagation:  Seeds should be stratified for 90 days at 40º*F. (4ºC) or planted outside as soon as they are ripe– seeds should not be allowed to dry out. Cuttings should be taken in late fall and treated with hormone.  Suckers from large plants may also be replanted.

Oregon Grape berries make great jelly!

Oregon Grape berries make great jelly!

 

 

Use by people: Some natives ate the sour berries fresh.  The juice has a lot of natural pectin and is great made into jelly or wine, by itself or in combination with other berries such as Salal.  The roots of all Mahonias are bright yellow and were often used for making dye, especially for baskets.

Use by wildlife: Birds eat the berries of Oregon Grape.  The foliage provides cover for many species and browse for deer.  The flowers are very attractive to insect pollinators and 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

Virginia Tech ID Fact Sheet

Native Plants Network, Propagation Protocol Database

Plants for a Future Database

Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn

 

*Creeping Oregon Grape

Mahonia repens in pots

Mahonia repens (Lindl.) G. Don

Creeping Oregon Grape or Creeping Mahonia is another valuable landscape shrub/groundcover.  Some consider it a variety of Tall Oregon Grape. It does hybridize easily and intermediate forms can be found. It is native to much of the western United States, but grows mostly east of the Cascades from Central BC southward, only reaching the coast in southern Oregon and northern California.  It is a good as a groundcover that grows only 1 to 2 ft. (30-60cm) tall, spreading by underground rhizomes; in full sun or partial shade.

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 CaliforniaMahonia repens

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