A Native Plant Walkabout

Recently my friend and fellow blogger Evan of The Practical Plant Geek blog was over and helped to identify a few trees on the property. I was thrilled to learn we had yet another native tree, a cascara or Rhamnus purshiana. I was so very glad I asked as had I not known, we might have removed them. This would have been a shame as they are wonderful hosts for bees (I wondered what that sound was every time I walked by this particular tree) as well as butterflies who seek them out. The fruits are especially adored by cedar waxwings and the fall color is quite vibrant. So many attributes for this "sleeper tree" which is apparently very underused in gardens. 

All of this got me thinking that it would be a good idea to document what native plants and trees exist on the property, those that were always here and probably have been for a very long time. With that I give you a walkabout of most of the native plants I have found thus far.

Tellima grandiflora or fringecups. These, along with many of the following plants, were discovered in recent weeks in the western shady border where blackberry once took over. Please excuse the many weeds, by the way. They are all on their way out so these and other native genera can thrive.

Its sweet round-ish leaves can be found springing up in many places.

We recently saw this tree in another post, but it's so wonderful it deserves a repeat viewing. It is Cornus nuttallii, dogwood.

The blooms are almost otherworldly and could be seen by night.

Here it is in full bloom.

I am glad to see so many of these workhorse ferns, sword fern or Polystichum munitum. They are evergreen and tough as nails.

Sprinkled throughout the woodland borders of our property is salal or Gaultheria shallon. It pops up here and there and is most welcome. I had a difficult time getting it established at the old garden, so it's a pleasure to see it thriving here under the protective canopy of maple and hazelnut trees.

Here are the last to plants together. My hand had nothing whatsoever to do with this planting, it's all nature.

A woodland strawberry, likely Fragaria vesca.

I believe this is our native hazelnut but I am not sure. Either way there is a large thicket of it right at the edge of the property and a few others scattered about. 

These are its leaves. If anyone can positively i.d. this, I would be most grateful.

Here is the cascara that I mentioned earlier that was the inspiration for this post. The flowers are so small, I didn't know what the bees were after!

It is lovely, however. Not a large tree, it has interesting whitish bark and a good structure.

I did mention these native iris in another post, but like the dogwood it is worth repeating. We have several clumps in the very wild east half of the property.

Hydrophyllum tenuipes or Pacific waterleaf.

I have seen this around many places here in the Pacific Northwest and never bothered to look it up. Now I know.

There is so much snowberry around, I feel a fool for buying about a dozen and planting them around. That's ok, I really adore this plant. It's deciduous so I did not know what I had until the leaves emerged. It will eventually have the tiniest pink and white flowers which the hummingbirds seek out.

Here is some mixed in with a native rose, although I am not sure if it is a Nootka rose or not. When it blooms I will know more.

Oregon grape, this one is Mahonia nervosa. Its bright green new growth is just lovely. This will have yellow flowers in the late winter (these are all too small to produce any serious flowers yet) and will have fruits that attracts wildlife.

I have some difficulty with ferns, but I believe this is Dryopteris expansa or spiny wood fern.

At first David was pulling these out thinking they were blackberry starts. They are actually thimbleberry or Rubus parviflorus. The plants are thornless and the berries edible, so what's not to love? I do realize they can overtake an area so I'll keep an eye on them.

This little plant is new to me, it's Circaea alpina or enchanter's nightshade. Even though it has the species name alpina, it is not an alpine plant, it is found in forests and other cool locales.

Sweet, if inconspicuous, flowers.

This one has me stumped. It could very well be Ranunculus uncinatus or woodland buttercup, but having never seen this before, I am not certain.

Moving out of the woodland realm, nearly all of the mature trees on our property are native. Left to right: Douglas fir, hazelnut, big leaf maple and dogwood.

My favorite tree of them all, our gorgeous Oregon white oak, backlit by the morning sun.

Here's a bonus photo from a walk in our local park, a native Dichelostemma congestum (commonly known as "ookow") in full bloom. 

A sweet reminder why natives are great! A Pacific tree frog found hanging around some of my pots.

As I look around at all of these sweet little (and big) plants, it really starts to sink in: I am so fortunate to be the next caretaker of this beautiful piece of land. My goal, as it has been all along, is that when I eventually leave this planet, the garden I have touched will be in better shape than when I found it. A lot of these plants may not look like much now, but their roll and function in this garden are critical. They provide food, shelter, nectar and are host plants for many insects. In time as I weed out the nasty invasive plants, these will colonize and create balance. Even just removing the blackberries revealed little beauties which I'm sure languished under deep shade with little rain. I am thrilled to be doing this, it's a lot of long hard hours before me but it's my life's work.

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and until next time, happy gardening!


  1. Anonymous10:57 AM PDT

    You need some beautiful coltsfoot it has amazing large leaves.

  2. Careful with the fringecups, they will colonize thickly. You'll have a carpet of little ones next spring. Those leaves do look a lot like my hazelnut/filbert, but I'm not an authority on plants.

    1. Thanks, Alison - actually fringecups everywhere would be mucho better than what I have how...ahah...but I'll heed your warnings.

  3. You've found all sorts of goodies! How fun.

  4. Further evidence that this was the perfect property for you to land on (no pun intended)!

    1. Yay! It is the perfect property...pun and all most welcome!

  5. Wonderful head start for your native plant collection. You have already put your stamp on this place, and this is only the beginning. It was a privilege to see it in the early stages.

    1. Aaw, thanks Ricki - it was a treat having you all over! It's hard showing it at this stage but I have to let go of ego and know that we are only two people doing our best...we're trying to enjoy the ride. We are, actually...enjoying the ride!

  6. Aw, thanks for the mention, Tamara. Cascara is also famous as a source of laxative. Maybe people feel awkward growing them in their yards. lol. No, I really think it is under-appreciated as an ornamental and ecological asset. I love Circaea alpina. It suddenly appeared in the woods at my parents' house one year, and has since proven to be one of the few small forbs that can compete with Geranium robertianum. It emerges before the invasive geranium in spring and shades the soil, preventing the geranium seeds from germinating. Pretty sure that's the native hazelnut. If you find nuts on them, you'll be able to tell easily, as the husks form a distinctive beak at the end. It's so exciting finding out what's already growing naturally in your yard, isn't it? And as you continue to remove the invasives and foster the natives, you'll discover new natives coming into your garden.

    1. Really? How do I extract the laxative part? Hahah..KIDDING. I really like this tree and have noticed about 6 or so on the property. Now that I know what they are and that they have value for wildlife as well as fall color, they will stay. The Circaea alpina is cool, I have it in one small spot but hope it will spread around. OK, I'll watch the nuts on the hazels - and yes, it IS exciting to see what's growing! I love it! Thanks for the I.D., the FABULOUS plants (I planted them ALL this weekend) and for being a good gardening friend :)

  7. That one you asked for ID is, I think, a Hazelnut tree.


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