Author: Rogue Native Plant Partnership | Kathryn Prive
Date: September 14th 2021
Meeting slides for partnership meeting that took place on September 14th 2021 over zoom.
Author: Rogue Native Plant Partnership | Kathryn Prive
Date: September 14th 2021
Meeting slides for partnership meeting that took place on September 14th 2021 over zoom.
“There are now more Starbucks in California than monarch butterflies.” This simple statement from the Center for Biological Diversity sums up a dark forecast for this iconic pollinator.
Western monarchs have declined by over 99.9% since the 1980s, with just under 2,000 migrating individuals found at the most recent count in late 2020. Other pollinators, too, are threatened: The Western Bumble Bee has declined 90% in the past two decades, and butterflies like the Mardon Skipper and the Oregon Branded Skipper are known to only exist in isolated and shrinking populations, according to the Oregon Biodiversity Information Center.
Federal lawmakers are stepping in to address this issue by making funds available for habitat improvement and conservation projects across the West, and specifically places like the Klamath-Siskiyous, where species endemism is high.
Two major pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress which, if passed, could provide a major influx of cash to support habitat restoration in our region. One is the Monarch Action, Recovery, and Conservation of Habitat Act (MONARCH Act) of 2021, which would authorize $62.5 million for western monarch conservation projects, and another $62.5 million to implement the Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan, paid out over the next five years.
This plan, developed by US Fish & Wildlife, calls for habitat restoration with a focus on native plants that provide food and habitat for monarchs and other pollinators.
The second piece of legislation is the Monarchs & Pollinators Highway Act. This act would earmark $35 million in funding to go toward pollinator-friendly projects on roadsides and highway rights-of-way. The Oregon Department of Transportation and local Native American tribes would be eligible to apply for these grants. (ODOT as well as several tribal groups already participate in the Rogue Native Plant Partnership.)
Both the MONARCH and the Monarchs & Pollinators Highway Act are seeing solid support by legislators, and our local offices of the US Fish & Wildlife Service are encouraging partners to develop “shovel-ready” projects that can be implemented if or when these funds become available, which could be as early as fall 2021. Altogether about $55 million per year in funding could be released if the bills go through.
What’s a “shovel-ready” project? One that puts native plants in the ground now so that pollinators can access them this time next year. The underlying message here is that we need more native plants. Restoration practitioners will be looking for containerized plants for their projects, as well as native grass and wildflower seeds that can be direct sown. To meet the potential demand for native plant materials in the coming years, local growers will need to scale up their production. Seeds will need to be increased in grow-out operations over multiple acres, and many hours of work will go into turning those seeds into habitat.
For the monarchs and other fascinating, beautiful and ecologically critical pollinators, we think it will be worth the effort.
Want to get involved?
Common Fiddleneck (Amsinkia menziesii) is a fun yellow flower with a long, gradually unfurling bloom that resembles the top of a fiddle. Although it is native all across the western US and is good at colonizing dry, disturbed areas, we don’t see it too often here in the Rogue Valley! That’s too bad because it’s classified as a valuable resource for pollinators by the Xerces Society, and it’s a self-seeder and easy to grow.
2021 seems to have been an extra-great year for Amsinkia. RNPP member Michelle wrote us this spring to say “The bloom is off the charts this year!”
Do you have Amsinkia growing nearby that you’d like to harvest? The seeds of this wildflower are abundant and easy to collect. Just as the blooming flowers progress up the stem (starting at the bottom), so do the ripening seeds. At this point in the year, the seeds from the bottom will have already dropped off, ensuring regeneration of this annual plant next year. Now’s the time to come by and collect the rest of the seeds for sowing elsewhere!
Fawn lilies (Erythronium genus) are a sure sign that spring has arrived in Pacific Northwest, and we have a couple of special local species that only occur here in the Klamath Siskiyous: Erythronium klamathenses and howellii.
On the shady forest floor, fawn lilies might not grow taller than your hiking boot, but coming across a large patch of them in late March to early May is a delightful surprise. You might need to get your chin to the earth to appreciate the delicate beauty of these downward-facing blossoms!
Erythronium grow from bulbs, a source of sugar that allows them to bloom earlier in the year than other wildflowers. Although they can produce additional bulbs to grow their numbers, the primary way in which they spread is by seed. So, it’s extra important not to pick these lovely forest friends, so that they can come back with reinforcements next year!
Rogue Native Plant Partnership seeks to bring together native plant (and seed) growers with people who need native plant materials for landscaping and habitat restoration. One way we typically do this is through a native plant sale in the spring, but this year, the growers we normally work with simply did not have enough plants on hand to justify holding a sale!
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any native plants available in the Rogue Basin. We put together this list so that those seeking plants this spring (or any time of year) can hopefully find what they’re looking for.
These events are typically hosted by non-profit groups or small farms with roadside stands. Two RNPP members hold pop-up sales every year: Pollinator Project Rogue Valley and Jackson County Master Gardeners.
This educational nonprofit holds outdoor plant sales in the spring and fall. With a focus on native pollinators, plants are from local growers or grown on site from seed from their demonstration garden.
This April 25th, they are hosting their second annual Native Plants for the Pollinators sale April 25th. Suzie Savoie of Klamath Siskiyou Native Seeds is the featured vendor, with additional plants available from PPRV.
A preliminary list of plants that will be available at the sale will be posted on the Facebook Event page by April 5th.
COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place, including timed shopping. Go to the Eventbrite to register for the hour that you plan to shop.
Location: 312 N. Main St, Phoenix, OR – Enter off 4th St.
Native plants grown by Master Gardeners, what could be better than that?! Several pop-up sales are held annually at the OSU Extension gardens. Check the Jackson County MGA Facebook page to learn about upcoming sales, or contact Lynn Kunstman to make an appointment.
Location: OSU Extension, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point, Oregon
Nurseries typically offer a wide selection of non-native and native plants, with staff members available to answer your questions about where, when and why to plant your purchases. Southern Oregon is home to some truly outstanding nurseries, including:
Offering a variety of native trees, shrubs and perennials, as well as some grasses and ferns. Find a list of the native plants they offer here: https://roguevalleynursery.com/plantlists/other-plant-lists/natives
Hours: Monday – Friday 9-4 and Saturday 11-4 (Winter hours)
Location: 3223 Taylor Rd., Central Point, OR
Contact: 541.840.6453 email@example.com
This popular nursery has a large selection of native trees, shrubs and perennials, all root-pruned and locally propagated.
Hours: Monday -Friday 9-1; Saturday 9-4
Location: 8677 Wagner Creek Road, Talent, OR
Contact: 541.535.3531 firstname.lastname@example.org
Grows and sells edible/medicinal herbs, perennial flowers and pollinator plants. Visit the website to order online.
Hours: Visit the nursery by appointment only
Location: 970 Cedar Flat Rd., Williams, OR
Contact: 541.846.7357 email@example.com
In addition to many native and non-native plants, this retail nursery sells a selection of western trees and shrubs.
Hours: Mon-Fri 8-3, or order online
Location: 14643 Water Gap Rd, Williams, OR
Contact: 541.846.7269 firstname.lastname@example.org
A diverse fruit and vegetable farm with a native plant nursery. Primarily focused on wholesale tree and shrub production for riparian restoration projects. Send an email or visit the website to learn about upcoming retail plant sales or schedule an appointment.
Location: Williams, OR
Do you have a large area to plant? The best pricing can be obtained by working with a grower to produce the quantity and variety of plants you need, starting a year or two ahead of when you need them in the ground.
This wholesale nursery propagates large quantities of native trees and shrubs for restoration projects and forestry. Minimum order size 200.
Location: Rogue River, OR
Contact: 541.592.2395 email@example.com
A wholesale propagation nursery producing a full line of container-grown native species for restoration projects, riparian and pollinator habitat enhancement.
Location: Jacksonville, OR
Contact: 541.899.1065 firstname.lastname@example.org
A diverse fruit and vegetable farm with a native plant nursery. Primarily focused on wholesale tree and shrub production for riparian restoration projects.
Location: Williams, OR
Location: Williams, OR
The Bureau of Land Management produces large quantities of native trees to plant on public lands. Occasionally, they have a surplus and offer trees to the general public. Call to find out availability.
Location: 3040 Biddle Rd, Medford, OR
Contact: 541.618.2333 email@example.com
Winter is when native bunchgrasses shine. After other understory plants lose their leaves and flowers, perennial bunchgrasses such as Lemmon’s needlegrass flare out from the earth while extending their root systems deep underground.
Lemmon’s needlegrass (Achnatherum lemmonii), bears long, needle-like awns extending from either side of the seed, a feature which can make this plant unpalatable to livestock. However, birds and small mammals have no problem plucking the nutritious seed from between the awns. Deer and elk also browse on Lemmon’s needlegrass, while moths and butterflies nest at the base, making this a key species for wildlife.
This attractive bunchgrass is popular as both a landscaping plant and in habitat restoration. It needs little maintenance once established and stays green late into the summer. It is an essential component of oak savannah and prairie habitat and, as shown in the photo, resprouts readily after a burn. There is even a local subspecies, Achnatherum lemmonii subsp. pubescens, that is adapted to serpentine soils.
Between moving to a dedicated seed storage facility, adapting to COVID and an unprecedented wildfire season, and stepping back to plan for the next five years, it’s been an eventful year for the Rogue Native Plant Partnership! Despite the challenges of the year, our partners have remained committed to the cause and the support from the community has been terrific. Read on for some highlights and photos from the past 12 months!
In masks and with mobile hand washing stations, volunteers showed up in force this year to collect seed and put native plant plugs in the ground. RNPP held a number of successful events, including:
In 2019, an RNPP subcommittee was formed to create a short list of “most wanted” woody plant species (shrubs and trees), which are highly desirable for restoration projects but difficult to source locally. It was decided that contracting with an expert botanical collector would be the best way to obtain these seeds, and in fall of 2020 we had our first delivery of seeds from Siskiyou Biosurvey.
Acting quickly, we were able get these seeds cleaned and turned around and sold to growers, so that they can be grown out over the winter and spring to become viable plants that will be used for restoration. After the fires that ripped through the Rogue Valley in September, growers and nurseries are expecting an unprecedented demand for shrub and tree plugs.
A big part of the Partnership mission is to get native plants in the hands of restoration practitioners, and this year we were able to sell seeds, plugs and containerized native plant starts.
Our achievements this year also comprise a handful of small “wins” that will streamline the process of collecting, cleaning and redistributing native seeds for years to come.
This year, we held two general Partnership meetings, and both were conducted remotely, with 25-30 people attending each meeting.
In addition to the General Meetings, we also held various subcommittee meetings to work on a riparian seed mix for post-fire restoration, plan for the future of RNPP, and continue to refine our priorities.
We look forward to another year of working together to bring more native plants to our wonderful Rogue Basin. Stay in touch and all the best in 2021!
Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a common perennial herb known for its fragrant leaves and healing properties. This widespread plant is found throughout the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Hemisphere. Yarrow thrives at a variety of elevations, in both wet and dry climates. In Southern Oregon, you might see yarrow in open grasslands, forests, or maybe even in the corner of your lawn.
You might be familiar with yarrow’s summer appearance: a wide cluster of flowers rising from a base of green, feather-like leaves. In winter, yarrow looks quite different. The stalk and flowers dry out, turning a dark brown color. Small pockets of seeds are left where the flowers used to be. Often you’ll still see the green, feathery leaves along the base of the plant, ready to grow again come spring.
Yarrow has been used medicinally for millenia. Leaves were commonly crushed and used as an astringent for wounds (to stop bleeding). Dried yarrow was made into a tea and used to cure digestive, respiratory ailments. The plant is also well loved by pollinating insects and a variety of wildlife!
Blame it on 2020 – our attempt to record the General Meeting on December 8th was not successful. Fortunately, we were able to take good written notes, so in this blog post we’ll summarize the fascinating and important presentation by Chris Adlam on what happened in the Almeda fire, and his ideas for improving community fire resilience using native plants. We also have thrown in a few slides from the presentation, and a link to all the slides at the end of the post.
Keep an eye out for the next RNPP blog post, where we will catch you up with the Rogue Native Plant Partnership updates, and our achievements in 2020.
Christopher Adlam may be new to the Rogue Valley, but having lived and studied in northern California, he may understand our fire future better than most! Chris recently joined the OSU Extension team as Southwest Oregon’s Regional Fire Specialist, and he holds his PhD in Ecology from UC Davis. He has studied the effects of fire on plant and animal diversity, as well as community fire resilience. So who better to bring in for Rogue Native Plant Partnership’s guest speaker for our late-fall General Meeting?
As he launched his slideshow, Chris wisely noted that this is a difficult subject for many, and we echo the sentiment that it’s not easy to talk about the science behind something that affected this community in such deep and diverse ways. However, we feel it is necessary to take a step back, and use our best methods of analysis to look at what happened. Like detectives, we can trace the path of the fire and see what it tells us about how to protect our communities the next time around. Though many homes and businesses were lost, the Almeda Fire could have been much, much worse. There are no simple explanations as to why the fire spread or failed to spread to certain areas of the valley, but we do know that vegetation – both native and invasive plants – played a role in both.
The Almeda fire started in Ashland on September 8th, 2020, and driven by strong winds, swept into the Bear Creek Greenway, where it burned through riparian zones, grassland, oak savannah and pear orchards before moving on to become an urban fire around Talent. When the fire left the greenway, and we saw houses burning other houses in a chain reaction.
Did the Greenway’s plants and trees, dry after a long, hot summer, cause homes to burn? Chris asks us to back up a minute before answering this question. When people think about the relationship between vegetation and structures, they either fall into the “liability model” camp or the “green solutions” camp. The “liability model” says that the real risk of wildfire is in wildlands, and that plants are setting homes on fire, making plants a liability. Under this model, people move into the wildland urban interface and cut down all the trees around their home in the name of fire safety.
The “green solutions” perspective, on the other hand, embraces the ability of healthy natural areas and vegetation to actually moderate the risk of fire. For example, plants can moderate fires by slowing their spread, slowing down wind speeds, and catching embers that would otherwise end up on someone’s roof.
Structures catch fire in three ways: Radiant heat, direct flame contact and embers. In the case of the Almeda fire, few structures had enough vegetation nearby to generate the amount of radiant heat or direct flame contact necessary to ignite a home. So, we can rule out the first two causes of structure fires in this event, which leaves embers as the sole remaining culprit. In fact, embers are the cause of most home fires that spread from wildlands; they can travel for miles to land on homes, work their way through roofing or siding material, and burn the home from the inside out. After that, radiant heat coming from other homes was the main method of fire spread in the urban Almeda fire.
Were embers generated by vegetation in the Greenway? Absolutely, and we are looking at one plant in particular that burns explosively, sending tall flames and embers into the air: Blackberry.
Almost immediately after the Almeda fire swept through our region, we heard from restoration practitioners about the profound differences in the impacts of fire on restored vs. non-restored areas. In areas that were restored with native plants, with no blackberry surrounding and climbing up the trunks of trees, the fire burned as fire naturally would in a riparian zone: low and slow. It top-burned understory grasses and native shrubs, without frying the soil, and without climbing into the canopy of large established trees. As a result, these trees survived the fire, and understory shrubs are already resprouting with new growth.
In areas that weren’t restored (most of the 300+ acres of the Bear Creek Greenway), where thickets of blackberry formed a thick blanket over the riparian zone, we saw high intensity fire that destroyed all understory vegetation (except for the hardy blackberry roots) and most of the large trees as well.
Yes, Chris agreed, removing blackberry and replacing it with native shrubs will definitely reduce fire risk. But there’s more that native vegetation can do to improve fire resiliency in our community, and it doesn’t need to be limited to the riparian zone.
Next, the discussion turned to potential strategies for putting native plants to work to improve our community’s fire resilience. Many native plants in our ecoregion are fire-adapted, meaning that they can resprout quickly after a burn, and thrive from the nutrients created by burned dead material. Some plants even need fire to reproduce, while others grow more fire resistant with age. For example, Ponderosa pine trees, though highly flammable when young, are fire-resistant when mature, with thick bark that deflects heat and embers.
One aspect of the behavior of the Almeda fire that we found interesting was the effect of “shelterbelts” of trees that were able to shield homes from fire. Deciduous trees like cottonwoods, or even mature conifers, when planted together, formed a “curtain” of vegetation that may have caught embers and let them fall to the ground, where they can extinguish themselves. This effect has been documented in Australia, where shelterbelts are commonly planted as windbreaks. Looking at images of these landscapes after a fire, homes behind shelterbelts were spared. Chris emphasized that this effect has only been observed anecdotally, but it deserves further study.
Expanding on the shelterbelt concept to shield homes, to shield entire communities from strong winds like we saw the day of the Almeda fire, is another possibility. Traditionally, the hillsides surrounding Ashland up to Medford have been populated by oaks and madrones; could these trees function as valley-wide shelterbelts to slow down windspeeds and capture embers traveling from afar?
After the slideshow, Chris fielded many questions from the audience, but we’d like to circle back to a question about the fears some members of the community have about vegetation in the wake of the fire. Falling back into the “liability model” of structure-vegetation interactions, some (not in this audience, but members of the community at large) are suggesting or considering clearing all trees and shrubs from properties to improve fire resistance.
Says Chris, “Your neighbor’s house has a higher likelihood of burning down your house than your vegetation does.” Yes, he says, if leaves and needles from nearby trees are covering the roof and filling the gutters, that would be a factor in setting a house on fire. But generally, the advice is to keep all vegetation cut back 5’ from homes, and to thin vegetation within 100’ of the home. (Read more about thinning recommendations from the NFPA.) This should be enough to prevent flames from a vegetative fire from spreading to a home. In fact, it’s possible to see situations where the house initially caught fire from an ember, and downwind trees were burned or scorched, but upwind trees suffered no damage. In other words, it’s not the trees lighting the houses on fire, but the other way around. The solution is to construct more fire resilient homes, which is already possible and not more expensive that traditional construction methods.
Some audience questions focused on the actions we can take next to improve fire resilience in our community while promoting the use of native plants in restoration efforts.
To that end, Rogue Native Plant Partnership has formed a working group to develop a native seed mix appropriate for reseeding riparian zones. Although the initial seeding of the Bear Creek Greenway has already taken place, it could be possible to include native grasses and wildflowers in future re-seedings. These species will provide benefits to wildlife while staying green later into the summer, reducing the flammability of these areas.
Meanwhile, we support all efforts to suppress blackberry re-growth until native plants can be established. Agencies and local governments are seeking funding for restoration work, and there’s some talk of a community visioning process to begin next year, to receive public input into how to manage the Greenway going forward. Participation of native plant enthusiasts and restoration practitioners will be vital, to identify and question “liability model” thinking. We don’t need to, nor should we eliminate all vegetation in fire-prone areas, but focus on evidenced-based solutions that work.
Access the RNPP Resource Library for:
An important component of any habitat restoration plan is the soil type. Knowing what types of soil are present on the property will help you decide which plants will do best in each location. When it comes to healthy plants, having the right soil conditions is about as important as siting the plant correctly for optimal sunlight (shade or full sun?) and water (dry or moist?).
Fortunately, the USDA’s Web Soil Survey exists to impart data already collected by the USDA to members of the public. It’s as easy as going to the website and entering your address (plus a couple extra steps). Let’s walk through it together:
As the reds and yellows of fall begin to fade, my eyes are drawn from the canopy to the forest floor, where spots of green create a vibrant contrast with the fallen leaves. Licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) is a common fern found in mixed conifer and deciduous woodlands, thriving in moist, shaded to partly-shaded environments. It is native from Southern Alaska to California, with isolated populations existing in Idaho and Arizona.
Licorice fern often grows on the mossy trunks and branches of deciduous trees, but can also be found on mossy rocks, logs, or the forest floor. Fronds have simple pinnae with pointed tips, and often swoop downward from their perch on tree trunks and branches. Licorice fern is named for its rhizomes, which taste of licorice. These rhizomes were used medicinally by Native Americans as a remedy for coughs, colds, and sore throats.
So far in our Restoration Best Practices blog post series, we’ve covered Developing an Ecological Restoration Plan and Site Preparation, which is particularly important if you’re planning to use native seeds to restore your site. Whether it’s a prairie, wetland, forest or another type of ecosystem, the survival and success of your native seeds is entirely dependent on having low competition from non-native plants and nice, loose soil in which to put down roots. We encourage you to go back and read those two posts if you haven’t yet. (Remember, a Restoration Plan is required if you are buying seeds from RNPP this fall!)
In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the reasons for using native seeds vs starts and how to choose seeds for your site. Then we’ll move into some of the technical details of creating a seed mix and introduce our calculator tool for figuring out how much seed to buy.
Growing plants from seed is more work than buying plants already established in containers. So why do it? Here are a few reasons:
In restoration work, it can often be difficult to decide what kind of plant community to establish, especially in sites long dominated by non-native species. It’s important not only to look toward the past, understanding what plants might have grown in your site (perhaps prior to the disturbance that caused non-natives to move in), but also toward the future. How might conditions change, and what plants are best suited to adapt to those changes – be it drought, flood or fire?
Seeds should be selected based on your restoration goals. Are you creating a pollinator meadow or trying to stabilize a streambank? Hopefully, you’ve already laid out these goals in your Restoration Plan. Your seed mix, plus any remaining weed or native seeds that survived the site preparation process, will be what determines the type of plant community that comes up in the spring (or fall if your seeding happens in the spring – see our Site Prep article for a discussion on the best time to plant your seeds).
Before you purchase seed, be sure to do some research on the plant and the conditions in which it likes to grow. This way, you can avoid planting seeds that will not be successful in your site.
There are two common ways of actually getting the seed on the ground: broadcasting by hand and drill seeding using a tractor.
Belly crank seeders and rollers can usually be rented out by the day from a local farm supply store, home improvement store or equipment rental business. Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District has a drill seeder for rent.
By choosing a specific seeding rate and sticking with it, we can introduce scientific accuracy to the art of restoration. We start with a target seeding rate and work from there.
What is seeding rate? Simply put, it’s the number of seeds you need to apply to a given area to achieve the desired plant coverage. Most restoration projects use a seeding rate of between 30-60 seeds/square foot. Knowing your seeding rate will help you determine the number of pounds or ounces of seeds to purchase.
What’s the ideal seeding rate for your site? It depends on your goals, seeding method and site conditions:
Now let’s talk about your seed mix. You don’t want a monoculture of one seed in your restoration site, but a mix of different species — it goes back to that plant community idea we were discussing earlier. Before you can figure out how much of each seed to buy, you’ll need to decide on what percentage of the total mix that each type of seed will occupy. For example, if your goal is to restore a native grassland meadow, you might shoot for 50% Danthonia californica (California oatgrass).
Finally, the seeding rate is dependent on the number of seeds per pound, which is different for each species. If you plan to purchase seeds from the RNPP Seed Sale, you can find the number of seeds per pound on the species description page or here in this handy table.
We created this spreadsheet as a quick method of calculating the quantity of seed you need to buy. You’ll need to first input the following data:
Here is what the calculator will give you after you enter the data above:
Ready to get started? Download the spreadsheet by clicking here and give it a go!
Tuula Rebhahn has spent the summer as Ecological Science Intern with The Understory Initiative. When she’s not out in the field counting plants, she’s a freelance writer and editor. Connect with her on Facebook or LinkedIn!
Are you planning on engaging in ecological restoration on your land? If so, an important first step is to develop a plan. It doesn’t have to be complex, but it is important to outline your plans, methods, and timeline so that you can keep on track and do the best you can for the area to be restored. Another reason to have an ecological restoration plan in place is to be able to share information with any agencies that you might be looking for support from. Additionally, the Rogue Native Plant Partnership’s annual native seed sale (next occurring in Fall 2020) requires seed buyers to have a basic restoration plan in place so that we know the hard-to-come-by seed is going to be used productively.
Below we have laid out the information that is useful to have in your restoration plan. We encourage you to use this opportunity to learn as much about your land as you can – about the soil, plants, historical impacts, wildlife habitat potential, and anything else you can dive into – it’s a great way to get more connected to your land and be able to do your best in enhancing plant and wildlife biodiversity. You can also download an example restoration plan here (Word document).
Introduction to the land:
Details of area/s of land to be restored (if more than one area, write up each set of details separately):
Any special considerations that need to be accounted for, eg.:
Useful Documents: the Rogue Native Plant Partnership Resources Library is a fantastic place to learn more about a range of topics related to ecological restoration, from weed removal to harvesting native seed to growing native plants in containers, and much more. Here are a few documents we thought might be particularly useful for when you are writing an ecological restoration plan:
Holly Mills is one of the local wholesale growers providing plants for RNPP’s native plant sale this spring. Her background is in organic vegetable gardening but she made the transition to native plant production for restoration projects a few years back under the guidance of James Kraemer of Silver Springs Nursery.
Below is a video interview we did with her about why she enjoys working with native plants and some of her tips on how to select the right species for your property.
We recently caught up with Taylor Starr, co-founder and Executive Director of White Oak Farm & Education Center in Williams, OR. Taylor is one of the growers of the native plants we are currently selling through our RNPP Spring Plant Sale (ending April 16). Before moving to Oregon, Taylor worked as a farmer, landscaper, and teacher in Northern California and Washington State. He has taught children organic gardening, natural history, and life sciences, and taught ecosystemology at UC Berkeley. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Holistic Ecology in 2000. Taylor grew up near the shores of Puget Sound, where he developed a love of the natural world through annual family backpacking trips in the Cascades and Olympics. He currently directs things at White Oak, farms a wide range of fruits and veggies, teaches permaculture and sustainable living skills to kids and adults, and plays as much soccer as he can with his eight-year-old daughter.
Can you tell us a bit about your native plant growing business and how you started out in this line of work?
Taylor: We run White Oak Farm & Education Center in Williams on 62 acres, where we have been for 18 years. We have been organic farming and running an environmental education center, mostly for kids but also for adults, focused on sustainable living skills, growing food and ecology. We’ve always had our own nursery for growing plants for our farm – for propagating fruit trees, berries, and hedgerow plants. But about six or seven years ago we started getting inquiries from people in the community about buying plants from us, so we started to ramp up production for local folks and that was pretty popular and successful, and got us excited about growing more plants. About two and a half years ago we started thinking about how we could make it a bigger part of the financial picture for supporting our organization and the farm, and what that might look like. I started researching around the valley and talking to different folks in the nursery trade, and especially focusing on small nurseries and what the niche was, what markets were underserved and what kind of opportunities existed.
I met James Kramer from Silver Springs Nursery and he really got me excited about focusing on native plants, and specifically focusing on native plants for restoration, which fitted in really well with what we were doing on the land. We were growing native plants for our own restoration projects here on the property for erosion control. Mostly uplands plantings, but some riparian projects as well. So I had a little bit of experience with natives, and a lot of enthusiasm. I’m an avid outdoor person and backpacker, so I was really excited about partnering with James, and that’s what we’ve been doing for the last couple of years. We are mostly doing wholesale, but also growing for local nurseries and for the local community. We are really pretty new in the world of native plant commercial production, and it’s a really steep learning curve, we’re learning lots, and are excited to just dig in deeper. We’ve been expanding a good bit each year. This year I’ve got about 1600 sq feet of greenhouse space, and that much again of shaded growing space, and trying to grow a wide diversity of native plants and see what does best for us, and what the most demand is for, and go from there.
Speaking of big learning curves, what are some of the biggest challenges you face with growing and selling native plants?
Taylor: The biggest challenges we face in growing native plants is the transition from organic farming – where I have two decades of experience and everything is old hat and basic and simple – to the natives where every species has very specific requirements for germination, and very specific protocols as far as stratification and seed collecting protocols. You can’t just order locally adapted native plant seed from the catalog the way you can with vegetable seed. Every step of the process is much more complex and much more self-reliant. If I want seed for something I pretty much need to go out and find it myself in the wild, or partner with James or Holly Mills, another growing partner we have on these projects.
Everything from seed collection all the way through to germination and growing the plants out is very specific for each species. I like that part of it because it’s a challenge, and it’s fun to have the challenge and feel like the success are bigger successes, but there’s definitely a lack of information about some of the protocols for these species, as well as the challenge of finding the seed and making sure the seed is viable and getting good germination.
On the selling side, I know the Rogue Native Plant Partnership is working on this issue, but being someone new in the world of commercial native plant marketing, it feels like there’s a little bit of a disconnect between the restoration project managers and the native plant growers. It’s going to be at least 12 months from seed collection to having the finished plant, so ideally 12 months ahead of time I would know, ok, there’s this much demand for this species, and this much demand for this other species, and I’m finding it’s a little hard to get that timing and demand information from the local players who implement the restoration projects. So that’s the biggest challenge, just knowing what the market is, and what plants are good to grow because there’s going to be a market for them down the road. There’s a little bit of security in knowing you can just keep watering them and hopefully there’s a demand for them the following year. It’s not like lettuce, where if you don’t sell it that week, it’s gone.
On the flip side, what do you see as some of the biggest benefits to growing native plants as a commercial grower?
Taylor: The fact that within the restoration movement, and even the home gardeners and landscapers, it feels like there’s growing awareness and enthusiasm about the importance of planting drought-tolerant plants, planting to provide habitat for pollinators and other native species. It seems like there’s growing awareness about the importance of that, so it feels like a good time to be growing native plants. There’s only going to be more awareness and more enthusiasm for doing more restoration work. Obviously there’s plenty of landscapes that need restoration, so there’s no lack of demand from a purely restoration standpoint. From an economic standpoint there’s more awareness of how if we don’t take long term care of our riparian areas especially, the economic costs are going to be far greater than the cost of doing this work. I feel like it’s only going to grow over time as people become more educated.
For me – coming from a world of more annuals and food-based crops – I have more flexibility if things don’t sell at a certain time because native plants are still going to maintain their value as long as I can keep them watered and healthy in the pots. It feels like there’s a little more security as far as the value being maintained in the plants over time.
Also I really like it because, labor-wise, there’s a lot of seeding work and seed collecting work in the fall, and through the winter there’s work with cuttings, and in the early spring there’s more seeding and greenhouse work. So it balances out really well with the annual vegetable and perennial fruit-producing season, which is busier in the spring and summer and the early fall. It works really well for me in terms of keeping folks on the farm employed throughout the season and having some income-producing projects happening on the farm during the winter months. It pairs really nicely for us with the farming.
I know we’re not meant to have favorites, but do you have any native plants that you particularly love growing?
Taylor: I didn’t know we weren’t supposed to have favorites! It’s funny because I was thinking about that, and it really depends on the day, you know? I get a lot of satisfaction from growing big trees. We named our farm White Oak Farm because we have a couple of grandmother oaks on the property that are just super inspiring because I know they have been there for hundreds of years. The oak tree is such a keystone species in Southern Oregon, for food production for animals and habitat, and a food source for humans over the centuries. So I love planting oaks and acorns. Last year we did a big acorn collection project with some school kids who came out to the farm and collected thousands of acorns from two of our biggest acorn producing oaks. Unfortunately, we were going to plant them with the kids this spring during spring school visits, but of course like everyone else right now, our lives are a little bit topsy turvy so there’s no kids here to plant the acorns with us. So we’re planting them ourselves.
I love to grow oaks and all the other big trees – our maple seedlings are two inches tall right now in their little pots and that’s super satisfying. I’ve also been really enjoying some of the shrubby species, the dogwoods and willows this winter have been great to work with. I love elderberry, so experimenting with seedlings and cuttings with elderberries is really satisfying. So a wide range are favorites depending on the day and what I’m working on.
Gardeners sometimes look to native plants as more likely to be deer-proof, but I’ve certainly discovered that’s not always the case. Have you discovered any native plants that you think are truly, really, actually, 100% deer-proof?
Taylor: One of my first jobs, when I was in high school in the summer time, was working for a local nursery and landscaper up in Washington, and one of the first things he said was, “Never tell a customer that something is 100% deer-proof because I can guarantee the deer will eat that plant the first week it goes in the ground.” I think deer have been eating native plants for as long as there’s been deer, so I don’t know that there’s anything specific to native plants that makes them less likely to be popular with the deer. I’ve seen deer eat almost anything, I think it just depends on the time of year.
In the summer, when it’s so dry up in the hills and the deer come down to the irrigated yards and the edges of the irrigated zones, they are just so hungry for anything that’s got moisture in it. I would say that the less irrigated the area, I’ve noticed the deer are less likely to browse. They really smell the water, so the faster growing, the more well-watered and fertilized the plant, the more likely they are to eat it, as far as I’ve been able to notice.
When talking to gardeners and land stewards, what do you most often find yourself saying to encourage them to purchase and grow native plants?
Taylor: I’m a terrible marketer so I don’t know if I necessarily say anything to anybody to try and encourage them to do anything! People are just going to do what they are going to do. I take the approach that, hey, I’m here growing these things, if you want them that’s great. I’d love to sell them to you. There’s so many benefits that are so obvious, from drought-tolerant to habitat creation. I feel like the pollinator angle has gained a lot more awareness over the last few years, and it’s been cool to see customers ask about that and think about that more. But I’m a big fan of hedgerows in general, and trying to encourage people to plant hedgerows for privacy, for shade, for habitat, for the pollinators, for hopefully some products that people can harvest as well. Maybe berries for medicine, maybe basketry materials, or browse for animals. There’s just so many benefits to planting natives, and I feel like the people I usually find myself talking to about this stuff already know it’s a good idea, and it’s more about helping them to get what’s the right thing for their site. I think that there’s definitely growing enthusiasm for planting natives and I think that’s really exciting.
Do you have any tips for people that want to propagate native plants for their own use? Or as a business?
Taylor: I would probably say the same advice for both situations, which is just to start experimenting. That’s how we started doing the nursery on a commercial basis. It was just years of experimenting and growing plants for ourselves to plant out on the farm and seeing what we enjoyed growing without having to invest a lot of money or a lot of time into infrastructure. Playing around with different species and experimenting, and then seeing if it’s something you like to do and something you can see having economic potential. I think just starting out by diving in and doing things on a small scale, and not being afraid to fail.
Going out and seeing what kind of seeds you can collect in your neighborhood or on your own land, and playing around with it, seems like the best way to approach it from the small scale home nursery perspective. But even if you’re thinking about doing something commercial, I think messing around with it on a small scale makes a lot of sense before diving in and spending a bunch of money on infrastructure. Because it does take having the greenhouse space and having the controlled environment to work with, and having the irrigation, and having the pots or the soil. For us, because we were coming from farming, we already had a lot of those things in place and we were able to repurpose this corner of the greenhouse or repurpose pots, and slowly build up the infrastructure to run the nursery as its own little business. At least for me, that was a good way to do it because it lessened the risk of tackling something that could prove to not be successful, and made it easier to slowly get going. I would just experiment, I think that’s the best way to get into nearly any new activity.
A number of RNPP Partners are working on important ecological restoration projects in the Rogue Basin, and have shared information with us about their process and progress, including the species of native seeds used, and methods they have used for site preparation and ongoing care and monitoring. This information is shared with the intention of providing useful information to those wanting to start their own ecological restoration project in the Rogue Basin.
This table will be updated with more information as these ecological restoration projects progress, and with new restoration projects that RNPP partners undertake.
Location & Habitats Present
Key Restoration Purposes
Plant Species Used (seed)
Site Preparation Methods
Location: Ashland, private property, valley floor
Hazard fuels reduction, wildlife habitat enhancement, invasives mitigation, riparian restoration, restoring burn area
Removal of flammable brush along driveway and near structures, and removal of invasive species in pasture and riparian zones using tools and physical labor.
Regular visual surveys
Achyrachaena mollis: Mid-november 2018 broadcast, have not seen any survival. Pseudoroegneria spicata: Mid-november 2018 broadcast in field, some germination and survival. Poa secunda: Broadcast fall last 2018, germinated fairly well, appreciated water during the 2019 summer. Clarkia purpurea ssp. viminea: Mid-november broadcast, good germination, not certain if it persisted to going to seed.
Location: Sams Valley (Gold Hill), private property, oak woodland & mixed conifer forest.
Small diameter tree removal, invasives mitigation, hazard fuels reduction, wildlife habitat enhancement
Removal of invasives by hand pulling and weed wrench, removing small diameter trees, limbing up remaining trees, chipping woody residue to remain in forest, planting native vegetation cover (seeds and shrubs).
Hand seeding. Fescues with rake and foot trod in some areas. Hand-mixes of seeds boot-stomped in before hand-made cages put around woody native shrubs. Some broadcasting,
Regular visual surveys, at least weekly during new native shrub watering season, May- October 2019. Photographing wildflowers blooming when spotted.
Most of 5 bunchgrass species held back and seeded in winter 2019-2020.
Location: Little Butte Creek, Eagle Point. City of Eagle Point, Medford Water Comission & Bureau of Land Management partnership
Flood plain restoration, wildlife habitat enhancement, invasives mitigation, riparian restoration, improved water quality, improved native plant biodiversity
Recontouring of bank slopes, log jams buried in banks, blackberry and reed canary grass removal, regrading of previously blocked creek channel, and planting and seeding of native plants.
Location: Rogue River property of Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
Restoring burned area
Leaves removed to expose bare earth before seeding
Seed broadcast and raked into earth. Hay applied to cover seeded bare earth.
Plot development and monitoring
A 50 x 100 foot plot was established on 11-9-2018. Leaves were removed to expose the bare soil and the seeds were raked into the ground. The plot was treated with 6 lbs per acre (.70 lbs) of Elymus glaucus. On 1/3 of the short side of each plot (16.5 x 100 feet), an additional 6 lbs per acre (.23 lbs) was applied. On ½ of the long side of the plot (50 x 50 feet), hay was applied to cover the bare ground. Didn’t get final pictures but it sounds like the seed didn’t take very well. A 10 ft x 10 ft test plot of Pseudoroegneria spicata was created nearby on 11-9-2018. Leaves were raked to remove the bare soil, seeds applied, raked in, and the soil was left bare. No luck here either.
Private Property assisted by ODFW
Restoring burned area
Seed to be broadcast Fall 2019
Location: Denman Wildlife Area (ODFW)
Restoring burned area
No-till seed drill
Only 4-5 passes were made on the outer edges of the meadow with the no-till seed drill, because application rate was too high starting off. No seed was applied in the center of the meadow, or in areas with high density of blackberry. Some seed did well (BRCA) but there’s still a lot of non-native competition. Didn’t see any LOCRA.
Location: Rogue River Preserve (Southern Oregon Land Conservancy).
Invasives mitigation and restoring disturbed areas
Disturb soil before seeding
Spread seed on disturbed soil in winter after weed removal
The Elymus has not come up at the Japanese knotweed site, but other bunchgrasses are coming up along the roadside.
Location: Sampson Creek Preserve (Selberg Institute).
Pollinator habitat enhancement, invasives mitigation
Purchased seed: *Achillea millefolium
Weed whacking in area where planting happened, prescribed burn in area where seed was broadcast
Broadcast after prescribed burn
Test site within the prescribed burn area is being monitored for seed germination success
Location: Bear Creek near Pine Street in Central Point (Rogue Valley Council of Governments)
Restoring burned area and improving native plant biodiversity
Spot spraying blackberry with herbicide
Broadcast seeding, using straw / mulch to cover
Monthly observation monitoring to check native plant and invasive growth
Location: Kane Creek / Stage Rd Culvert Replacement (The Freshwater Trust)
Restoring disturbed area, improved water quality, improved wildlife habitat, invasives mitigation
Treatment of invasives with herbicide
Photo point, qualitative, and quantitative monitoring will be conducted on the project site.
Location: Hwy 99 Applegate River Bridge (The Freshwater Trust)
Restoring disturbed area, improved water quality, improved wildlife habitat, invasives mitigation
Treatment of invasives with herbicide
Photo point, qualitative, and quantitative monitoring will be conducted on the project site.
Location: Whetstone Savana Preserve Vernal Pool Ash Swale (The Freshwater Trust)
Restoring disturbed area, improved water quality, improved wildlife habitat, invasives mitigation
Manual, mechanical and chemical forms of weed suppression (with extra care being used in use of chemicals)
The bare ground between plantings will be seeded with a site-appropriate native species mix.
In person site assessments and qualitative monitoring will be used to adaptively manage the site
Location: Eagle Point solar farm (Understory Consulting)
Improved native plant biodiversity, improved wildlife habitat, invasives mitigation
Herbicide, mowing, box scraping
Drill seeding, broadcast seeding
Quadrats arranged on a grid throughout the property
After one year, invasive grass cover decreased by about 99%. However, that was mostly replaced by invasive annual forbs along with some of the native species that we seeded. Native cover only increased by about 3%. Follow-up treatments will include pre-emergent herbicide to try and limit the germination of annual weeds and kill the seed bank. Additional native seeding, including more grasses will occur after the weed seed bank is acceptable exhausted.
Location: Medford foothills (Pacific Slope Consulting)
Hazard fuels reduction, wildlife habitat enhancement, small diameter tree removal, improved native plant biodiversity
Small pile burning
Growing season species tally for 1 - 2 years following seeding
Location: Medford Water Commission Vernal Pools Preserve (Terra Science Inc)
Invasives mitigation, improved water quality, improved native plant biodiversity, restoring disturbed area
Prescribed burn (every five years). Shallow discing of uplands prior to broadcast.
Revisit annual vegetation plots; square meter vegetation analysis during peak bloom periods.
Upland mound data assessment compared pre-burn baseline vegetation communities to post fire and seed introduction. Analysis documents a 91.9% reduction of invasive Taeniatherum caput medusa with a 188.4% increase of native species atop mound landforms.
Location: Rogue Valley Manor, Medford
Post construction restoration, improve native plant biodiversity
Broadcast seeding in the Fall
Location: US Army Corp of Engineers site in Trail, OR
Hazard fules reduction, restoring burned area, invasives mitigation, small diameter tree removal, improved native plant biodiversity
Varies, minimal site prep due to lack of funds / staffing resources
Location: Whetstone Savanna Preserve (The Nature Conservancy)
Restoring burned area, invasives mitigation, improved native plant biodiversity
Prescribed fire and harrowing
Quadrat monitoring and photo points. At a minimum, assess plant guilds such as native annual forbs, non-native annual grasses.
Location: Sterling Creek, private property.
Small diameter tree removal, restoring disturbed areas, improving native plant biodiversity, invasives mitigation, improving wildlife habitat
Small pile burning, mechanical removal of invasives
Raking ground before and after hand seeding, including directly into remains of burn pile sites
Visual surveys and photos
Snow Queen (Synthyris reniformis) can be seen blossoming close to the ground in coniferous forests and woodlands from early February, making it one of the earliest native blooms to be seen each year in southern Oregon. But it can be very easily overlooked at only 2-6 inches tall, with flowers varying from white to blue to purple, so keep your eyes on the ground if you want to spot them. I noticed this lovely specimen (pictured) on the Sterling Mine Ditch trail near the Little Applegate recently, and once I noticed this plant, I suddenly realized they were everywhere!
There are six varieties of Synthyris (in the Figwort family) in Oregon, but the Snow queen is the species most commonly found at low to mid elevations. It is native to the Pacific NW, from the Puget Sound in Washington, to Northern California. With its flowers arriving so early, the Snow queen is an important source of food for pollinators and nectar eaters. This adds to the many reasons why the perennial Snow queen can be a great choice for planting in your garden.
Written by Lilia Letsch, Rogue Native Plant Partnership
Welcome to the first post in our new series about best practices in ecological restoration. Through this series we hope to provide an accessible but thorough outline of the most important elements of implementing ecological restoration projects. Nearly everything to do with ecological restoration is complex, and there is still a lot of research being done into best practices, so it is important to keep an eye open for new information. Our goal is to outline the basics, and point you in the direction of more detailed information if you choose to go in depth on any topics.
We are starting our ecological restoration best practices series with a focus on site preparation. The importance of site preparation is often underestimated but can have a huge impact on the success of your restoration project. If you would like to go more in depth into a range of site preparation issues, we highly recommend the Xerces Society “Organic Site Preparation for Wildflower Establishment” document.
The time of year that you choose to disperse native plant seeds at your restoration site is extremely important. Native plant seeding usually happens either in the fall or spring in the Pacific Northwest. In Southern Oregon, fall is generally the best time to get seeds in the ground, as it gives time for in-ground stratification (cold treatment) and mimics the seeding cycles of most native plants. Early spring can also be a hard time to do site preparation if the ground is too wet, or covered in snow! But spring seeding is still a good option if site preparation is possible and the seeds you are using don’t require a deep winter stratification.
Planting potted native plants is generally best done in the fall to provide time for settling and root growth, but early spring is an option if the ground is not too frozen and supplemental water can be provided if spring rains are not sufficient.
Recording the plants that already exist on your site is a great opportunity to better know the plants, their needs, and ways the native plants can be protected during the site preparation phase of your project. You can just write down a list in a notebook, or keep a spreadsheet where you can update information about shifts in flowering, seeding and other interesting observations you make. It’s also a really good idea to keep a record of any weeds you can identify and get to know their lifecycles, best times of year to work on removing them, and the best practices for how to reduce their impact on your restoration site.
Inadequate weed suppression can have massive impacts on the success of your ecological restoration project. For most weeds, an important control method is removing or cutting back the plant before it goes to seed. Different weed plants tend to require a variety of removal methods, used in progression. Some of these methods include solarization and sheet mulching, mowing, flame weeding or burning, and selective and careful herbicide (incl. organic) use. To dive further into best practices for removing some of our most detrimental weeds in Southern Oregon, check out these documents:
Solarization and sheet mulching: these methods are best used for smaller sites without steep slopes. Solarization utilizes large sheets of clear UV-stable plastic to cover an area containing weeds for 2-6 months in warmer climates, and up to 6 months in colder climates. Many trials have shown solarization to be an extremely successful method of weed removal, as the heat that builds up under the plastic not only kills plants, but also any weed seed bank that has built up in the soil. Occultation is a variation on solarization, where thick black plastic tarps are used to cut of access to sunlight, and produce large amounts of heat. Sheet mulching is useful in areas that are too shady for solarization to be effective, or in areas where laying out a large piece of plastic is impractical due to landscape features. Sheet mulching involves layering nitrogen and carbon based materials to smother weeds and stop the seed bank from being able to germinate. For example, a layer of nitrogen-based material (eg. animal or plant composted materials, pellets, meals, grass clippings) is then topped with a layer of carbon-based material (eg. cardboard, paper, sawdust, woodbark), and then these layers are repeated 1-2 more times, making sure that a heavier carbon-based material is on top to hold everything down.
Mowing: this can be a very useful tool in ensuring a weed population doesn’t get to produce seed. For most weeds, using a mower or weed wacker to remove any seed heads before they -are pollinated is a fast and efficient way to deplete the plant’s ability to reproduce. That said, it can be hard to time mowing so that the plant doesn’t have the time and energy to enter into the flowering stage again, while also navigating any fire season restrictions on cutting dry grass. This method involves getting to know your weeds and their reproductive cycle well, and should be used in tandem with other weed control methods.
Fire: flame weeders are an excellent resource for spring-time weed control. They must be used with great caution and attendance to fire restrictions, but they are an efficient and targeted method for removing weeds without impacting surrounding native plants. If you have a large area that would benefit from prescribed fire, get in touch with your local prescribed fire practitioners to see if there are any opportunities available for this work to be done on your land by trained professionals. In Southern Oregon, The Klamath Siskiyou Oak Network may be able to point you toward prescribed fire resources.
Smother cover crops: in areas where weed pressure is low to moderate, cover crops can be used to smother weed plants. Smother cover crops can also improve soil health and provide temporary forage for wildlife, including pollinators. This technique is best used on farmland or pasture that has access to irrigation and farming equipment. Certain varieties of buckwheat, sorghum, millet, oats, rye and vetch can be planted. Depending on the cover crop planted, they can not only compete aggressively with weeds for space, but also alter the nutrients in the soil and release allelopathic substances into the soil to make it undesirable for weed germination and growth. Timing and duration of the cover crop also varies depending upon species, but is very important to ensure that weed suppression is maximized.
Herbicides: using synthetic herbicides to control weeds is a very contentious issue, but best practices generally determine that they should be used as a last resort, and in a very targeted and well-planned manner. This is particularly important in riparian zones where herbicides can make their way into the aquatic ecosystem. Herbicides alone are rarely able to control the most problematic weeds, and should be considered part of a regime that involves other weed control methods. There are some organic herbicides available to use, and successful use depends on targeted plant species. For more information it is worth checking out the “Roadside Habitat for Monarchs: Monarch Butterflies, Weeds and Herbicides” and “Organic Pesticides: Minimizing Risks to Pollinators and Beneficial Insects” documents produced by the Xerces Society.
If you are utilizing native seeds in your restoration project, gentle ground disturbance is a useful step to take just before you are set to distribute the seed. It helps the seed penetrate the soil more rapidly and protect it from being washed elsewhere by rain, and from browsing wildlife (birds love seed!).
Raking: this is a great method for restoration projects in woodlands, forest floors, sloped locations and small areas being seeded. Hand raking disturbs the ground enough to allow seed to get into the soil, but doesn’t disturb soil structure or existing native plants as much as more intensive ground disturbance. It also allows you to easily avoid any preexisting native plants that you are trying to protect.
Light tillage: you can also use a small tiller / cultivator to prepare an area for seeding. This is particularly useful in pasture and farmland. If you have a weed issues, this is a method that should be considered carefully, as ground disturbance can expose weed seed banks in the soil to the ideal conditions for growth.
Keep an eye out for our next blog post about best practices in native plant seeding for your ecological restoration project! Don’t forget that we are always updating the Rogue Native Plant Partnership Resources Library with new useful resources for ecological restoration projects – from backyards to woodlands and everything in between!
RNPP has started writing a new Native Plant of the Month column for the Rogue Basin Partnership newsletter! You can find the full RBP January newsletter here, and our Native Plant of the Month Column copied below.
Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) is a common deciduous shrub, growing 3-6’ in riparian, swamp, moist meadow and open forest habitats, from sea to middle elevations. What makes it so lovely at this time of year is that its leafless stems are graced with clusters of bright white berries that sharply stand out against the winter landscape.
Snowberry is in the Honeysuckle family, and just like Honeysuckle berries, they are not edible to humans. The whole plant is toxic to humans, although records show that Native Americans have used the berries medicinally for a variety of purposes, and the stems for arrow shafts.
The berries have a mild saponin content, which produces foam when mixed with water. The whole plant is excellent grazing for wild and domestic animals, and birds enjoy the berries and cover that the shrubs provide. Birds also disperse the seeds widely, although the plant’s main reproductive method is to sprout new shoots from its spreading rhizome. As a result, you can often see it growing in quite substantial thickets, which provide great cover for small mammals.
If you are looking to replant a disturbed or eroded site, Snowberry is a great choice due its relatively fast growth and rhizomatous spreading. It grows in full sun, but tends to prefer some shade, and well-drained soil.
Written by Lilia Letsch, Rogue Native Plant Partnership
RNPP has started writing a new Native Plant of the Month column for the Rogue Basin Partnership newsletter! You can find the full RBP November newsletter here, and our Native Plant of the Month Column copied below.
Rubber Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) is a small perennial shrub that grows in a wide variety of harsh habitats from the west coast all the way to Texas and North Dakota. In the Southern Cascades you can still see the last of its flowers in November, but its prime flowering season is August-October. It’s bright and prolific yellow flowers are a very abundant source of food for pollinating insects and birds, and the leaves are an important winter food for browsing mammals.
Rubber Rabbitbrush is an excellent revegetation plant in disturbed areas, as it propagates easily and grows fast in a range of poor soil conditions. It also thrives in dry environments, making it a great choice for xeriscaping (landscapes designed to reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation). It is often found growing in desert-like habitats alongside sagebrush – both of which are in the Asteraceae (sunflower) family. Its deep growing roots also make it very useful for stabilizing ground prone to erosion or damaged by mining.
Ethnobotanical uses of the plant include making a yellow dye from the flowers, using the rubbery stems in basket making, and making tea and chewing gum. As its name suggests, it can actually be used to make rubber from the plant’s sap. Rubber production potential varies depending on the growing conditions, but it is known to produce more rubbery sap in dryer, hotter conditions.
Taxonomy fact: the “nauseosa” species name relates to the pungent smell the plant gives off when the leaves are rubbed. Some say it’s a pineapple-like aroma, while it’s more foul and rubbery to others.
RNPP has started writing a new Native Plant of the Month column for the Rogue Basin Partnership newsletter! You can find the full RBP October newsletter here, and our Native Plant of the Month Column copied below.
While walking through open grassy woodlands and prairies during late summer, you may have encountered a strong smell of minty vinegar on the breeze, and maybe even heard the hum of insects that eagerly congregate on the annual herb commonly known as Vinegarweed. The attractive purple flowers are an important late summer pollen source for many insects, with flowers known to bloom into October.
This sun-loving herb is quite shade intolerant, and prefers dry soils below 2,200 ft between Washington and Baja California. It is known to have phytotoxic properties that prevent other plants from growing happily around it. This could make it an excellent plant for competing with invasive herbs. It is also unlikely to be palatable to browsing animals due to its highly fragrant oils. Seeds mature and can be collected in late fall, and sown directly (raked into soil) in fall or early spring.
Vinegarweed is known to be highly medicinal, and has been used by west coast tribes for many healing purposes, including for treatment of colds, throat inflammation, headaches, infected sores and aching teeth.
The species name Lanceolatum means “lance-shaped”, which relates to the shape of Vinegarweed’s leaves. It’s always nice when the scientific name relates to the plant’s appearance! Its lovely little purple flowers are also a great way to identify the plant, but the easiest way to identify Vinegarweed by far is its powerful fragrance – you can’t miss it!
USDA Plant Guide: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_trla4.pdf