November Native Plant of the Month: Rubber Rabbitbrush

11/12/19 – 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.

Native Plant of the Month: Rubber Rabbitbrush

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.

 

October Native Plant of the Month: Vinegarweed

(10/11/19) – 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.

Native Plant of the Month: Vinegarweed

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

Upper Table Rock Seed Blitz and Yellow Starthistle Pulls

June 2017 – June 2019

For the third year in a row, volunteers with The Nature Conservancy and the Rogue Native Plant Partnership gathered on the slopes of Upper Table Rock to collect wildflower seed for future restoration projects and hand pull the highly invasive yellow starthistle.

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Yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) is an exotic annual herbaceous plant in the knapweed genus. The seeds from this plant can germinate whenever there is enough moisture in the soil. It starts as a small bluish green rosette and grows slowly through the winter months. Once the heat of the summer comes this plant bolts to produce yellow flowers subtended by thorny spikes.

Although yellow starthistle is an annual species that dies every year, it is able to produce a long taproot that depletes the soil of moisture making it nearly impossible for native species to grow nearby. This species is particularly difficult to manage because it can continue to produce flowers and seeds even after continual mowing or grazing by producing flowers very low to the ground. At Upper Table Rocks, years of volunteer-based hand-pulling has resulted in the almost complete eradication of this plant from the wildflower meadows at the site!

Ecological restoration involves many steps. The first step is often to change the disturbance patterns at the site (in this case stop the yellow starthistle invasion) followed by seeding the site with native wildflower and grass seeds. These precious seeds are hard to come by and expensive in Southern Oregon. To help tackle these challenges, volunteers with The Rogue Native Plant Partnership help to collect wildflower and grass seeds from native plants nearby. Once enough seed has been collected, it will either be used directly on the site or grown out at a nearby farm (increased) if more seed is needed than can reasonably be collected from wild plants.

AUTHOR:

Kathryn Prive
Rogue Native Plant Partnership

 

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Restoring huckleberry habitat as a cultural resource

On September 26th a large group of volunteers including Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians members, Forest Service and BLM employees and Rogue Native Plant Partnership volunteers converged on a recently burnt area just outside the town of Prospect in the High Cascades to help replant 1500 mountain huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum) plants.

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The area was burned during the 2017 Broken Lookout fire. The well-established plants were grown by the Forest Service’s nursery in Dorena from seed fortuitously collected onsite only two weeks before the Broken Lookout Fire started. This project is a collaboration between the Forest Service, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians and the Rogue Native Plant Partnership to restore an important cultural food resource.

It was a brisk but beautiful day up in the mountains, and after a smudging ceremony led by members of the Cow Creek Tribe, everyone got their planting equipment ready and hiked into the burn area to get huckleberries into the ground. In addition, monitoring plots were surveyed as part of a multi-year effort to obtain data that will help develop an understanding of the success of the replanting efforts.  There are still 8000 more plants to go in the ground, with that work being completed by contractors at the time of writing.

Huckleberries continue to be an incredibly important cultural food resource for Native Americans, and so many community members and government agencies coming together to support the replanting efforts is a powerful acknowledgement of understanding the huckleberry’s cultural significance. Thank you to everyone who came out for this great replanting effort!

AUTHOR:

Lilia Letsch
Rogue Native Plant Partnership

 

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Collecting milkweed seedpods for local pollinators and landowners

Ten Rogue Valley community members come together at the Forest Service’s J. Herbert Stone Nursery in Central Point to volunteer for a milkweed seedpod collecting event on September 9th. Even with a decent breeze sending the seed fluff (known more officially as “coma”) flying everywhere, we still managed to collect large amounts of both narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) and showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) seed pods. The beds of narrowleaf and showy milkweed have been funded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the seeds will be used in special seed mixes being prepared for landowners to enhance pollinator habitat on private lands in the region.

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Milkweed is a fantastic perennial flowering herb that is much loved by many pollinators, including the at-risk Monarch butterfly. Not too long-ago milkweed was an incredibly widespread plant, but has been eradicated in many areas in favor of agricultural crops, and now faces a lot of competition from introduced invasive plants. Luckily it is an easy plant to grow, and efforts are being put into introducing it back into the landscape on a broader scale. It couldn’t happen soon enough for the Monarch!

Many thanks to all of the volunteers who came out to help collect milkweed seeds and contribute to important pollinator habitat restoration!

Interesting taxonomy fact: In 1753, Swedish Botanist Carl Linnaeus named the genus Asclepias after Asclepius, the Greek god of healing.

AUTHOR:

Lilia Letsch
Rogue Native Plant Partnership

 

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Restoring disturbed ground on Mt Ashland with native forbs

June 2nd, 2019

We had a fantastic day on Mt Ashland on June 1st, working with a group of volunteers to plant out 4,500 native plant plugs in an area next to the Mt Ashland lodge that was recently disturbed by heavy machinery. Thanks to the folks at the Mt Ashland Ski Lodge for helping organize volunteers and providing snacks and drinks for everyone!

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The plants were grown by Silver Springs Nursery in the Applegate, from seed that we collected in 2018 on Mt Ashland. The species that were planted out included Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), Coyote Mint (Monardella sheltonii), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Roemer’s Fescue (Festuca roemeri), Squirretail grass (Elymus elymoides) and Sulphur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). Once grown in, these plants will create a beautiful meadow of wildflowers and native bunch grasses, and great habitat for pollinators and birds!

Post-planting care will involve regular watering for the first year, and ensuring that the area is cordoned off from the public so that the small plants won’t be damaged under foot. We look forward to monitoring the survival rate and growth of these plants, and enjoying the first flush of wildflowers next spring.

Thanks to the amazing volunteers!

AUTHOR:

Lilia Letsch
Rogue Native Plant Partnership

 

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Growing plants for seed production at Long Shadow Fields

April 25, 2019

Long Shadow Fields in Talent is one of a handful of local farms working with the Rogue Native Plant Partnership to develop a new model of native forb seed production. Seed for native forbs – herbs, and grasses – can often be hard to come by in the amounts required for local ecological restoration projects. Growing such plants out for seeds is often cost prohibitive due to the amount of time it can take for plants to develop to the flowering stage, and the amount of labor required to harvest the seed. But through a non-profit / small farm partnership, we are hoping to alleviate the risks and pressures of growing native seed for restoration projects in the Rogue Basin.

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Gary Kliewer at Long Shadow Fields grew a selection of native herbs and forbs from seeds that RNPP supplied from our wild seed harvesting events. A volunteer planting event was organized to help get a lot of the small native herbs in the ground. RNPP will continue to support Gary’s native seed production through volunteer labor, funding through grants, and technical support from a network of other experts in the Pacific Northwest.

The volunteer planting event on April 24th was a great success, we planted hundreds of native plugs and did some great networking and knowledge sharing. Thank you so much to everyone that came and helped! Keep an eye open for future events at Long Shadow Fields and other local farmers we are working with to grow regionally adapted native herbs and grasses for ecological restoration projects happening in our community.

Planting Wyethia into straight rows for ease of mechanical weeding.

AUTHOR:

Lilia Letsch
Rogue Native Plant Partnership

 

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