Native Plant of the Month: Pink Flowering Currant

As thousands of homes were lost in the Almeda fire, thousands of hummingbird feeders along Bear Creek were vaporized along with them. We wondered, “What native plants could take their place?”

Ribes sanguineum, aka Pink Flowering Currant,is a prime candidate.

December Plant of the Month: Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

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!

November Native Plant of the Month: Licorice Fern

RNPP has a Native Plant of the Month column in the Rogue Basin Partnership newsletter! You can find the full RBP November newsletter here, and our Native Plant of the Month Column copied below.

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.

February Native Plant of the Month: Snow Queen

RNPP has a Native Plant of the Month column in the Rogue Basin Partnership newsletter! You can find the full RBP February newsletter here, and our Native Plant of the Month Column copied below.

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

January Native Plant of the Month: Snowberry

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