Hansen's Northwest Native Plant Database


Wallace W Hansen Northwest Native Plant Journal
Northwest Native Plant Newsletter and Journal, May 2000


1 – "To Do" List For Native Plants - Early Summer

2 – All About Native Huckleberries

3 – Outstanding Plant Sites To Visit In May and June

4 – Propagating Natives From Cuttings, Part 1

5 – Native Plant Associations – Plants For Different NW Areas

6 – Blueblossom Evergreen Native Lilacs

7 – Propagating Natives From Seed – Gathering & Storing Seed

8 - Personal Notes

9 – Next Issue


Oval Leaf Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium)

1 – "To Do" List For Native Plants For Spring

A – "Rusts" on deciduous shrubs – April and often May is a bad time for various "rusts" to infect deciduous shrubs. This usually is not fatal but does not look good. The wet and cool weather causes "rusts" to pop up overnight. I use the fungicides "Zyban" and "Alliette." You can probably buy smaller quantities of similar sprays in garden centers. If nothing else, use sprays formulated for roses. As the weather gets warmer and drier into June and July, usually rust is not a problem.

B – Get your spring plantings in before July. Otherwise, start planning for fall plantings. As you get into June, use plenty of water when shifting plants from pots to ground. Be careful in moving plants that were in shady areas into direct sun. If there are some early hot, sunny days, rig some shade and gradually adapt the plant to full sun. You might be shifting a plant from a nice, cozy nursery out into the real world – be kind to your precious plants – they respond like any living organism.

C - Pruning – while the regular pruning season is past, do not hesitate to use a pruning shears from time to time. My wild roses in pots grow so fast that I prune them back at least twice in the summer growing season, both tops and excess stems.

D – In a garden situation, use plenty of mulch around the base of new plants to conserve water and reduce water stress. In this particular part of the northwest, ground fir bark is the best.

E - Watch for "yellow leaf" plants. Yellow leaves indicate the plants needs nitrogen, iron or magnesium. Treat these by adding fertilizer high in these elements, preferably by liquid fertilizer. You might repeat every week until you get nice green leaves back again.

2– All About Native Huckleberries (Vaccinium)

The genus vaccinium includes huckleberries, blueberries and cranberries. I note that Hitchcock & Cronquist (Flora of the Pacific Northwest) list 13 species in the vaccinium genus. Know and enjoy and be proud of your northwest hucks!

I grow six "huckleberries" found in the northwest. One species is evergreen, the others are deciduous. All have edible, round berries. The red huckleberry is a bit on the "tart" side for flavor. The remainder have a sweet, unique huckleberry flavor, not found elsewhere. How does one describe the huckleberry flavor? I think of the word "musky." Musk comes from musk deer and is used in perfume making. This would be a smell, but I am talking flavor. (???) Anyway, when you taste huckleberries or eat a huckleberry pie, you know what I mean! I discuss six northwest huckleberries below. I grow hucks from seed.

Most species are excellent for ornamental use, especially V. parvifolium and V. ovatum. Flowers on vacciniums are pink/white or white, small and urn shaped. They cluster together.

Huckleberries are the gourmet berry of the northwest – very special and hard to buy anyplace. Should be in every native plant garden. It will be well worth your while to get acquainted with the northwest native hucks and grow them for your enjoyment (and the enjoyment of your friends (two legged, four legged, wings or whatever!)

Vaccinium caespitosum (Dwarf Huckleberry, Dwarf Bilberry)

A short deciduous huckleberry, about 12" tall. Found from Alaska south in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains and into California. Also found above timberline in mountain meadows and slopes.

Vaccinium membranaceum (Mountain Huckleberry, Black Huckleberry, Big Whortleberry)

A deciduous shrub, found in the mountains. Does OK at lower elevations. Delicious black fruit for pies and jam. A favorite of Native Americans. It was gathered and dried as a major food. The Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon has huge areas of this berry. I understand the going price for fresh Mountain Hucks, by local gathers, is $20 per quart. I do not think it is grown commercially – perhaps the cost of production exceeds the market value. From 1 ft. to 5 ft. high. Berries about Ό inch, found from Alaska to southern California and east to Montana.

(A personal note – my grandfather as a small boy, came with his family in the 1800’s by wagon from Kansas to Ironsides, Oregon (eastern part of state). They were cattle ranchers but each summer the larger family would go in wagons, men, women and children, to special areas for a week of huckleberry picking. (Mountain Hucks, I believe!) I have some early photos. They looked like they were all having a wonderful outing – "Huckleberry Picking" for recreation? – Why Not?

Vaccinium ovalifolium (Oval Leaf Huckleberry)

A deciduous huckleberry, with delicious and plentiful berries. Often found with Mountain Huckleberry. Found in woods and open slopes in Alaska, Cascades, Olympic Mountains, east to Idaho and Montana – also from Michigan to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen Huckleberry)

A superb evergreen shrub. This is a first class ornamental shrub for the native garden. The delicious fruit for pies, jam and unique topping is an added bonus. Sun or shade. In the forest areas, can get to 15 ft. In full sun, dwarfs to 3-5 feet, with many erect stems from the base. Small glossy dark green leaves. In sun, mature foliage often turns reddish purple. New shoots are a bronzy red. Profuse small pink-white bell-like flowers. Small black-purple fruits. Likes acid soil. A must for native gardens. Found along the coast from British Columbia to northern California. Drive along the coast highway in western Oregon and you will see them at every stop! Considered a very fine ornamental (and edible!)

Vaccinium parvifolium (Red Huckleberry)

A fine, deciduous shrub, 3-12 feet, wide spread in the northwest. Small greenish to flesh-colored flowers. Small oval leaves. Fruits are an attractive salmon-egg red, very tasty (tart). Northwest Native Americans much preferred Mountain Hucks. Partial shade. Good next to the Pacific Rhodie. Often grows on logs and stumps, courtesy of birds. (Use rotted fir log when planting!) This is a fine ornamental – also used in floral arrangements. Widely used in Europe. Found in lowlands and lower mountains, from British Columbia to northern California, west side of Cascade Mountains.

Vaccinium scoparium (Grouseberry, Red Alpine Blueberry)

This plant could easily be considered a groundcover never reaching more than 1’ in height. It grows well at subalpine elevations in Canada and across the western United States, USDA zones 3-9. Grouseberry does especially well in open forests like that of Lodge Pole Pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) and on dry rocky slopes. The pointed leaves are small and borne on strongly angled stems. The small pink urn-shaped flowers and tiny red berries are sometimes easy to miss among the dense foliage. This shrub can fill in difficult bare exposed areas well.

3 – Outstanding Plant Sites To Visit In May and June

Here are three outstanding sites to visit this summer, as recommended by Julie, who was in charge of the greenhouses in my nursery. Julie and her fine family explore many interesting native plant sites here in Oregon.

In May - Fall Creek Corridor

Located in the Lowell Ranger District, south of Eugene, Oregon. Here you can see classic old growth Doug Firs, Hemlock, Western Red Cedar. Also large drifts of Western Trilliums and Fairy Slipper Orchids (Calypso bulbosa.) (You may be too late for these two as they bloom early.) There are many other interesting plants such as Deer, Sword, Lady and Maidenhair Ferns, Fairy Bells, False Solomon’s Seal, Queen’s Cup, Bleeding Heart, etc., and plenty of old growth trees. Drive past Eugene, on I-5, turn east on Highway 58. Drive 13 miles to a covered bridge. Turn off Highway 58 and cross a reservoir into the small town of Lowell. Check in at the Ranger Station in Lowell. A Northwest Forest Pass is needed.

In May - Tom McCall Preserve

Located at the Rowena Crest in the Columbia Gorge, a bit east of Hood River (Highway 84.) Almost 300 species of plants live among the Garry Oaks on this 231 acre site. The plateau is the site of one of the most impressive displays of spring wildflowers in Oregon, including Shooting Stars, lupine, Indian Paintbrush, etc. This is the transition zone between moist, forested west side and the bunchgrass prairie of the dry east side.

In Late June – Saddle Mountain State Park

In Clatsop County, Oregon – the highest peak in northwestern Oregon. Saddle Mountain Road goes about seven miles north of Highway 26 (Sunset Highway). You can drive in the park to the parking lot and trailhead – then you must hike the last 3 miles. Enter a forest of firs and alders, On the way up the mountain, pass saxifrage, penstemons, delphiniums, campanulas. The mountain top was a refuge for plant species during the Ice Age - a treasure of native plants! From the mountain top, you also get a spectacular view of the ocean and other mountain peaks.

4 – Propagating Natives From Cuttings, Part 1

I told you about this a year ago, but there are so many new subscribers that I will go over it once more – stay with me, please! By the way, the idea is more than getting "free" plants. When you develop skills with cuttings you are, in a small way, a part of the creative process. You start to understand the plant world – the creative miracle of this strange, mysterious and beautiful world of which we are a part!

I will concentrate on stem cuttings of native shrubs. A stem cutting is a section of a stem, cut to have from 2 – 5 leaves or leaf buds. Cuttings are often from stem sections about the thickness of a lead pencil, but can be thicker or thinner. Cuttings may be from 2 inches to 12" in length. Cuttings can be taken from both evergreen shrubs and deciduous shrubs. Make a clean horizontal cut across the top of the cutting, just above a bud. Make a 45 degree cut just below the lower bud. Always use this scheme as what is "Up" on the plant, must be "Up" on the cutting stuck into the cutting mix.

There are three types of cuttings, depending upon the time of the year: softwood cuttings, semi-hardwood cuttings and hardwood cuttings. Each species has unique requirements and may only "strike" (develop roots) with one type of cutting, if at all. Most cuttings are taken from semi-hardwood. Hardwood (winter) cuttings are slow to root but easy to manage. Softwood cuttings are usually taken in May and June in the Northwest Coastal area. Semi-hardwood cuttings are usually taken in late June, July and August. Hardwood cuttings are taken in the winter. In this article I will cover softwood cuttings only. In July I will discuss semi-hardwood cuttings a bit and in the Fall, switch to winter cuttings,

Softwood cuttings – Plants burst into activity in the spring, new tip shoots grow rapidly. Tender young tips of new shoots often root very easily, if kept moist, warm and if they get plenty of sunlight. These tender shoots have no reserve of starches and depend on sunlight for energy. You need sharp shears to make clean cuts. Frequently dip cutting instruments in a solution of household bleach to sterilize. You also need 1) flats (trays), 2) cutting mix (50% peat moss and 50% pumice (or sand or grit)) into which you will stick the cuttings, 3) powdered or liquid rooting hormone. 4) an arrangement to keep the cuttings moist at all times until they root. Greenhouses use a misting system which sprays the plants frequently during the day. You can use clear plastic bags, blown up around the tray or pot and tied. Some water is left in the bag and the warm environment keeps the air saturated. Bell jars have been used. Small units are available from garden stores and catalogs. The secret of softwood cuttings - moist environment, warm environment and sunlight (but do not "cook!")

Take softwood cuttings early in the morning and immediately pop them into a plastic bag with some water & tie tight. Then process the cuttings as quickly as possible. Softwood cuttings always have leaves. Strip off all leaves except the top 1 or 2. Dip the bottom end in rooting hormone and gently stick into the cutting mix and place in the warm, moist and sunlight environment. Maples, service berry, and huckleberries are among the species that can be reproduced by softwood cuttings. When learning, experiment widely with any plants!

5 – Native Plant Associations – Plants For Different NW Areas

Those of you who love native plants have such diverse "garden" areas. Some are in cities with smaller lots – some in farm areas with several acres to plant and some from wilder areas – near lakes, rivers, seashore or high mountains. There are several ways of describing plant communities. The following is a simple system for general guidance, listing some of the many shrubs and trees available.

Sunny areas West of Cascades

Ponderosa Pine (Western Oregon Seed Source), Western White Pine, Doug Fir, Garry Oaks, Lodgepole Pine, Noble Fir, Incense Cedar, Port Orford Cedar, Birch, Western Red Cedar, Mountain Hemlock, Larch, Big Leaf Maple, Blue Elderberry, Blueblossom, Wax Myrtle, Yew, Hairy Manzanita, Serviceberry, Oceanspray, Mock Orange, Western Azalea, Wild Roses, Red Flowering Currant, Spirea, Mountain Huckleberry, Red Osier Dogwood, Kinnikinnik, Tall Oregon Grape,

Shady Areas, West of Cascades

Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, Oregon Myrtle, Yew, Pacific Dogwood, Hazel, Big Leaf Maple, Vine Maple, Grand Fir, Douglas Maple, Evergreen Huckleberry, Oregon Myrtle, Salal, Pacific Rhododendron, Long Leaf Oregon Grape, Twinberry, Indian Plum, Red Huckleberry, Thimbleberry, Salmonberry, Red Osier Dogwood.

Wet Areas, West of Cascades

Western Red Cedar, Oregon Ash, Oregon Myrtle, Twinberry, Red Alder, Willows, Cottonwoods, Devil’s Club.

Special For Coastal Areas

Madrone, Shore Pine, Doug Fir, Sitka Spruce, Salal, Evergreen Huckleberry, Wax Myrtle.

6 - Blueblossom - (Ceanothus Thrysiflorus)

The queen of wild evergreen lilacs! This is blooming here in my gardens, as I write. This is a wonderful evergreen ornamental. Bright green leaves. Sun or light shade. Grows fast with water, then taper off water. Attracts butterflies & other insects.

I mostly grow a form propagated by cuttings from a plant that only reached about six ft. tall. I also grow from seed and these plants reach 15 ft. or more. The shorter form is most popular as an ornamental. Use the tall form for larger areas.

This is a favorite of mine because of the intense blue flower color. Plants are covered with "bottle-brush" blossoms, with a blue so intense that it seems to "vibrate." When in bloom, it is a sensual treat - like standing close to a Van Gogh painting. The only other plant I have seen in the northwest with such an intense vibrant color is a weed – the infamous Scotch Broom. It has a strong, vibrant yellow when a large clump is in full bloom and you are standing about four feet away. By the way, a certain kind of bee loves Blueblossom – a fat black bee with a yellow band around its middle. It always shows up when Blueblossom bloom (the fat bee will sting!)

I recommend you plant this for a visual treat in May and June – buy it, grow it yourself from cuttings or seed - whatever – but treat yourself to this joy!

7 - Propagating Natives From Seed – Gathering & Storing Seeds

This is the time of the year to plan and schedule seed collection. In the early fall I will discuss fall planting of native seeds and cold/moist stratification of some seeds to break dormancy.

Seed collection and propagation of plants is basic to our natures. It balances the one-sided worship of and immersion in, "technology." Can you compare the "miracle of the computer" with the miracle of the life force in a tiny dry seed? I use computers all the time, but to me, there is more "technology" in one little seed than in all the computers in all the world! (Do you suppose that your ancient ancestors survived by gathering seed?)

Right now, concentrate on finding sources of seed. Watch your part of the world for flowers. You can find a lot of seeds along public roads and areas. It probably is OK to collect a few seeds but to be safe, check with your county or state road maintenance folks. Parks are another source. Be aware that others are after seeds also – some folks collect seed to sell to seed companies – (last year I kept watching a nice stand of Sidalcea. When I thought the seed were ripe I went to the site with my collection bag – just in time to see another collector driving off, with all the seeds.) There is no one growing native plants as a source of seeds. All come from collection in the wild, including conifers. You must determine your own code of ethics concerning collecting seed.

You have to make a judgment call as to when the seeds are ripe enough to collect. Too early and they will not germinate. Wait too late and they are spilled on the ground or stolen by other critters. Some plants have seeds in fleshy fruit – Red Elderberries for example. Pick as the fruit become fully ripe and then immediately process the seed. For small quantities, you simply mash the fruit in a plastic bag, wash thoroughly by mixing with water, strain through a fine cheesecloth and then dry the residue in a tray. When thoroughly dry, crumble the residue and then swirl the dry residue in a bowl. The trash will come to the top and can be picked out. You can finish the process by pouring the mix with seeds and trash from one container to another and blowing gently through the cascading mix. With some practice, you can blow out the trash and the clean seeds, which are heavier, will drop straight down.. Other seeds, Columbine for example, are dry in pods when ripe. Break open the pods and separate as above by swirling in a bowl to bring the trash up and then air separation. In general, after cleaning the seed, let dry a few days, then store in air tight plastic containers with tight lids. Label well. You might be planting in the late fall, winter or spring and you might go through a complex process to break dormancy, but labels are always needed to avoid confusion. Store the seeds in a cool, dry area (One exception to the above process - Trillium Seeds. Trillium seeds must be planted out at once, with the "jelly" still around the seed – do not dry!)

8 - Personal Notes

"Dear Hearts and Gentle People" Cynics claim that Norman Rockwell’s America never existed – I don’t believe it! It is alive and well in the hearts of all you native plant lovers! You can feel it in your gardens – in the early morning in a day in June – in the late evening in your garden as night slowly closes in. Your garden can be healing – a place to pause and really see and feel the beauty and mystery of a Bleeding Heart or an Iris, or the wonder of the miracle of life within a small dry seed!

We are approaching that magic month in the Northern Hemisphere – JUNE! "And what is so rare as a day in June?" This was asked by the Poet, James Russell Lowell, (1819 – 1891) in his poem "June." It was true a hundred years ago – a thousand years ago and will be true a thousand years from now. I quote some lines:

"Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold:

For a cap and bells our lives we pay.

Bubbles we buy with a whole souls tasking:

‘Tis Heaven alone may be had for the asking:

No price is set for the lavish summer:

June may be had by the poorest comer.

And what is so rare as a day in June?

Then, if ever, come perfect days:

* * *

Now is the high tide of the year,

And whatever of life hath ebbed away

Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer

* * *

We are happy now because God wills it:

No matter how barren the past may have been,

‘Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green:

* * *

It is not a coincidence that through man’s history, starting with the Garden of Eden, renewal and reassurance and balance may be found in a (native plant) garden! And June is a major celebration in your gardens! Most folks have problems – but this year, this JUNE, pause and relax for awhile in your garden, whether it is 100 acres or 10 sq feet – It is JUNE - living is worthwhile - JUNE is FREE to everyone!

9– Next Issue

Topics planned include:

A - Propagating Natives With Semi Hardwood Cuttings

B - Pacific Rhododendron & Western Azalea – Beautiful natives!!

C - Our Native Tiger Lily – Lilium columbianum

D - Native NW Plants Used As Food Sources by Native Americans

E - And much more!

E-mail comments are welcome. (Note from Jennifer: As did Wally, I also welcome your email comments!)

Good Luck!


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