Grow a little Oregon history and attract birds and pollinators, too.
Native plants are "born and raised" in the local environment. In the right setting, they can thrive and attract pest-eating wildlife, reducing the need for pesticides and fertilizers.
"Of anything you can plant, natives are the most acclimated to living here," says Lory Duralia, owner of West Linn’s Bosky Dell Natives. "They have the lowest needs in terms of watering and they don’t get diseased easily. The trick is to figure out the conditions in the space where you want to plant, and pick a plant that likes those conditions."
Each of these 10 woody plants was thriving in Oregon thousands of years ago, and many hold cultural significance for Native Americans. Lewis and Clark sketched each one during their 1804–06 expedition, when they documented plants new to Western botanical science.
Meriwether Lewis wrote that the edible berries (after cooking) on this small tree were "of a pale sky blue."
Huckleberry pie is a slice of Oregon heaven. New leaves on this shrub are a shiny copper, turning dark green. Native people ate the blue berries and used the roots and stems for medicinal purposes.
This true fir grows fast and has a lovely fragrance. If you’d like to grow your own Christmas tree, this is a good candidate, yielding a room-size tree in six to eight years. It attracts pine siskins and other native birds.
Lewis mock orange
Orange-blossom fragrance from masses of white flowers gives name to this tall shrub. "Take good care of it for the first few years and then you can ignore it," Duralia says. "Butterflies love it."
Choose from low to high-growing species of Oregon’s state flower. Brilliant yellow flower clusters, edible blue berries, and spiky leaves with fall color make this a four-season beauty. Pioneers cooked the berries into jellies, pies and preserves. Native Americans made yellow dye from the roots.
Oregon white oak
Living up to 400 years, this oak is both a sanctuary and commissary for hundreds of animal species. Its acorns were a primary food source for Native people of the Willamette and Tualatin valleys.
Lacy foliage that floats in a tiered, layered effect and edible berries make this a great understory shrub. Interplant it with evergreen huckleberry for a beautiful effect. "In nature it often starts on a nurse log, so we recommend planting it with a piece of rotted wood in the hole," says Duralia. Bare green twigs offer winter beauty.
Waxy white (inedible) berries on this shrub grow in clumps that provide food for birds through the winter.
Native Americans made baskets of this small maple’s sinuous branches. Thriving in many types of settings, its seeds provide food for birds, its flowers nectar for bees. Fall color is vivid.
This small tree has gorgeous white flowers and purple berries that birds and humans love. Native Americans pounded its berries with meat to make a high-nutrient food.