Native Plants of the Willamette Valley

We have become students of what makes Oregon, well…Oregon! One of these things is our flora! In Portland we have a program called the Backyard Habitats Certification Program and last year I was awarded a Gold certificate. In the process of that, I have learned so much, but sometimes I forget what things are called, and this is a great way for me to keep things in a list. The even greater thing is I can share with everyone and keep updating things here! Right now I am going to focus on the Willamette Valley flora, since I am surrounded by it, but it will stretch further out. One of my favorite references is this poster that helps me with some identification. All of the photos will be my own and I will do my best to place things in alphabetical order by common name, but will also include the Latin name. I am also breaking them into groups to make it easier to peruse. Enjoy!


IMG_1589Coralroot (Pacific) : (Corallorhiza striata var. vreelandii) I came across this specimen during a hike in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest into Muir Falls on 29 May 2016. I am not exactly certain which of the species this might be but guessing striped and have added the classification above that matches what we typically find in Oregon. The blooms hadn’t fully formed and so it was a bit tough to tell. Coralroot is an orchid that grows in the forests of the Cascades and it was the first time I had seen one. They aren’t common to see, so I feel very lucky. I learned that they utilize fungi to parasitize the roots of other plants in order to propagate. They were such a stunning red color.

IMG_1571Oregon/Pacific/Western Dewberry : (Rubus ursinus) This is a native blackberry that grows in Oregon. I came across this specimen during a hike in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. We were attempting a hike into Muir Falls and I came across these blooms. It was growing in a shady area. This is very similar to a regular blackberry and is edible in the summer time.


Douglas Meadowfoam : (Limnanthes douglasii) This little beauty is known around here as the Douglas Meadowfoam, but it is also widely know as the Poached Egg Plant. It is native to California and Oregon and likes wet and grassy areas like meadows. I just learned that these flowers attract hover flies which eat aphids, which will be handy in my yard! These like sunny areas so keep an eye out for them!

IMG_6912 Fringecup : (Tellima grandiflora) I took this picture last year during a hike in the Mary S. Young State Recreation Area. The blooms had finished, but they normally have 5 petals that are deeply fringed and can be greenish-white to purple. The leaves are evergreen though and you will see those year round with milder winters.

IMG_0788IMG_7009Oregon Grape : (Mahonia aquifolium) I will be honest, growing up here this was never my favorite plant. It is pokey and tough. Being the Oregon State Flower and growing up a bit, I have really learned to appreciate it more. I didn’t realize the berries are actually edible, and the plants thrive in our environment. It is an evergreen with distinctive leaves. The blooms are yellow and are full in the spring. The berries are blue and will be ripe in the summer. I saw this one last week in Tryon Creek State Park and the one on the right was last summer at Falls Creek Falls.

IMG_6736-0 Oregon Iris : (Iris Tenax) Outside of the trilliums, the Oregon Iris is my other favorite flower. It looks like a grass when it is not in bloom, but when the flowers come in the late spring and summer, it seems almost tropical. You can find them in several locations in the valley, but this was along Balch Creek.

IMG_1286Pacific Bleeding Heart : (Dicentra formosa) Bleeding Hearts have long been a staple for plantings in the shade, but we have a native variety in Oregon called the Pacific Bleeding Heart. It is a little different from other Bleeding Hearts in that the purply-pink flowers bloom in clusters rather than trellises. The leaves are considered more “fern” like and funny enough this is a common plant for people to pair with ferns. They go dormant in the summer time but can grow and cover an area nicely and that is what you will see when you are out hiking. These are hearty plants that grow from British Columbia down to Central California. A subspecies (Oregana) grows in Southern Oregon and down through the Sierra-Nevadas.

IMG_6319Poison Oak : (Toxicodendron diversilobum) This photo was taken on a hike at Beacon Rock, but this plant is prolific throughout the Northwest and can really be quite painful. Leaves change through the seasons from green to red. Dogs can brush up against it and when you pet the dog the oils (urushiol) can be transferred, so be careful! Remember, “Leaves of three, leave it be!”


Pacific Trillium : (Trillium ovatum) We saw this blooming in white, purple and pink in the shaded areas of Tryon Creek State Park, but you will find them all over the Northwest. Some varieties are considered endangered and there is an conservation effort in place. These are some of my favorites!



Stinging Nettle : (Urtica dioica) While stinging nettles can be a real pain if you brush up against them, they are a really important native plant. They have very fine hairs that will embed in your skin and make it feel like it is on fire, but has been used for centuries as an herbal tea and is said to help with many issues including digestion. My son actually pointed this plant out to me today during our hike in Tryon Creek! I guess our plant lessons are starting to pay off!

IMG_1564Vanilla Leaf : (Achlys triphylla) I came across this specimen during a hike in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. We were attempting a hike into Muir Falls and I came across these delicate leaves that reminded me of moose antlers. I read it can also be called Deer’s Foot. When the leaves dry the give off the fragrance of vanilla! It was growing in a shaded area of the forest surrounded by Douglas Firs and other confirs.

IMG_0803Western skunk cabbage : (Lysichiton americanus) I found several of these growing in a marshy area of the park south of High Bridge along the boardwalks in Tryon Creek. I was told these also are called Skunk Lanterns. I find them to be quiet a beautiful yellow and such an interesting shape.

IMG_1290Wild Ginger : (Asarum Caudatum) This is a plant I have been falling for more and more. Another of our native ground covers, this plant has beautiful heart shaped leaves and some of the more interesting blooms I have ever seen. They look a bit alien with the 3 tails that tip the petals. The flowers are often a deep purple color too. This plant is a water lover which means it really does well in the Willamette Valley and out to the Coast. It spreads through rhizomes, although I have never seen a recommendation to eat them, and this ginger is not at all related to the ginger from Asia.

IMG_1289Wood Sorrel : (Oxalis oregana) This is a pretty ground cover we see all over. I really love the 3 little hearts that make up each leaf and the flowers that bloom in the spring are a lovely 5-petaled white/pink. They grow in thick carpets in the forest. We have seen them in Forest Park and at Tryon Creek.

IMG_0791 Yellow Wood Violets : (Viola glabella) We saw these along the Northern Horse loop, right along the side of the trail. I love looking for hearts in nature, and the leaves of this plant are hearts! I never really noticed how many of our native plants have heart shapes associated with them until recently. It is kind of like nature telling you it loves you. Don’t you think?




IMG_6911 Maidenhair Fern : (Adiantum pedatum) These ferns a quite prolific in our area. They are quite a different shape than our sword or deer ferns, which makes them really easy to spot. I found this one in the Marquam Nature Park which is some really lovely hiking up near OHSU.


Trees & Shrubs

IMG_1281Mock Orange : (Philadelphus lewisii) This picture is from my yard. I had my Mock Orange in a pot for a while and have transplanted into a bed where it won’t be so root bound. These are beautiful shrubs that like the sun and some shade. It gets it’s latin name from Meriwether Lewis, but it’s common name comes from the orangey smell that humans like as much as the bees do! I can’t wait for mine to bloom! Here is an interesting fact: Mock Orange is the Idaho state flower!

IMG_7008$RFX9CT3.JPGSalal :  (Gaultheria shallon) This was a lovely plant on a beautiful hike at Falls Creek Falls (on the left). This picture was taken last summer while the plant had its berries, which are blue-purple in color. The berries and leaves are edible according to sources I have read. The blooms are considered ‘urn-shaped’ and vary from white to pink . The leaves are an egg shape and are very stiff and strong with a slightly serrated edge. These plants can be found in shadier areas.

IMG_0798Salmonberry : (Rubus spectabilis) We saw this blooming while in Tryon Creek State Park, but come summer time the berries will ripen and are safe for humans and various animals to eat and will be a lovely red color! The berry resembles a raspberry and can be quite sweet.

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