|Oregon Magazine||Traveling the West? Stay at Shilo Inns|
|Beauty on the
by Doug Tankersley
Some flowers, like the
so delicate that to pick them is to kill them. Others, tough and
resilient, like the Fireweed, seem to thrive in the chaos of a clearcut
or aftermath of a forest fire. Oregon is a wonderland of flowers
that are just waiting to be discovered
in their forest and
Get some good maps, throw some sandwiches and pop in a cooler,
the car up with gas and you have the makings for a great drive over
logging roads. Many of these access roads are well graveled and
enough to accommodate the most basic of transportation. The
Fairyslipper Calypso bulbosa
This orchid, like all species of wild orchid is protected. It is one of several that have a root system so sensitive, any disturbance of those roots kills the entire plant. Thus, simply plucking the scented flower dooms the entire plant. This is definitely a plant that should be left alone, and never picked. This plant, while not officially endangered, is being exterminated in some areas, due mainly to unscrupulous collectors.
Bloom Time: Varies depending on weather, mid-March through mid-April. Early warm weather brings early bloom.
Where to look: Evergreen forest floors that have a heavy layer of “duff” or leaf mold. Well rotted logs and stumps are often good places to look as well.
Trillium or Wake-Robin Trillium ovatum
One of the most common and easily spotted of the wildflowers is the trillium. Like the robin, its arrival signals the start of spring. These plants can sometimes be found at commercial nurseries, especially those specializing in native plants. Leach Botanical Gardens has a native plant sale annually, where they can be purchased. This native does well in the landscape.
Bloom Time: Again, seasons differ, but April to mid-May is typical.
Where to look: Open conifer forests and transition areas next to clearcuts.
Fireweed Epilobium angustifolium
Fireweed derives its name from the conditions it thrives
commonly starts showing up in forest fire, road construction, and clear
cut areas 3-5 years after the fact. Blooms are clustered around a
central spike, often 20 or more blossoms at once. Beautiful as it
is, it is difficult to think of planting this into one’s garden.
It is entirely too prolific and has the potential for
Bloom Time: Late spring through summer.
Where to look Any sunny location where the
has remained in a disturbed condition for a long period, i.e.,
Tiger Lily Lilium columbianum
Always dramatic are the multiple bright orange blooms of the Tiger Lily against a meadow of green grass. This plant is sometimes available from local nurseries. If seeking the true native and not a lookalike, make sure you specify Lilium columbianum, not just Tiger Lily, as there are a number of other species that go by the same common name.
Bloom Time: Typically late May and June
Where to look: Transition areas between meadow and forest, grassy roadsides . Open forest areas with ample sunlight.
Fairy Lantern Disporum smithii
Tucked into the niche of a rock, I found a grouping of these elegant Fairy Lanterns. It is often a good idea to get out of the car and walk along the road, instead of just driving. I would not have found these had I not parked and started foraging on foot. This plant is sometimes confused with Hooker’s Fairybells, Disporum hookerii.
Bloom Time: May-June
Where to look: Moist, semi-shady areas. Seepages, small permanent creeks, any place the ground stays moist year round, has some shade, and is well vegetated is a good place to start looking.
White Fawn Lily Erythronium oregonum
The brightness of the flower somehow seems to blend with its surroundings. In spite of the camouflage, they can be found growing beside the road. There are several closely related Erythroniums of which only two, E. oreganum and E. revolutum, have the distinctive mottling on the leaves. E. oreganum is probably the more prevalent of the two species in Western Oregon.
Bloom Time: Mid April to mid May
Where to look: Prefers areas that have at least a little shade, well drained hills and roadsides just outside disturbed areas.
Carrying a field identification guide with you while looking for wildflowers is helpful in identification. An excellent resource I have found is the book, Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon. The book only officially covers as far south as Eugene, Oregon. However, most of it is applicable to the entire Oregon coast.
With little more than the family car, curiosity, and an
beauty, you can gain access to the plants mentioned here. If you
are able to get out of the car and walk a few hundred yards, you will
many more. Of course these forests and meadows have far more to
than wildflowers. Whether you are looking for rare and endangered
plants or just getting
Some interesting Oregon wildflower links:
Celebrating Wildflowers A Catalog of Illustrations Artwork of much of the flora of Eastern Oregon, by Karl Urban. This man’s work deserves a lot more attention.
Flora Northwest Gives a list of plants currently blooming in different regions of the state. Hosted by Gresham High School this is an excellent educational site.
Native Plant Society of Oregon Explore this site and find opportunities to learn with others. A free email service is available that informs subscribers about upcoming field trips. Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery Large selection of native and rare plants. mail-order catalog and service available
Photos and text © 2002 Doug Tankersley