Wildlife Plants:: Fireweed

Perhaps it’s because the plant has bright, colorful flowers, when en masse, can look like a burning field, or simply because this plant commonly colonized areas which have been recently burned, the aptly named Fireweed is a beautiful plant with benefits for pollinators.

Chamerion angustifolium is also known as Rosebay Willowherb and is a perennial growing and spreading from rhizome roots. It’s fairly common and blooms during the summer reaching heights of 2-5 feet. It prefers disturbed sites, especially recent burns, as well as meadows and forests. The lance-shaped leaves are up to 8″ in length and numerous on their climb upwards along the stem towards the magenta colored flowers. The flowers grow outward, perpendicular to the stem, giving it a sunny disposition. The seeds are fluffy affairs, escaping from four-chambered pods in the hundreds, each pod containing 300-500.

The plant has less horticultural interest when not flowering and

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Wildlife Plants:: Lavender

There are few other plants so closely associated with scent than Lavender. The purple flowers and gray/green foliage is unmistakable and found in gardens around the world. The various forms can grow from ground high up to waist high and it is used and appreciated by both humans and wildlife.

Lavandula (more commonly known as Lavender) is in the mint family and the genus contains a complicated taxonomy with 39 species and countless cultivars. Lavendula angustifolia is the most widely cultivated species. It was  historically found in the Old World growing from India throughout the Mediterranean region of Africa and southern Europe. At times it escapes and grows in the wild where it is usually not a problem species with the exception of Australia where Lavandula stoechas has been declared a noxious weed.

It is a wildly popular garden plant and there is even a festival dedicated to the plant in Washington home…

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Wildlife Plant:: Stinging Nettle

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) may be considered a painful weed by most, but it is a complicated plant with many hidden virtues ranging from a valuable wildlife plant to making beer.  While most people are well aware of the evils of Stinging Nettle, not many are familiar with the good. The complexities of the Stinging Nettle start with its history. It’s a native to North America, but it’s also a native to Europe as well as northern Africa and parts of Asia. There are currently five recognized subspecies of Urtica dioica. A perennial, this plant grows all spring and summer long.

In most places it’s considered a weed because of it’s stinging hairs which inflict some amount of pain and tingling to unsuspecting bare skin. It also grows very vigorously in the proper conditions allowing it to spread via shallow rhizomes and create dense stands. It especially likes moist woods and openings…

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Wildlife Plants:: Indian Plum

One of the first plants I placed in my new yard this past fall was the Indian Plum. The reason it received this honor was because it is the earliest plants to bloom in the spring. Walk through parks or natural areas in the Pacific Northwest as early as February and you’ll see white flowers hanging in chains from this shrub when most other plants still show no sign of awakening.

Indian Plum has many common names so the botanic name, Oemleria cerasiformis, is important to learn Other common names include Osoberry, Skunk Bush and Bird Cherry. To make it even more difficult to find in books, it can often be categorized as either a tree or a shrub. It can be a small tree or more commonly as a multi-stemmed shrub. Indian Plum is a fast growing plant and can reach up to 20′ high and 10′ across. It grows in…

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Wildlife Plants:: Foxglove

You would never know that Common Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is not a native plant of North America considering how abundant it is in certain regions like the Pacific Northwest. This flower was introduced from Europe and is found in gardens, and has naturalized to spread to roadsides, fields, forest edges and other disturbed sites around the country. It’s a widely popular garden plant because of it’s dramatic form and color.

Foxglove is a large, biennial herb which can grow to nearly six feet high. The first year the plant produces the foliage but the flowers don’t generally come until the following year. The leaves are alternate, toothed, lance-shaped, green with hair on the top and gray fuzz underneath although what is more noticeable are the large, colorful flower stalks. The flowers are purple, but some populations produce a wide range of colors and bloom during the summer months, usually June and July. The…

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Wildlife Plants:: Broad-leaved Stonecrop

While you may not always associate succulents with cool, temperate climates, the Pacific Northwest has several native sedums which live and thrive in exactly those conditions. The Broad-leaved stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium) is one of those succulents which grows only on the West Coast from British Columbia to California. It can be found at low elevations in coastal areas up to middle elevations and in habitats such as rocky outcrops, forest openings, cliffs and bluffs. However, you won’t find it in wet or overly shady places such as forests, woodlands or wetlands.

The plant grows very low, only up to an inch high and has plump, fleshy, wedge-shaped leaves growing in tight rosettes. The leaves are a green color on the inside and turn red or purple around the edges in the full sun and are coated with a waxy powder. The flowers are typical of most sedums, star-shaped, bright yellow flowers…

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