Thursday, February 9, 2012

Portland's Native Plants Spring to Life

Remember all that sun we had recently?  Wasn't that amazing?  I wonder if we'll feel that kind of warmth on our shoulders again before, I don't know... June?  I sure hope so, because I've got a bad case of Spring Fever!

This past weekend, I tried to soak up as many of those precious rays as I could.  So while millions were watching Superbowl XLVI, I was out puttering around the yard, doing whatever I could find to keep me outside a little longer.  I did some weeding, a little pruning, and some removal of last year's dead growth.  I was somewhat surprised to see just how much some of my native plants had also noticed the warmth.

This is my Indian Plum, or Osoberry (Oemleria cerasiformis).  It's a large native shrub, and one of our earliest bloomers.  An important early nectar source for all those Mason Bees and other native pollinators.

The female plants produce small purple berries that look like tiny plums, but to get the berries, you'll need both a male and a female plant.  I only have one of these right now, and I believe it's a male.  I'm going to be adding two more Indian Plum starts to a reclaimed parking strip this spring, so I'm hoping to end up with fruit for the local birds.

These racemes produce small white flowers that some say smell unpleasant.  I personally think they smell kind of nice and woodsy.

I think it's interesting that the racemes turn so drastically downward after emerging.  Seeing one full of flowers you might think it was the weight that pulled it down, but that's not the case.  They turn downwards almost immediately.  Maybe to make room for the lance shaped leaves to emerge upwards?  Maybe for pollinator access?  I don't know, but there must be a reason.

Because I do think the flowers smell fine, I brought a couple of stems inside and placed them in water, after trimming them away from the house.  Three days later and I have instant Spring!

My Indian Plum has been in the ground for about 3 years, and it's about 10 feet tall right now.  I just trim it gently, after flowering, to keep it away from the house and path.  I've read that you can trim these down to the ground to reclaim an overgrown specimen.

This is a bud just opening on one of my Red-flowering Currants.  One of the showiest blooms in my yard full of native species.

OK - these last two plants are not native species.  Two of the very few non-native plants in my yard.

Sprouting up through the mulch, these Stella D'Oro daylilies look like little green fingers pointing toward the sun in the southern sky.

This last one is a Persian Ironwood tree, Parrotia Persica "Vanessa".  (Also called Vanessa Persian Witchhazel.)

  I chose the Persian Ironwood from Friends of Trees because - although it's not native - established trees, are drought, cold, and insect resistant.  They also have beautiful fall color and these lovely little blood-red flowers.  The flowers remind me of clover flowers in shape and size.

 I wanted to include this photo not only because the tree is blooming, but because the picture shows that amazing blue sky we were enjoying.

Those are the major signs of spring in my yard, what native plants are blooming in your neck of the woods?

I'm looking forward to spring, and to my parking strip planting project.  Hopefully we do get some more of that sun and brilliant blue sky before June, but I shouldn't complain about the clouds and rain.  Without them, Portland and western Oregon wouldn't be so beautiful and green, would they?
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