With this post we’ll conclude our look at the native plants offered by the Cascadia Conservation District. If you’d like to see the full plant list, make an order or get more information please visit our website.
These final two plants are symbols of our region. The grand ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and the vine maple often come to mind when thinking of healthy ecosystems in our area.
My favorite tree of all time, icon of the west and reigning top seller in our plant sale is the ponderosa pine tree. Ponderosa pine, colloquially ‘pondo’, is characterized by its orange, scaly, plate-like bark and long green needles which are typically borne in bundles of three. Growing to around 100 feet in mostly open stands, ponderosas often have the appearance of dominating their surroundings. They are also known for smelling like vanilla.
Very well adapted for our climate east of the Cascades, ponderosa pine isn’t just fire tolerant, it depends on fire. With its thick bark a large ponderosa can handle the low intensity fires that were ubiquitous to this area prior to modern forest management. These fires eliminated the pondo’s resource competitors, allowing it proper exposure and sufficient resources. Since management plans have included enthusiastic fire suppression, shade tolerant trees and shrubs have moved into ponderosa stands throughout the west, lending such stands the characteristics necessary for the increasingly large scale fires we’ve been seeing as of late.
As for conservation uses, ponderosa is commonly used in shelterbelts, living snow fences and in riparian restoration. Ponderosa stands make great habitat for squirrels, birds and bats and provide shelter for big game. Because ponderosa needs exposure, it is a seral species which, when mature, can provide the necessary shade for shade tolerant species to return after a significant disturbance. This makes it an excellent native plant choice for post fire restoration.
Vine maple (Acer circinatum) is another iconic native plant in our region. It is a deciduous tree with red and white flowers in the spring, and brilliant red to subdued yellow broadleaves in the fall. Typically vine maple will grow between 10 and 30 feet tall, with shaded specimens reaching the upper end of that range readily and exposed specimens on the shorter side.
Vine maple grows best along streams and moist sites. It prefers shady sites, but can tolerate some exposure. In more exposed sites it often takes a single-stemmed tree form, while in shade it usually grows as a shrub in clumps and thickets.
With its white and red flowers in the spring and showy colors in the fall, vine maple is a common choice for those looking to use native species to beautify their landscaping. It is also used as a streamside stabilizer, as a pioneering species at disturbed sites and is an important food source for birds and large and small mammals alike.
Again, if you’re interested in ordering any of our plants, need more information or would like to sign up for our native planting workshop, please see our website.
Today’s Central Columbia River area snowpack is currently at 63% of its 29 year average (USDA/NRCS National Water and Climate Center, http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov).