Native Plant Food Garden


Looking for new landscaping ideas? Plant a native food garden and fill your yard with the traditional and edible beauty of the Pacific Northwest! At the same time, you will protect water quality, add habitat, attract wildlife, decrease your need to water, and eliminate the need for herbicides and pesticides.  Many of the plants listed below are available at local nurseries specializing in native plants. Here is a list of species that will tickle your tongue and nourish your body.  *

Beaked Hazelnut
Beaked hazelnut
Corylus cornuta
var. californica

 
Habitat: Full sun to full shade. Moist, well-drained sites. Likes to be the understory in coniferous forests, besides streams, and disturbed sites.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous shrub: 6-15 feet tall. Very small red flowers turn into brown “beaked” husk.
Part used: Nuts
Season: Fall
Culinary use: Eat raw or roast and use as a salad topping, in confections, and as nut butter.
Note: It is hard to get these nuts before the birds, squirrels and chipmunks do!
Bigleaf Maple
Bigleaf maple
Acer macrophyllum
 
Habitat: Full sun to partial shade. Great on stream edges and steep slopes. Moist, well-drained soils.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous tree: 40-100 ft. tall. Leaves are broad with 5 lobes. Great autumn colors. Greenish-yellow flowers hang in clusters.
Part used: Flowers
Season: Spring
Culinary use: Use fresh flowers in salads, omelets, breads, pancakes, and dips.
Douglas Fir
Douglas Fir
Pseudotsuga menziesii ssp. menziesii
 
Habitat: Full sun and moist, sandy, deep soil, but is adaptable to all but wettest and driest sites.
Physical
Description:
Coniferous tree: 100-250 ft. tall. 3-4 inch cones have 3 pointed bracts.
Part used: Young, new green growth on tips.
Season: Spring
Culinary use: Eat fresh green tips as a snack or a palate cleanser. Or make a tea that is high in Vitamin C.
Elderberry: Blue
Elderberry: Blue
S. cerulea var. cerulea
 
Habitat: Full sun to partial shade. Prefers clearings with moist to dry soils.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous shrub:  up to 20 ft. high. Flowers in dense flat-topped white clusters that turn to edible blue berries in June.
Part used: Berries
Season: Summer to early fall
Culinary use: Make into jelly, wine, syrup, or dry for tea.
Huckleberry: Evergreen
Huckleberry: Evergreen
Vaccinium ovatum
 
Habitat: Full sun to full shade. Likes coniferous forests, edges, clearings.
Physical
Description:
Evergreen shrub: 3-5 ft. tall. Oval shaped leaves with bell shaped flowers that become blue-black berries.
Part used: Berries
Season: Summer
Culinary use: Eat fresh or add to pancake batter, salads, desserts, or make into jam or jelly.
Huckleberry: Red
Huckleberry: Evergreen
Vaccinium parvifolium
 
Habitat: Full to partial shade. Likes to grow on rotting wood and loamy soils in coniferous forests.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous shrub: 4- 10 ft. tall. Oval shaped leaves with bell shaped flowers that become colorful berries.
Part used: Berries
Season: Summer
Culinary use: Eat fresh or add to pancake batter, salads, desserts, or make into jam or jelly.
Indian-plum or Osoberry
Indian-plum or Osoberry
Oemleria cerasiformis
 
Habitat: Shade to full sun. Moist areas including stream and river banks and wetlands. Also in dry, open woodlands.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous shrub: 5-16 ft. tall. Bright green leaves and cascading white flowers. Female produces a dark blue plum-like fruit.
Part used: Fruit
Season: Late spring
Culinary use: Eat the ripe fruit (purple-dark blue). Tastes sweet, but has a large pit.
Rose
Rose
Rosa spp.

R. gymnocarpa
R. nutkana
R. pisocarpa
 
Habitat: Full sun to partial shade. Woodlands and moist areas to open and dry areas.  (Depends on species.)
Physical
Description:
Deciduous shrub:  up to 8 ft. tall. Flowers have 5 petals growing on branches with thorns.  Flowers turn to “hips” that are red or orange in the fall.
Part used: Hips
Season: Late summer
Culinary use: Dry the hips and use them as tea.  They can also be used in jelly, but must be deseeded first.
Salal
Salal
Gaultheria Shallon
 
Habitat: Partial to full shade.  Likes soils with good drainage.
Physical
Description:
Evergreen shrub: grows in thickets with waxy oval leaves. Flowers are bell-shaped and white-pinkish.  Berries are dark blue.
Part used: Berries
Season: Late summer
Culinary use: Eat fresh or dehydrate for fruit leather.
Salmonberry
Salmonberry
Rubus spectabilis
 
Habitat: Full sun to full shade. Moist soils along stream sides.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous shrub: 3-10 ft. tall. Flowers are magenta and berries become orange to deep red.
Part used: Berries
Season: Late spring
Culinary use: Eat fresh or use in jam, jellies, and confections.
Saskatoon or Service Berry
Saskatoon or Service berry
Amelanchier alnifolia var. humptulipensis & semiintegrifolia
 
Habitat: Full sun to partial shade. Very drought tolerant. Likes well drained soil in moist to dry areas.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous tree: 10-12 tall.  Spectacular autumn foliage. Flowers are showy, white clusters that hang.  Fruit is dark purple when ripe.
Part used: Berries
Season: Late spring
Culinary use: Eat fresh, use in baking, or dehydrate and make into fruit leather.
Strawberry Coastal
Strawberry Coastal:
Fragaria chiloensis
Wild:
Fragaria virginiana
Woodland:
Fragaria vesca

 
Habitat: Full sun to partial shade. Likes well-drained soils best.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous perennial: grows up to 10 inches tall. White flowers produce a small red berry.
Part used: Flowers
Season: Sping
Culinary use: Eat fresh off the vine or bring home and use right away in desserts, salads and drinks.
Thimbleberry
Thimbleberry
Rubus parviflorus
 
Habitat: Full sun to partial shade. Does not like saturated soils. Grows in clearings and open areas.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous shrub: 2-10 ft. tall. Fuzzy leaves with 3-7 lobes. White flowers are in clusters. Berries are red.
Part used: Berries
Season: Summer
Culinary use: Eat fresh, make a smoothie, or use as a garnish in salads, drinks, dips, and desserts.
Trailing Blackberry
Trailing blackberry
Rubus ursinus
 
Habitat: Sun or shade. Like dry, disturbed sites or open forest.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous vine. Grows prostrate on the ground, up to 20 ft. long. Flowers grow on male and female plants. Black berries are produced on female plants only.
Part used: Berries
Season: Summer
Culinary use: Eat fresh, or turn into pies, crisps, salads, smoothies and other drinks.
Violet
Violet
V. glabella
V. sempervirens
V. adunca
V. canadensis
V. palustr s

 
Habitat: Depends on species: partial shade to partial sun. Dry or moist woodlands.
Physical
Description:
Deciduous perennial: size depends on species. Up to 6 inches tall. Heart to kidney- shaped leaves and purple, yellow or white flowers.
Part used: Flowers and leaves
Season: Spring
Culinary use: Add to your favorite dishes, particularly good in salads, confections, and drinks. Leaves are high in Vitamin C.

Notes:

  1. Thanks to Elise Krohn, Native Foods Educator, who provided much of the information for this article.  She may be contacted at: www.wildfoodsandmedicines.com
  2. For more information about these plants and upcoming classes related to gardening with and identifying native plants, visit Native Plant Salvage Project at:  http://www.nativeplantsalvage.org/  or call 360-867-2166.
  3. All images are from Wikimedia.org- photo credits follow:
    1. Beaked Hazelnut: Fungus Guy
    2. Evergreen Huckleberry: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    3. Lady Fern: Guido Gerding
    4. All other photos by: Walter Siegmund

References:

Leigh, Michael. (2005) Grow Your Own Native Landscape: A Guide to Identifying, Propagating, and Landscaping with Western Washington Native Plants.  Olympia, WA: Native Plant Salvage Project, WSU Cooperative Extension-Thurston County.

Krohn, Elise. (2007) Wild Rose and Western Red Cedar: The Gifts of the Northwest Plants. Olympia, WA: Self-published.

Pojar, J. & McKinnon, A. (1994) Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Redmond, WA: Lone Pine Publishing.

Disclaimer:

*Stream Team stresses that you purchase these plants from a local nursery to ensure the proper species is planted. Do not eat any edible plants, herbs, weeds, trees or bushes until positive identification is established. No liability exists against Stream Team or anyone who works for or volunteers for Stream Team; nor can they be held responsible for any allergy, illness or injurious effect that any person or animal may suffer as a result of information in this article or through using any of the plants mentioned by Stream Team. Always consult a health care professional or medical doctor when suffering from any health ailment, disease, illness, or injury, or before attempting any traditional or folk remedies.