Plant Palette

Botany Consultant Stewart Wechsler assembled a plant palette for one of the park’s partial sunny seep areas. He listed suggested plants in order of preference:

1. Angelica genuflexa (kneeling angelica)

2. Veratrum californicum (California corn lily)

3. Senecio triangularis (arrowleaf ragwort) – upwind

4. Cirsium edule (Indian thistle) – upwind, drier edge

5. Scutellaria galericulata (marsh skullcap)

6. Megalodonta beckii (Beck’s water-marigold)

7. Rorippa palustris (marsh yellowcress)

8. Rosa pisocarpa (clustered wild rose)

9. Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern) – upwind

10. Sium suave (water parsnip)

11. Bidens cernua (nodding beggartick)

12. Erigeron philadelphicus (Philadelphia fleabane) – upwind

13.  Streptopus amplexifolius (claspleaf twistedstalk) – shade

14. Ribes lacustre (black gooseberry) – part shade

15. Lonicera ciliosa (orange honeysuckle) – drier edge

16. Veronica americana (American brooklime) – upslope

17. Aster subspicatus (Douglas aster) – upwind

18. Urtica dioica (stinging nettle) – drier edges

19. Platanthera dilatata var. leucostachys (bog candles)

20. Rubus spectabilis (salmonberry)

21. Tomiea menziesii (piggyback plant)

22. Ribes bracteosum (stink currant) – part shade

23. Oplopanax horridus (devil’s club) – shady edge

24. Lactuca biennis (tall blue wood lettuce) – drier, shady edge upwind)

25. Physocarpus capitatus (Pacific ninebark)

26. Frangula purshiana (cascara) – slightly drier edge

27. Barbarea orthoceras (American yellow-rocket) – moist edge, not too wet

28. Cersium brevistylum (short-styled thistle) – drier edge

29. Marah oreganus (coast manroot) – drier edge with something to climb

30. Glyceria striata (fowl mannagrass)

31. Fraxinus latifolia (Oregon ash)

32. Myosotis laxa (tufted forget-me-not)

33. Mentha arvensis (field mint) – along seep edge

34. Mimulus guttatus (monkey flower) – 2nd year

35. Juncus ensifolius (swordleaf rush)

36. Carex stipata (prickly sedge)

37. Torreyochloa pallida (pale false mannagrass)

38. Juncus effuses (soft rush)

39. Carex amplifolia (bigleaf sedge)

40. Cinna latifolia (drooping woodreed)

41. Cornus sericea (red twig dogwood)

Using one of Stewart’s Plant Palates:

In art a color palate is a list of colors to choose from, not a list of colors to use all at once, all in the same place.  Then everything would be brown.  Stewart’s plant palates are a list of all of the plant species that are both native to the area in question. appropriate to the microhabitat of that site, and especially those that may contribute in some secondary way to the community, such as one that provides caterpillar food or a nectar source flower to a butterfly species that might need it and that might be found there.  An erstwhile appropriate native species might be excluded due to an excessive risk that it might over-dominate the site.

While there may be a large number of native species that Stewart has suggested to choose from, a key to success in bringing back more of the rich diversity of the wilds of Eden, as it may have occurred before agriculture and world trade started to degrade that diversity, is adding one species at a time.  We add each new species as we find the appropriate genetic source material and appropriate spot to plant it.

We remember that for a plant to be native it should have what Stewart calls “the 5 ‘co’s’ of nativity”.  That is that it should be a co-evolved, co-adapted, co-dependent, contributing local community member.  If the genetic parent material to be added to a site isn’t from a reasonably local, reasonably wild source, or isn’t from an area of similar altitude or similar rainfall, it may be the same species, but either your genetic material may not be adapted to your site, or the plant, animal, and fungal community in your site may not be co-adapted, and may not live in harmony with the material you bring in.  One species, available in nurseries may grow wild and be native in both Eurasia and North America, and plants from the 2 continents may look identical, but the Eurasian material is likely not co-adapted with the North American natural communities.  Also if genetic material has been grown in nursery or garden conditions for too many generations, your genetic material may have become overly adapted to the artificial growth conditions, or a genetic human fingerprint could have been added as a species is cultivated for features that the growers want, rather than those a wild plant would normally have.  We might add a plant that is the same species suggested, but if it has been cultivated by humans for an atypical flower color or a dwarf growth form, adding this erstwhile appropriate species would make your site look less like a natural community and those atypical features that humans selected for may change how the species functions in the community too.

Also for a plant to be of an appropriate genetic source one shouldn’t rob Peter to pay Paul.  If a seed or plants are taken from a wild population, that population or that natural community shouldn’t be negatively impacted to take your plant material.  The same applies to moving non-plant material, such as rocks or logs.  Your might take some seed, or some small plants from a wild plant community and leave that population and that community in better shape than when you found it.  It could be that by eliminating some competing alien plants from a site you are taking plant material from you would have a greater positive impact on that plant population and the natural community that it is a part of than any negative impact you might have by taking your material out.  Also, some native plants might be thinned from a spot where competition from neighbors of their own species might later kill some of them anyway.  That said, leaving bare soil invites competing weeds.  So if it is practical to push soil together so no “scar” of bare soil is evident where a plant was dug out, that is preferable.  You might also move some adjacent dead leaves off moss or off other plants to cover a spot you made bare.

As “habitat healers” we should remember that we don’t want to act as landscapers choosing where each plant of each species will grow over a whole surface area.  We remember that “mother knows best”.  Mother Nature and mother plants will choose best where new plants of each species should grow.  Most of the reason we plant at all is to provide “lost mothers” of species that might have naturally grown in a spot like that 500 – 5000 years ago.  These mothers that you bring back, with the help of natural seed dispersers, can send their seeds where they belong, as well as sending underground rhizomes, and above ground stolons where they belong.  We can help by slowly clearing away adjacent alien plants that they aren’t adapted to competing with, and possibly slowly moving away some of the most abundant native competitors to help the lost, and rarer ones get established.

We should understand that soil disturbance and aeration of their plowing was a big part of that the early farmers did in a process that began the destruction of the natural landscape, and these disturbed, unnaturally aerated soils are what our worst weeds, imported from ancient agricultural areas of Eurasia, are best adapted to.  We want to minimize soil disturbance and extra aeration.  This soil disruption also damages a critically important fungal partner community just below the surface, as well as critically important partner mosses, or naturally layered, fallen leaf and humus on top.  These loose soils also discourage the regrowth of the moss layer that many of our declining natives grow best in, and may not be good for the regrowth of partnering fungus either.

Then when planting, we want to place our plants as strategically as we can, choosing both the best growing conditions for that species, within the limits of our knowledge, and the best place for them to spread.  If the seeds are spread by the wind, like dandelion seeds, they are best planted upwind from where they will appropriately spread, if seeds just fall down, planting uphill, where possible, is strategic.  If they are spread by burs on the seeds, catching on to animal fur or clothes, placing mother plants along trails, especially narrow points in them, is strategic.

Remembering that we can define “natural” as that which is not controlled and made by people, with these general principles in mind, we humans can help natural communities heal and slowly regain the structure and their ancient wealth of diversity of the whole plant, animal and fungal communities, rather than effectively farming.

All too often, what has been called “restoration” as had too many of the downfalls of agriculture.   In this style, land is cleared of the non-native plants we don’t want, and it is effectively plowed in the process, with an excessive loss of above and below surface structure, natural material, and organisms.  Then it is planted with a limited palate of native species, now considered “good”.  Plants chosen tend to be the most widely known and available, usually mostly trees and shrubs, and often those that a site least needs and usually not the best for the microhabitat of the site.  These plants are then often spaced evenly as they might be in a farm, and are never chosen and arranged as nature would.


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