A Tribute to Oregon
written by Karen Smith, Lane Forest Products Plant Specialist
Oregon State Bird: Meadowlark
Oregon State Butterfly: Swallowtail Oregon State Tree: Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
Oregon State Flower: Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquilfolium)
Oregon is a state rich with history and folklore. The Willamette Valley stretches for about a hundred miles, ranging from a lush oak savannah to old growth forest, including an abundance of berries. The Willamette Valley is home to many of the state flowers, plants, and wildlife. Creating a habitat for birds, pollinators, and wildlife is as simple as planting some plants in the right spot. Attract them by planting perennials, shrubs, and trees. Check out my recent blog post on native plants.
Our state bird is the Meadowlark, a beautifully striking colored bird. A signature black “V” crosses the bright yellow breast with patterns of black and brown on the wings. You’ll find them nesting in wide open spaces, native grasslands, agricultural fields, and occasionally along weedy roadsides. They tend to forage on the ground in winter, and in the spring and summer you’ll find them perched on fence posts, shorter snags, and shrubs. I’ve seen them at Fern Ridge regularly. The Meadowlark’s primary diet is insects (grasshoppers, beetles, cutworms, crickets, ants) weed seeds, and grains.
In the spring you’ll find Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium), filling niches everywhere along the bike paths, backyards and forested areas that are in bloom. Look closely and you’ll notice that there are three types of this native plant. Mahonia aquifolium is the state flower and is the tallest of Oregon Grape natives which can reach up to ten feet, although in maintained gardens it is more commonly about four to five feet. The bright yellow fragrant blossoms attract bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Mahonia aquilfolium is evergreen and grows well for a hedgerow to provide nesting for birds. All Oregon Grape plants have distinctive holly-like leaves which are rather prickly. The shrub tends to have woody stems and vigorous growth habits spreading by rhizomes. You may also find the ground cover, Creeping Oregon Grape, or a low growing plant Dwarf Oregon Grape (Mahonia nervosa) in your landscape.
Walking through the forest you’ll find song birds in great numbers, eating seeds out of cones from Douglas Fir trees (Pseudotsuga menziesii). You may also find squirrels scurrying about, and even Great Horned Owls perched in the forest.
A small yard can be enhanced with the addition of a water feature and some perennials to attract butterflies. Our state butterfly is the Swallowtail. Swallowtails are gorgeous yellow and black butterflies with a little blue on their tail wings. There are 500 species of swallowtails and the adults feed on purple sage, thistles, and phlox.
So, the next time you are thinking about re-designing your yard, use some plants to attract our state’s finest!