Portland, Oregon's mild, humid climate supports a variety of native plants, which grow in the city's wetlands, forests, riparian areas and meadows. Some of the best places to find native plants in the city include Powell Butte Natural Area, Forest Park, and Washington Park. Leach Botanical Garden in Portland offers a strong showing of native plants with descriptions for easy identification.
Salal (Gaultheria shallon)
Salal is a shade-loving plant and member of the heather family that is often used in bouquets created by florists. This native bush grows up to 5 feet in height, sporting leathery, glossy, dark green leaves. In the spring, small bell-shaped pink blossoms appear. Small purple fruits ripen in August, looking much like blueberries, but tasting more like tart grapes. Since salal thrives in full to partial shade, the bush flourishes under other trees such as cedars and pines. Salal prefers acidic, well-drained soil, but tends to be drought intolerant. Butterflies and bees flock to the flowers, and in late summer birds rely on the juicy berries as a food source.
Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
As Oregon's state flower, Oregon grape thrives in acidic, well-drained soil in full shade. The native shrub grows up to 8 feet in height and tends to be so adaptable that it also grows well in wet soil. Its glossy green leaves resemble holly on which clusters of small yellow flowers appear in the spring. In the summer, the fruits mature into tart purple berries, resembling small clusters of grapes. The edible fruits make great jams and jellies. Oregon grape is an important food source for butterflies.
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
Sporting 4-inch-long leaves that look a bit like Easter lily foliage, Solomon's Seal grows in acidic, well-drained soil in the shady, forested areas of Portland. The native plant grows up to 3 feet tall. In the spring, small, bell-shaped greenish-yellow flowers dangle from underneath the plant's branches. In the fall, after the flowers fade, inedible berries appear that turn bluish-black when ripe. A bit later, the leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow and gold, offering great fall color.
Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum)
Four species of trillium grow in Portland including the most common plant, the Western trillium (Trillium ovatum). The Western trillium blooms in early spring in the deep shade of the forest, preferring acidic, well-drained soil. The plant grows up to 16 inches in height with three leaves reaching up to 8 inches in length followed by one bright white bloom featuring three petals. After the beautiful flower fades, a small seed pod forms containing 12 to 30 small seeds in a jelly-like substance. This seed pod eventually opens, spilling its seeds onto the ground where a few will germinate the following year.