Pacific Northwest Native Streamside Plant Identification


Tall trees, smaller shrubs and even smaller flowers make their home by the many streams flowing through the Pacific Northwest. The plants have one thing in common--the love and need of moist and wet conditions. The plants are the answer for the gardener with a low-lying, moist to wet location where a garden pond is the perfect solution. Native plants are commercially available from local sources.


Sweet after death (Achlys triphylla) is a groundcover also known as vanilla leaf and is a member of the barberry family. The name comes from the fact that the dried plants have a vanilla fragrance. White alder (Alnus rhombifolia) is a tree and a member of the birch family. Great purple monkey-flower (Mimulus lewisii ) is a member of the figwort family. Cream bush (Holodiscus discolor) is also known as hillside oceanspray, mountain spray and Oceanspray and is a member of the rose family. All of the plants are commercially available.


Sweet after death features large leaves made up of three leaflets. White flowers grow in clusters at the top of stems 8 inches tall from April through July. The flowers are followed by tiny, red-purple fruits. White to gray bark identifies the white alder. The tree grows from 10 to 30 feet tall and features a tall, straight trunk and dark-green, oval shaped leaves. Green flowers grow in long, hanging clusters and bloom in September, October and November and are followed by clusters of small cones. Great purple monkey-flower grows from 1 to 3 feet tall and produces light-green, lance-shaped leaves and rose-pink flowers accented with touches of maroon growing at the top of the stems from June through September. Cream bush is a spreading shrub that grows from 4 to 7 feet tall. The arching stems hold lobed, green, deciduous leaves. Fragrant, cream-white flowers grow in large clusters and bloom from May through August.


Moist, coastal forests and stream banks in California, Oregon and Washington are home to sweet after death. White alder only grows by streams and is found in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Great purple monkey-flower flourishes along the stream banks, moist meadows and seeps of the Pacific Northwest. Cream bush is found on the north-facing slopes, moist open woods and stream banks in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.


Sweet after death likes partial or full shade and a soil that is rich and moist. White alder needs partial shade and a moist to wet soil. Plant great purple monkey-flower in partial shade and a soil that is moist to wet. Give cream bush full sun or partial shade and a moist gravelly or rocky soil.


Plant vanilla leaf where it will not be able to overcome less vigorous plants. White alder supplies nitrogen to the soil and is used in reclamation projects. Use the tree in a wet area where other trees would not survive. Plant great purple monkey-flower near a pond or stream or in a hummingbird garden as long as the soil is not allowed to go dry. Use cream bush in a butterfly or hummingbird garden.

Keywords: Pacific Northwest gardens, water feature plants, northwest plants

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Regina Sass has been a writer for 10 years, penning articles for publications in the real estate and retail industries. Her online experience includes writing, advertising and editing for an educational website. Sass is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.