Native plants provide shade to streams, habitat for nesting birds, berries, nuts, leaves and bark as food sources for a variety of animals, and a source of pollen and nectar for insects.
Native plant species we use in the course of riparian restoration include:
- Douglas spirea (Spiraea douglasii)
Douglas spirea grows in open areas of wet meadows and bogs, and along streambanks and lake margins, but can occasionally be found in non-wetland habitats. It grows between two and seven feet high and has clusters of small pink fragrant flowers emerging in three-inch conical spikes from June through September. These flower clusters look fuzzy due to the flowers’ many elongated stamens. The flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insects. The plants provide good cover for many birds and small mammals.
- Mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii)
Mock orange is one of the showier and more fragrant shrubs you’ll encounter across the watershed. Its name derives from its flowers’ fragrance being reminiscent of orange blossoms. Four to nine feet tall, this multi-stemmed vase-shaped shrub grows in a variety of habitats. Its tall arching branches are covered with clusters of white four-petal blossoms in late spring to early summer.Once the petals fall, the sepals remain in what looks like a second, different type of flower. The plant’s reddish-brown bark turns gray and flakes off as it ages. Squirrels, quail, and various songbird species eat the plants’ seeds. Its blossoms are pollinated by insects.
- Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor)
Sometimes called creambush for its foamy, droopy clusters of cream-colored flowers, oceanspray is amazingly adaptive, growing in all kinds of environments. It is one of the early colonizers found after forest fires, clear-cuts, or other land disturbance activities.Growing anywhere from 2.5 to 20 feet (the latter in wetter, shadier environs), it’s easily recognized by its alternate oval-to-triangular leaves with lobed or doubly toothed margins. Its branches arch outward, and its brownish bark peels easily. Palatable to few animals, it does provide valuable cover for birds, amphibians, and small mammals.
- Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus)
Pacific ninebark is a true riparian species, growing along streams, in wet meadows and marshes, and at the edges of moist woods. Usually growing to around 12 feet in height, it can reach 18 feet. Fast growing, it does a great job of stabilizing streambanks.Most easily identified by the brown shedding bark on its branches and its three-to-five lobed, toothed leaves that look similar to a maple leaf, its flowers are not showy like many of the other plants listed here. Its flowers are small and packed tightly in a hemispherical cluster, emerging April-June. These flowers are pollinated primarily by native bees, but are also visited by butterflies. Its tall, many stems provide good cover to various birds and small mammals.
- Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)
One of our earlier bloomers is the red-flowering currant. Although it’s a popular plant for streamside restoration, it’s more often found in dry open woods. Growing three to nine feet tall, it’s most easily identified – when not in bloom – by its five-lobed crinkly-looking leaves that are hairy on the undersides.
During hot summer days, you may smell its pungent sage-like fragrance. Drooping clusters of 10-20 flowers emerge February through April, and range in color from white or pale pink to a deep red – a great attractant for migrating hummingbirds. Fruits are bluish-black and eaten by a variety of songbirds and small mammals.