Over the past century, our lives have changed in many ways. Go back in time to the late 1800s and about 90 out of every 100 Americans were farmers. Today, that number has shrunk to just 2 out of 100. Urban sprawl has created concrete jungles that have changed the way we use.
In the continental U.S. alone, over 150 million acres of habitat and farmland have been consumed, and the trend is unlikely to slow down.
We have an obsession with neatness and perfection. The perfect lawn is a highly valued prize among residential homeowners, with most spending hour upon hour creating green, manicured carpets. We value them so much that they now cover over 40 million acres. Unfortunately, very few of those carpets are native to the area. That means they no longer support functioning ecosystems and do little to preserve the native wildlife.
Native plants are those that occur naturally in a given region. A native Oregon tree would be one that grew here naturally long before Lewis and Clark headed West on their journey. Native plants are here for a reason. They’ve evolved over time. They have grown to provide life to all that surrounds it; something local birds, insects, animals, and even other plants can’t survive without.
If you’re thinking of adding a new tree to your landscape, choosing one that is native to Oregon will benefit you in many ways. However, if you visit a big box nursery, what you’ll most likely find are trees that are grown in abundance throughout the U.S. You’ll find trees that do well in many locations; one’s that are easy to grow and just as easy to sell. These mass produced plants have, in many cases, become invasive pests, degraded local habitats.
If you opt for a native plant, here are just some of the many benefits:
Because native trees belong in an area, they rarely require maintenance once they have been established. They can take the extreme factors well and exist easily in the terrain that exists in the community.
Native plants have long since adapted to local environmental conditions. That means they require less water than plants transported from other areas of the world where conditions are different. They naturally adapt to the norms; they can easily survive with the levels of water, sunshine, and highs and lows you’ll find throughout the year.
In addition to a wide array of birds, other wildlife benefits as well. You can increase the habitat for butterflies and moths, including the monarch, swallowtails, and beautiful blues. Native plants also create the perfect nutrients for pollinators, including hummingbirds, native bees, butterflies, moths, and bats. They provide shelter for many different species of animals. They also provide a bounty of food, including nuts, seeds, and fruit, all essential to life as we know it.
Help the Climate
When you plant a tree that is native to Oregon, you can help combat climate change. Trees automatically reduce noise pollution and decrease carbon pollution from our technology driven lifestyles. Native trees already thrive in current conditions, which means they have a better chance of living out long, normal lives, and effectively store more greenhouse gas than trees that have to fight to survive.
Create a Healthier Living Environment
When you create the perfectly manicured lawn around your home, it takes work to keep it looking good. That means using extra fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. The traditional suburban lawn uses up to ten times as much chemicals per acre as farmland. But if you fill your yard with native plants, you can create a healthier living space for you and the wildlife all around you.
Choosing native plants doesn’t mean planting them and forgetting them, however. Just because they are native to the area, doesn’t mean they will perform well without a little TLC. A native tree may take well to your yard. It may thrive easier than trees not native to the Portland area. It may function well with the amount of water and sunshine we receive each year. And it may do it all while providing natural beauty through every season.
But living in suburbia isn’t the same as surviving out in the wild. Creating a yard with curb appeal takes more effort than allowing plants to flow freely across the horizon.
You have to give a tree the right amount of water and nutrients when you transplant it to the perfect place in your yard. You have to prune it each year to keep it healthy and thriving. You have to shape it as it matures to ensure it creates a well-rounded canopy that coexists with other landscaping in your yard. You have to watch for pests and diseases. You have to provide extra TLC during our extreme weather conditions. And with all of that in place, you’ll enjoy your native tree for many years to come.
So which native Oregon trees should you plant?
While you may not be able to walk into your local big box nursery and readily know which trees are native to Oregon, you can do a little homework to learn more about your options.
Do a quick search, and you’ll find many sites that will point you in the right direction. Oregon State University has a database that lists trees both by common name and by scientific name. Oregon Forests allows you to sort trees by region and provides information and photographs of each tree native throughout the areas. Or visit a local nursery and chat with the staff. Most have a wealth of knowledge about planting native trees and can help you select the perfect items for your landscaping needs.
Keep in mind that different trees will do well in different conditions. Do you have a lot of sun in your neighborhood or is your home surrounded by shade?
Native trees for shade include:
-Acer circinatum vine maple
-Corylus cornuta beaked hazelnut
-Mahonia Oregon grape
Native trees for the sun can include:
-Native ables fir tree
-Ceanothus wild lilac
-Quercus garryana white oak
Are you ready to plant and care for a tree native to Oregon?