When choosing native plants for a restoration site, understanding the conditions of your site, such as moisture content or sun exposure, is important. We usually begin by visiting nearby, less-disturbed sites to see which native plants grow there. We also gather historical data and speak with local First Nations. For example, at our restoration site on the Katzie Slough, we wanted to plant some species that are of particular cultural importance to the Katzie First Nation. And, as the restoration site is on a farmer’s private property, we agreed not to plant too many large trees that might shade his crops and get in the way of farm operations.
Here are some of the native plants we have growing at our restoration site. Do any look familiar to you, or do you have them growing in your garden?
Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana)
Nootka rose is one of my favourite native plants despite it constantly pulling my clothes and scratching my skin when I am working at the restoration site. The pink roses, which bloom through late spring and early summer, have a wonderful, delicate smell. The plant is fast-growing, making them great for restoration as they help protect stream banks from erosion, create groundcover and spread readily as suckers off of the parent plant. Nootka rose are not easily outcompeted by invasive blackberry. The rosehips that are produced by the plant can be used to make jams, jellies in syrups but tiny hairs around the seeds cause skin and intestinal irritation, so they need to be removed.
Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Red-osier dogwood is another favourite of mine due to its red bark. It provides colour in the winter and fall months when the site can look a bit barren. I have read that they grow well from cuttings, so am going to try transplanting cuttings to our second restoration site. A trick to identifying a dogwood is to slowly tear a leaf down the midrib, or centre. If you observe little strands connecting the two pieces, it is a dogwood! It also is a favourite for the local beaver, but it is quite hardy and the plants always grow back.
Hardhack (Spirea douglasii)
Hardhack is commonly found in wet sites and along waterways. It is another great plant for restoration because it grows quickly and helps prevent erosion. With bright pink, long flower clusters, hardhack is easy to identify when in bloom.
Tule/ Hard-stemmed Bulrush (Scirpus acutus)
Tule is a common plant in wet sites, such as the edges of streams and in marshes. It is quite distinctive with an inflorescence that hangs in a cluster from the top. Tule is a culturally important species for many local First Nations. According to Pojar and McKinnon’s Plants of Coastal British Columbia, “The stems of this plant were important for making baskets and mats that were used as walls and roofs of temporary shelters, and as floor mats, door covers and seat covers, among other things.”
Big-leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)
The big-leaf maple is probably the most commonly known plant at our restoration site, and certainly the largest. They have already grown quite a bit in the last four years, and are finally big enough to provide a decent amount of shade for us while we work. According to Pojar and McKinnon’s Plants of Coastal British Columbia, “the big leaf maple is called the paddle tree in many First Nations languages as the wood was used to make paddles.”
Black Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)
Twinberry, as it is aptly named, is very identifiable when it fruits; look for pairs of black berries, or if berries are not yet present, look for pairs of trumpet like flowers. From Pojar and McKinnon, “They were given names like ‘raven’s food’, ‘crow berry’ and ‘monster’s food.’”
In addition to these plants, we also have salmonberry, Pacific ninebark, thimble berry, Pacific Sitka willow, snowberry and red elderberry on site. Together, and with time, they will support native bird species, pollinators, small mammals, and will help improve the streambank stability and provide shading for the waterway.
Want to read about some more native plant varieties? Check out Habitat Restoration with Native Plants Part II!