Spring Plants of the PNW

May 8, 2018

I recently returned to Oregon after graduating with my masters from the University of Utah. Utah was beautiful in its own high-desert way, but Oregon's dark forests and jeweled rivers will always be my home. And, let me tell you, there's no better time of year to be back! Late spring means sunny days (interspersed by the usual rain, of course), a resurgence of birdsong, and a bright bursting of plantlife! 

 

I took my first walk in the forest yesterday since being back. Each plant was where it was last year; the false hellebore patch had returned, and the thimbleberries by the creek were blooming already. The cottonwoods and ashes and maples flickered in the wind, undeniably alive, most likely sentient, watching me, welcoming me. I looked for the currants and the last of the trilliums, and I was surprised to find a large patch of common touch-me-nots by the bridge along the river.

 

John Muir said that going to the mountains was going home, and for me, going to the forest is going home. I know the forest; who lives there, how the seasons dance through, leaving new colors and scents and feelings in their wake. I feel like I'm part of it. Like I'm of it.

 

 

Here are some of my favorite spring plants here in the Pacific Northwest:

 

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) - EDIBLE

 

I had the delight of eating one of the first ripe salmonberries in the forest the other day! They taste like a tart raspberry, with a slightly grainier, seedier texture. Definitely worth a forage!

 

 

Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora

 

Fringecup is a delicate plant, and very prolific in Northwest forests.

 

 

Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) - EDIBLE

 

Much like salmonberry, thimbleberry tastes a lot like raspberries! For now the plant is only flowers, but the berries should be out in early July. They're a little sweeter than salmonberries, and, in my opinion, they're the tastiest of the wild berries!

 

 

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)

 

You may have seen bleeding hearts in ornamental gardens, but they also grow wild. The flowers really do look like little hearts! They're some of the most beautiful wildflowers of spring.

 

Siberian Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia sibirica) - EDIBLE

 

Siberian miner's lettuce tastes a lot like spinach. The entire plant is edible, including the leaves and the flowers. They make a great addition to salads!

 

 

Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana)

 

Enchanter's nightshade is a common sight in moist soils in the Northwest. I often see it near waterfalls!

 

 

Stream Violet (Viola glabella) - EDIBLE

 

Did you know that all wild violets (and all parts of all wild violets) are edible? They don't taste like much, but they can make a pretty addition to a salad. 

 

False Hellebore (Veratrum viride)

 

False hellebore looks a bit like corn (hence its other common name, Indian Corn), but don't eat it! It's extremely poisonous.

 

 

 

I encourage you to get out there and see your own spring world!  Share with me in the comments below! 

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