One of the best things about summer is that we start to see the true fullness, color, and presence of our trees. Spring brings the seasonal rebirth of the tree, and summer brings its full growth or flowering. When we think about native Oregon trees, one thing to keep in mind is that there are varying climate zones across the state. So, for the sake of this piece, we’ll focus on native Oregon trees that do well in the Willamette Valley or any oceanic, continental, or boreal climate where there’s sufficient rain and sun to encourage the full potential of trees.
If you’re still debating which native Oregon trees to plant on your property, Vernon Imel Tree Service can be a great resource for your questions.
Different trees bear a variety of attributes, such as berries, flowers, special bark, or foliage that can enhance your yard throughout the year. If you’re interested in the prominent placement of trees with particularly unique colors or textures, consider putting these in places where others can see them too.
Species that provide shade are especially nice when planted near decks or sitting areas where the sun can get strong. Larger trees, particularly deciduous trees, can be planted in the southwestern part of the property. They keep the house cooler during long, warm summer days but still allow sunlight to permeate on shorter, cooler winter days.
The native Oregon trees you plant can be supplemented with native shrubs and hedges. Hedges are especially nice during the summer for added privacy. Though trees can provide habitat to wildlife, sometimes shrubs and hedges can provide a more appealing habitat for animals of different sizes. With that in mind, here are seven of the best native Oregon species to plant on your property.
1. Bigleaf Maple
With leaves potentially as big, or bigger, than your face, the bigleaf maple is aptly named. This deciduous tree can grow up to more than 157 feet (48 meters) tall but will normally reach a height of 50 to 65 feet (15 to 20 meters). It’s a North American native found along the Pacific coast (predominantly between southern California and the lower tip of Alaska). They can also be found in parts of the mountains of central California (the Sierra Nevada). Additionally, there’s a small cluster of this type of tree in the central part of Idaho.
As its name suggests, this varietal of maple has the biggest leaves. Their diameter can be as big as 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters). The leaves are large with deeply etched areas. Since it’s deciduous, come fall, the leaves turn yellow and gold, a fantastic backdrop for a yard that has evergreen conifers.
This small shrub tree is native to North America and can be found from central California all the way north, to the southern part of British Columbia. It’s no more than 15 to 30 feet (4.5 to 10 meters) tall with a trunk that doesn’t grow more than 8 to 20 inches (20 to 50 centimeters) in diameter. The bark is a brownish color that can get as light as a silver/gray and, in its dried form, was traditionally used as a laxative. But beware, the bark has a very intense and bitter composition that can last on your palate for hours. Cascara bark changes color in the sun, either turning a dark brown due to sun exposure or age.
3. Oregon White Oak
As a member of the beech family (Fahaceae), it’s one of only about four deciduous oaks actually native to the West Coast. The trunk is massive, and the vast branches have broad crowns atop the base. These are native characteristics of the woodland valleys of the Pacific Northwest. They can reach a height of 50 to 90 feet (15 to 27 meters) tall, with a maximum of 120 feet (37 meters).
The Oregon white oak can live for 500 years, and their demeanor depends on where they’re located. If they have enough space, they’ll grow wide and crown outward. But if there’s less space, they can grow tall and have branches that spire upward toward the sun. They can be found between Vancouver Island all the way down to southern California.
4. Pacific Dogwood
The Pacific dogwood is a species that’s native to North America’s West Coast. It can be found from southern British Columbia down to the mountains of southern California. There’s a small population in Idaho’s central region as well.
It’s considered to be a medium-sized deciduous tree that grows 30 to 60 (or more) feet (10 to 25 meters) tall. The flowers of the Pacific dogwood grow in small clusters, and the leaves are oval-shaped and about 3 to 5 inches (8 to 12 centimeters) in length. There’s also a fruit component to this tree, and although it’s edible, it is not very tasty. It is commonly eaten by pigeons.
5. Red Alder
The red alder is a deciduous tree with large leaves. This alder is native to North America and found on the West Coast, with trees in Alaska, the Yukon, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and California. It’s one of the largest species of alders in the world, with heights that reach 66 to 98 feet (20 to 30 meters).
The leaves are more oval, with a 3- to 6-inch (8- to 13-centimeter) size. The fact that the leaves curve under a bit is one of its distinguishing characteristics. They turn a yellow color come fall and will eventually fall to the ground.
6. Vine Maple
This maple varietal can usually be found within 190 miles (300 kilometers) of the Pacific Ocean. They’re spread out on this coast between British Columbia and northern California. This tree can be traced to East Asia. Its relatives include the Acer japonicum (fullmoon maple) and Acer pseudosieboldianum (Korean maple). This is the only tree from the palmatum species that can be found outside of the Asian continent.
You can expect it to grow from 16 to 26 feet (5 to 8 meters) tall, and it normally grows from under the cover of taller forest trees. It can also be found in open areas. Plus, they grow anywhere from sea level up to an altitude of 4,900 feet (1,500 meters).
7. Willamette Valley Ponderosa Pine
(Pinus ponderosa var. willamettensis)
This is a variation of the ponderosa pine that’s native to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It has adapted to the wet winter and dry summer. It’s the only type of ponderosa that grows on the floor of the valley, as opposed to on the slopes. Due to this fact, when some of the first settlers came, they used up much of the tree’s reserves. The needles are long and grow in bunches. It can be identified by the length of its needles, which are usually 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 centimeters) long. It mostly grows east of the Cascades. As an evergreen conifer, it can grow 60 to 100 feet (18 to 30 meters) tall.