In honor of National Plant a Flower Day, here are the Port Biologist's top 10 favorite native flowers.
Most people who have lived in the Pacific Northwest for any length of time are familiar with the eternal ray of sunshine, Ciscoe Morris, and his show, Gardening with Ciscoe.
I am no Ciscoe. But who doesn’t love saying, “Oooh la la!”?
Despite my permanent partly cloudy demeanor, the first native flower blooms of the year bring me an inordinate amount of joy. Forget whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles, and warm woolen mittens. We’re here to talk raindrops on roses and a few of my other favorite things.
In honor of National Plant a Flower Day (March 12), here are my top 10 favorite native flowers you can plant in your very own yard. If you don’t have a yard, you can also plant some of these beauties in pots and they will love you just as much. In alphabetical order with a little detail about each flower:
#1 Baldhip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa)
"Soft pink single rose flowers turn into bright orange and red 'hips' providing a variety of color throughout the growing season."
Baldhip rose is planted at pretty much every Port habitat restoration site. You can see it blooming in spring/summer at Gog-le-hi-te, Place of Circling Waters, EB-1B Alexander Avenue Wetland, and Julia's Gulch.
#2 Bigleaf lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus)
"Giant spikes of bright blue flowers with distinctive leaves. They are nitrogen fixers, which means they are great for your soil."
Bigleaf lupine is another powerhouse for the Port's habitat sites. Because it fixes nitrogen, the Port plants this at every habitat site to help soils provide nutrients to other native vegetation.
#3 Camas (Camassia quamash)
"A stunning blue lily with an edible bulb. What’s not to love?"
#4 Lewisia bitterroot (Lewisia cotyledon)
"Technically this species is native to drier climates in southern Oregon/northern California, but this succulent is worth planting in a sunny, dry spot. The flowers are so happy and beautiful, you can’t help but smile back at them."
#5 Common red paintbrush (Castilleja miniata)
"Their vibrant scarlet flowers are dazzling in the summer sun."
#6 Douglas’ aster (Aster subspicatus)
"Pretty purple ray flowers with yellow discs. Daisy’s cooler cousin."
Douglas' aster can be spotted in the lower elevations at Place of Circling Waters.
#7 Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)
"Tall stalks of bright pink flower clusters and a preferred treat of American pika (which is one of my favorite critters)."
Fireweed doesn't need much encouragement. It usually is one of the first flowers to naturally "volunteer" itself to the Port's habitat sites. Look along the hillsides at Place of Circling Waters for the distinguishable pink flowers.
#8 Red columbine (Aquilegia tormosa)
"Really unique flowers with red 'spurs' that fan out from the rest of the flower and yellow centers that point towards the ground. You almost have to turn upside down to get the full impact of these gorgeous flowers!"
Columbine was planted at Gog-le-hi-te right by the observation platform.
#9 Trillium (Trillium ovatum)
"Low to the ground (like me) with striking large leaves in whorls of three (sometimes five) with large bright white flowers that turn pink or purple with age."
#10 Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
"Soft, frilly leaves (like feathers) and clusters of tiny ray flowers that are usually white but can also be pink or reddish."
Yarrow is another happy sight at the Port's habitat areas. Pollinators at Place of Circling Waters, Gog-le-hi-te and the EB-1B Alexander Avenue Wetland all benefit from this delicate flower.
Let us know how you spent your National Plant a Flower Day by tagging @PortofTacoma on social media.
Native flowers are important food sources for our native pollinators. Learn more about the importance of pollinators.
If you don’t have a green thumb, use this bingo card to see how many native plants you can spot at one of our wetland habitat restoration sites.
And if you have never seen Ciscoe in action, you have to check him out.