Ecological Restoration Specialists

Species Selection Guide

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Catalog introduction

What plants do you want for your project?
Native species are not created equal when it comes to surviving transplant shock and adapting to a harsh site. Success may depend on choosing species that are not only suited to site conditions but are also hardy and adaptable, capable of handling nutrient poor soil, scarce water and shade, and competitive weeds. This guide suggests only those species we have found most successful and reliable for revegetation. See the first list for our very favorites.

We do not intend this guide to replace site-specific recommendations from an experienced restoration ecologist. We do hope it will help you double-check and refine your species selection. Many species show up on more than one of these lists, so make sure to cross-reference before finalizing your choices.

Remember that these lists indicate site conditions for successful transplanting, not necessarily the conditions where you would find established plants. Unless specified, these lists exclude plants that need shade since cover is rare at most planting sites.


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Restoration superstars
Based on our field experience, a few species stand out as star performers. These are the ones that seem determined to thrive even with some abuse: rough handling, poor soil, more or less water and shade than expected. No plant will guarantee success, but the species on this list are often your best bet.

All are tolerant of full sun. Most also grow rapidly and, in adequate conditions, will put on many inches or even feet every growing season. The fastest growers are indicated in the Comments.

We’ve listed each species in its ideal spot along the moisture spectrum, but all of the superstars will take moisture fluctuations or overall wetter or drier conditions than indicated. The most tolerant species are noted in the comments as “versatile”. You get the best results by putting the right plant in the right place, but these plants cut you more slack than most.

Plants are arranged by the soil moisture needs, starting with the wettest.

Sitka willowSalix sitchensiscontainer-grown or stakes
Hooker’s willowSalix hookerianacontainer-grown or stakes
Pacific willowSalix lucidacontainer-grown or stakes
Slough sedgeCarex obnuptaemergent
Red osier dogwoodCornus sericeacontainer-grown only, versatile
Peafruit (swamp) roseRosa pisocarpafast growing
Black twinberryLonicera involucratafast growing
Pacific ninebarkPhysocarpus capitatusversatile
Black cottonwoodPopulus balsamiferavery fast growing
Red alderAlnus rubravery fast growing
Shore pinePinus contortaversatile
Nootka roseRosa nutkanaversatile
CascaraRhamnus purshianaversatile
Vine mapleAcer circinatumslower growing, a survivor
Big leaf mapleAcer macrophyllumfast growing, versatile
SnowberrySymphoricarpos albusvery versatile
ThimbleberryRubus parviflorusversatile
Woods strawberryFragaria vescaherb, versatile
Western hazelCorylus cornutaslower growing, a survivor
Douglas firPseudotsuga menziesiiversatile
Coastal strawberryFragaria chiloensisherb, versatile
OceansprayHolodiscus discolorversatile
Tall Oregon grapeMahonia aquifoliumversatile

These are fabulous plants to work with!

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Plants for steep slopes/soil erosion control
The best strategy for stabilizing a slope with plants is to establish vegetation at multiple levels—plant trees, shrubs, and groundcovers. A multi-level canopy will do the best job of intercepting and slowing precipitation before it hits the ground, thus reducing surface erosion. Multiple vegetation types also provide both deep and spreading roots which stabilize the entire soil profile.

If maintaining a view is important, plant trees at the edges of the view, space them widely, or prune selectively, but don’t leave them out—you can’t beat a mature tree for its root system.

The plants recommended here are drought tolerant, except for those with “wet soil” noted in the Comments. Most slopes shouldn’t be irrigated, since irrigation can exacerbate soil erosion. These plants are also relatively rapid growers that stabilize soil quickly.

Grand firAbies grandis
Big leaf mapleAcer macrophyllum
Shore pinePinus contorta
Douglas firPseudotsuga menziesii
CascaraRhamnus purshianasmall tree
Pacific willowSalix lucidawet soil
Scouler’s willowSalix scoulerianasmall tree
Vine mapleAcer circinatum
Red-osier dogwoodCornus sericeawet soil
OceansprayHolodiscus discolor
Indian plumOemleria cerasiformisneeds shade
ThimbleberryRubus parviflorusspreads by suckers
SalmonberryRubus spectabiliswet soil, likes shade
Hookers willowSalix hookerianawet soil
Sitka willowSalix sitchensiswet soil
SnowberrySymphoricarpos albusspreads by suckers
KinnikinnickArctostaphylos uva-ursislow to establish
StrawberriesFragaria vesca, F. chiloensischiloensis good in sandy soil
Sword fernPolystichum munitumneeds shade

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Plants for very wet sites
Most coastal Pacific Northwest species that grow in or near the water require at least a few months of drying out during the growing season. Only a few emergent species can tolerate saturation year round, and even then standing water must be shallow enough to allow some greenery above the surface.

Water levels can fluctuate widely and conditions can change unpredictably, so you should monitor water levels at the site for a year before planting if you have that luxury. Even with this information, it can be difficult to predict which species will give you the best results at the water’s edge, so we recommend selecting a mix of emergents to improve your chances of making a good match.

Species are arranged by water needs, starting with year round saturated soil down to usually wet (dry in the summer)

Hardstem bulrushScirpus acutusplant in 2-8″ of water*
Tapered rushJuncus acuminatusplant in 0-4″ of water*
Beaked sedgeCarex utriculatashallow water*
Small-fruited bulrushScirpus microcarpus
Slough sedgeCarex obnuptashade tolerant sedge
Sawbeak sedgeCarex stipata
Common spikerushEleocharis palustris
Shore sedgeCarex lenticularis
Pacific willowSalix lasiandra
Sitka willowSalix sitchensis
Hookers willowSalix hookerianaplant near salt water
Oregon ashFraxinus latifolia
Red osier dogwoodCornus sericeaforms thickets
Peafruit (swamp) roseRosa pisocarpaforms thickets
Black twinberryLonicera involucrataforms thickets
Dagger-leaf rushJuncus ensifolius
Pacific ninebarkPhysocarpus capitatusforms thickets
Black cottonwoodPopulus balsamifera
SalmonberryRubus spectabilis
Shore pinePinus contorta
Sitka sprucePicea sitchensis
Reed mannagrassGlyceria grandissod forming in wet meadows

*At lowest water level in the year

We don’t recommend planting highly aggressive natives such as Douglas spirea (Spiraea douglasii), cattails (Typha latifolia), or soft rush (Juncus effusus) because they tend to form monocultures. If site conditions suit them, they will probably move in anyway.

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Live stakes and cuttings (also wet sites)
Under the right conditions, live stakes are a terrific way to revegetate wet areas with minimal expense and labor. We have found that some species give you better results than others—our native willows and black cottonwood generally are the most successful. These species are also appropriate for brush material and fascines.

This list may help you narrow the field further and decide which species are best for the specific demands of your project. Please contact us for more information on use, ordering, and handling of cuttings.

Sitka willowSalix sitchensisvery good rooter, most common willow in south Sound
Pacific willowSalix lucidagood rooter, brittle/difficult to pound, tree-size
Scouler’s willowSalix scoulerianadrier sites, roots more slowly but still dependably, tree-size
Hooker willowSalix hookeriana and S. hookeriana v. piperivery good rooter, flexible but brittle, plant near salt water
Geyer willowSalix geyerianagood rooter, prefers year-round saturated soil: inundated banks and muddy shores
SnowberrySymphoricarpos albusexcellent for drier slopes and where low height is needed
Black cottonwoodPopulus balsamiferagood rooter, may grow several feet a year in flood plains
Red osier dogwoodCornus sericeahighly variable success rate, put in the shade for highest success, mix with willows for diversity

Other species may work from live stakes, such as ninebark, twinberry and red elderberry, but we would consider them experimental.

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Plants for moist sites
There are numerous Pacific Northwest species that favor moist sites. However, “moist” comes in many degrees and variations, from damp to soaking and from steady moisture to fluctuating wet and dry. One person’s “moist” may be very different than another’s.

So we have included only the most versatile and vigorous growers for this list; only the species that can accept a wide range of moist conditions. These plants will tolerate some dry times in the summer, especially if mulched and/or watered for the first few years. They will also tolerate some flooding, although species usually limited to saturated soils are excluded from this list.

There is overlap between this list and the wet lists, as we are following the continuum from wet to dry.

Species are arranged by soil moisture needs, starting with very moist to moderately moist.

Red osier dogwoodCornus sericeavery versatile
Swamp roseRosa pisocarpa
Black twinberryLonicera involucrata
Pacific ninebarkPhysocarpus capitatusvery versatile
Black cottonwoodPopulus balsamifera
Red alderAlnus rubravery versatile; riparian
Black hawthornCrataegus douglasii
SalmonberryRubus spectabilisneeds moisture in summer
Shore pinePinus contortavery versatile
Nootka roseRosa nutkanaversatile
Sitka sprucePicea sitchensis
CascaraRhamnus purshianagood choice for riparian
Vine mapleAcer circinatum
Big leaf mapleAcer macrophyllum
SnowberrySymphoricarpos albusvery versatile
Red elderberrySambucus racemosa
ThimbleberryRubus parviflorusgood choice for riparian, versatile
Western hazelnutCorylus cornuta

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Plants for dry sites
Sunny, dry sites present extremely challenging conditions for transplanting and success rates are generally low. Sunny, dry sites benefit the most from irrigation. If irrigation is unavailable, plant in the fall and apply mulch for best survival.

It is also critical to choose species that are most likely to hang tough in the midst of the summer drought. These are species typically found in well-drained soil and even recent transplants are somewhat drought tolerant.

Shore pinePinus contortaversatile
Douglas firPseudotsuga menziesiifast growing
Garry oakQuercus garryanaslow growing
ServiceberryAmelanchier alnifoliatree or shrub
OceansprayHolodiscus discolorlikes marine bluffs
Tall Oregon grapeMahonia aquifolium
Mock orangePhiladelphus lewisii
Red-flowering currantRibes sanguineumdo not over-water
SnowberrySymphoricarpos albusvery versatile
KinnikinnickArctostaphylos uva-ursislow to establish
Coastal strawberryFragaria chiloensislikes sandy soil
Wild strawberryFragaria virginiana

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Plants hard to establish/need extra care
Many favorite Pacific Northwest natives are difficult to establish in restoration sites. They often grow abundantly in forests or on roadsides, but for various reasons don’t take well to transplanting into harsh sites. Most of these species require mature soils or shade as they settle in (also see our shade list) and are
best suited for enhancement plantings.

We generally recommend against using these plants for revegetation, unless you need them to serve a specific purpose. If you want to include them, we propose the following treatments.

Pacific madroneArbutus menziesiiAssume large transplanting losses; don’t over-water
Bitter cherry Prunus emarginataAssume losses to disease
Pacific flowering dogwoodCornus nuttalliiAssume losses to disease; plant at an edge with stem in shade
Red huckleberryVaccinium parvifoliumPlant in shade; mulch with wood chips; irrigate but don’t over-water
Oregon grapeMahonia nervosaPlant in shade; mulch; irrigate
Orange honeysuckleLonicera ciliosaAssume transplanting losses
Red-flowering currantRibes sanguineumPlant only in well drained soils; don’t over water
Pacific rhododendronR. macrophyllumMulch; shade; irrigate; be patient for it to grow
Herbaceous groundcoversPlant in shade; mulch; irrigate; suppress weed competition
BunchberryCornus canadensisIncorporate composted wood into soil; plant in cool, shaded spot
TwinflowerLinnaea borealisPlant in dry shade, mulch lightly

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Plants that need shade
The salal and sword fern that you see growing in clear cuts were originally growing under tree cover. Only with a mature root system do they flourish in full sun. If you are determined to put these species out in the open, expect losses and give them special care such as mulching with wood chips and irrigation during the summer drought.

Western hemlockTsuga heterophyllaplant on the northeast side of a shading plant or use shade screen
Western red cedarThuja plicatadoes well in shade
Red huckleberryVaccinium parvifoliumvery sun sensitive, hard to establish
Bald-hip roseRosa gymnocarpadoes well in shade
Oregon grapeMahonia nervosaslow grower, hard to establish
SalalGaultheria shallonslow grower
Indian plumOemleria cerasiformisdoes well in shade or partial shade
Pacific rhododendronR. macrophyllumslow grower
Sword fernPolystichum munitumdoes well in shade or partial shade
Most herbaceous groundcovers!most need mature soil, rich in organic matter

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Deer resistant plants
There is no such thing as a deer-proof plant. Deer are adaptable creatures, and they may choose to eat any species if it is easily available to them and they are hungry. However, you can choose species that at least are not their favorites.

Grand firAbies grandis
Oregon ashFraxinus latifolia
Sitka sprucePicea sitchensis
Shore pinePinus contorta
Douglas firPseudotsuga menziesii
CascaraRhamnus purshiana
Garry oakQuercus garryana
Western hemlockTsuga heterophyllaneeds shade
Vine mapleAcer circinatum
ServiceberryAmelanchier alnifolia
Beaked hazelnutCorylus cornuta
SalalGaultheria shallonneeds shade
Tall Oregon grapeMahonia aquifolium
Oregon grapeMahonia nervosaneeds shade
Pacific wax-myrtleMyrica californica
Indian plumOemleria cerasiformisneeds shade
Mock orangePhiladelphus lewisii
Straggly gooseberryRibes divaricatum
Red-flowering currantRibes sanguineum
Bald-hip RoseRosa gymnocarpa
Nootka roseRosa nutkana
Peafruit (swamp) roseRosa pisocarpa
Red elderberrySambucus racemosa
SnowberrySymphoricarpos albus
HuckleberriesVaccinium spp.some need shade
Ground covers
KinnikinnikArctostaphylos uva-ursi
StrawberriesFragaria spp.
BleedingheartDicentra formosaneeds shade
Sword fernPolystichum munitumneeds shade
Piggyback plantTolmiea menziesiineeds shade

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