After giving this presentation in person for the past two years at various events in southwest Oregon, Suzie recorded it on Zoom for folks to watch on video from the comfort of their own homes. Now that spring has arrived and wildflowers are blooming across the region, it’s time to grow our shared appreciation for the botanical biodiversity of the Siskiyou Mountains! Many of the species covered in this presentation are still buried under feet of snow from this winter’s amazing snowpack, so start dreaming of seeing these flowers this summer! In the meantime, this presentation does cover species from low and mid elevations as well, so check it out and get out and enjoy the flowers this spring and summer!
Oregon Native Plant Appreciation Month is celebrated throughout the month of April, and in celebration Suzie Savoie and Luke Ruediger of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds will be giving multiple presentations to provide inspiration for the conservation of native plants and pollinators. If you live locally maybe we’ll see you there!
California Native Plant Week is April 15-22, 2023. Just before that Luke and Suzie will be in Arcata, California , on April 12th, to do a presentation about their local film, Sagebrush to Sea: A Journey Across the Siskiyou Crest for the North Coast (CNPS) California Native Plant Society.
It’s still winter but many native species are eager to get a jump start on growth by germinating during some of the coldest months of the year. It’s February and the nights are getting down into the low 20s and we continue getting dustings of snow off and on at our backwoods homestead at 2,200′ elevation in the Siskiyou Mountains, but little seedlings are still emerging during these cold, wintry conditions, roused by the necessity to get roots established quickly before the summer drought season arrives.
Some native species have seeds that germinate in the fall with early fall rain, and the seedlings remain small and don’t put on any above ground growth during the winter, waiting for a quick spurt of growth in the spring. Winter germinating species, on the other hand, start to germinate as the first tinges of spring arrive, when buds on dormant trees and shrubs start to swell, and the earliest blooming wildflowers are emerging from frozen or rain soaked ground on sunny winter days.
Some of these native seeds have germinated in winter only after some necessary duration of cold-moist stratification, while others may have germinated more than a year after the seeds were initially sown, having chose not to germinate the first year, but rather wait until the following winter. Some annual species that don’t have any pretreatment or cold-moist stratification requirements will also germinate during the cold winter months, getting a jump start on growth because they need time to grow, flower and set seed in one growing season.
Here at Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, we pride ourselves on growing most of the native species we sell seed for in order to test seed germination and understand the growing requirements in the nursery setting or in the direct seeding environment. There’s no better way to understand native seeds than to collect, clean and grow them! Growing native plants from seed is a satisfying and joyful endeavor like no other. It helps one get to know native plants better, how they grow and how they function in the larger ecology of the region. In this case, it helps us understand which species will germinate in the fall, winter or spring, or which species will grow whenever the hell they want to — because if we’ve learned anything, it’s that we always have more to learn, and native plant seeds will surely surprise you! We love having a small nursery to test out seed germination, seedling growth, and general growing requirements to help better serve our customers and answer questions they may have about our seeds.
The following is a photo essay of the native seeds germinating in early February 2023 in the Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds nursery.
The new year brings new opportunities to sow native seeds, and right now is a great time of year to sow native seeds! Watch this inspiring and instructive Zoom presentation by Suzie Savoie, co-owner of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, to help kick start your own native seeding or planting project.
In December 2020, Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds installed a one-half-acre Native Plant and Pollinator Botanical Garden at Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley in southwest Oregon that includes over 100 species of native plants. Primarily established through direct seeding, with some use of potted native nursery plants, the garden provides an opportunity to learn about native plants in a scenic, organic, and biodynamic vineyard setting that is open to the public. This presentation focuses on how, in two years, the space went from bare ground to a botanical garden with paths, a small meadow, and blocks of species highlighted with plant signs. Lessons learned are explored and specific species information is provided.
Suzie has given this presentation through Zoom in November 2022 for the Jackson County Master Gardener’s Association’s Winter Dreams, Summer Gardens Symposium, and in December 2022 in person at the Troon Vineyard tasting room. She later recorded the Zoom presentation in order to make it freely available online, so you can watch from the comfort of your own home, and start dreaming up your own native seeding and planting projects!
We hope this presentation helps inspire you to Grow Native – Grow Wild!
As winter weather draws us indoors this time of year, it gives us time to reflect on some important experiences and learning opportunities in 2022, including this summer’s McKinney Fire, which tested the fire resiliency of our native planting and seeding projects at Klamath River Club on the Klamath River in northern California.
This summer one of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds’ long-term native seeding and planting projects interacted with the McKinney Fire on the Klamath River in northern California, and it made it out pretty good, showing that growing native plants for the benefit of pollinators, wildlife, birds and native plant conservation can be an integral part of hardening your home and creating a fire resilient landscape on your property.
Wildfire is an elemental part of the ecological landscape of the Klamath-Siskiyou region, and it interacts with and impacts human communities in many different ways. The lives of most everyone who lives in the Klamath-Siskiyou region are touched in some way by wildfire, and will continue to be.
In many ways, the work we do at Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds is dependent on wildfire, as many of the species that we collect seed of and supply seed for are invigorated and nourished by wildfire, and some are truly dependent on wildfire for their survival and regeneration. We also do a lot of our seed collection in the post-fire environment, usually 2-3 years after it burns, as that is when herbaceous plants have put on extraordinary growth and flowers in the post-fire environment, making the access to an abundance of seed much easier to locate.
Where we live and work at the base of the Siskiyou Crest near the Red Buttes Wilderness, has experienced many wildfires in the last 20 years, including the 38,000-acre Abney Fire that burned in 2017 in our canyon for two months, creeping around mainly in the understory and replenishing the forests, woodlands and meadows with a long suppressed natural process.
Our family is lucky enough to have experienced low-intensity, understory wildfire next to our home with little threat to our structures or safety; however, our family has also experienced the devastating loss of a home to wildfire when Luke’s Mom’s home burned in the fast-moving, wind-driven Almeda Fire in Talent, Oregon in 2020. This fire destroyed 2,300 homes and killed three people. Luke’s mom will always live with the trauma and grief of losing so much so quickly, including sentimental and historic items that meant so much to her.
Yet, after many years of working on habitat restoration and native seeding and planting projects, for the first time, one of our project areas was tested by wildfire this past summer on the Klamath River. Our lives and work were again touched by wildfire, but in a different way this time. One of our long-term native seeding and planting projects at the private fishing retreat, Klamath River Club (KRC) on the Klamath River was partially burned in the 66,000-acre McKinney Fire.
The McKinney Fire was a dramatic semi-natural event, ignited by downed powerlines, burning through significant private industrial timber lands and fueled by explosive fire behavior, strong winds, collapsing pyrocumulus plumes and sudden, extreme rain events. The McKinney Fire tragically killed four people and destroyed at least 185 structures, including most of the town of Klamath River, California.
Started by sparking Pacific Power power lines, the fire quickly roared to life during an unprecedented heat wave and wind event. According to temperature gauges at KRC, the area experienced a record temperature of 116 the day the fire started, and in less than 24 hours the fire roared through the small settlement of Klamath River, burning many homes, trailer parks, the Klamath River Community Hall, a building that housed archives for the Karuk Tribe and the post office. When it reached KRC no one was there, not even fire crews, as they were busy with emergency evacuations, trying to save lives and get people out of the fire area. Crews were also focused on implementing structural protection along Hwy 96 with limited resources and under dangerous conditions, attempting to protect homes at the heart of the small hamlet of Klamath River. The McKinney Fire moved through the KRC property for an estimated 12 hours with no one there, and burned without the influence of fire suppression activities, showing how the fire naturally interacted with the human infrastructure, native plant gardens and habitat restoration projects.
Thankfully KRC was developed with wildfire in mind, as owners Tom and Annette had previously lost a home to wildfire during the Oakland Firestorm of 1991 in Oakland, California, a deadly and devastating fire that killed 25 people and burned 2,843 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units. Because of this past experience, Tom and Annette helped residents impacted by the Almeda Fire by gathering donated items from people in Oakland, California to help those who lost their homes during the Almeda Fire in the Rogue Valley years later. These experiences also helped inform the management choices they made at KRC while developing the human infrastructure, landscaping and defensible space around the property.
As part of the habitat restoration work at KRC, the first project was blackberry removal, followed by riparian tree and shrub planting along the river. This took place in between the river and structures, starting in 2017. This early decision to implement invasive blackberry removal along the river corridor adjacent to the developed portions of the property, and the emphasis on native riparian plants, was probably the most important factor that contributed to KRC surviving the McKinney Fire with only some losses. Blackberry removal and maintenance has continued at KRC near the homes and structures every year since 2017, keeping blackberry growth to a minimum and reducing fuels less than 100′ from structures and human infrastructure on the property.
As you can see in these photos, areas along the river that were still colonized with dense thickets of blackberries burned completely to the ground. Yet, where blackberry had been removed, the native riparian vegetation was largely unscathed and the reduction in fire intensity likely led to a decrease in residual heat and ember shower effecting the adjacent structures. The gray willow that dominates the Klamath River corridor, and native willow in general, is very fire resilient and is stimulated by wildfire, so it burning in and of itself is not problematic; however, it burning near structures and sending up embers that can help ignite nearby infrastructure does make a difference. So, in this scenario, removing the invasive blackberry and encouraging native trees and shrubs made the structures at KRC more fire resilient, reduced fire activity on the property and reduced the severity of the fire. It also essentially stopped the fire and may have saved much of the human infrastructure at KRC.
In all, the main structure, the bathhouse, a large outdoor kitchen/pavilion area, multiple large canvas wall tents on platforms, the pump house, the outdoor shower, and the garage structure all made it out just fine as the fire moved through the property. Some losses included two metal containers used for tool storage where the entire contents burned. The metal structures concentrated heat and baked the contents from the inside out. Although the metal containers did not burn, their contents were incinerated. Additionally, two canvas wall tents on platforms, and a woodshed with four cords of wood were burned. Compared to many who lost everything in the McKinney Fire, KRC made it out pretty good, with much to be thankful for.
The day the fire started Tom and Annette watched the fire burn remotely from their security cameras. The images were devastating that night as the dark images showed fire moving through the property and flames burning in different areas. As they went to bed that night, they thought KRC was going to be a total loss, but the morning daylight revealed that much of KRC made it through the fire, and some of the impressive flames and images from the night before was the firewood shed on fire, making it appear much worse than it actually was.
When Tom was finally able to return to KRC and visit the property with CALFIRE staff, they told him that the work he had done to create defensible space using native plants and removing blackberries had helped save the structures at KRC. Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds had done a lot of this work, and we are proud to have helped KRC be more fire resilient during the McKinney Fire.
As the McKinney Fire moved through the property it partially burned some of the native plantings, but most of the areas that we had planted and seeded remained completely unburned. As mentioned earlier, areas along the river treated to remove invasive blackberries stayed lush and green with primarily native gray willow (Salix exigua), but also some Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia), white alder (Alnus rhombifolia), incense-cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), white oak (Quercus garryana) and black oak (Quercus kelloggii) survived the fire. In the understory of these larger, established plants grow smaller native plantings, including a mixture of native trees and shrubs, that were also unscathed during the McKinney Fire.
There are a lot of factors that determine the intensity of a wildfire, and whether or not structures or vegetation will burn, but one of the major factors near homes is wind and ember shower. Thankfully all the structures at KRC have metal roofs which help prevent ember ignition. Embers did ignite a few places in the native plantings at KRC during the McKinney Fire, but they mostly just smoldered around in the bark mulch and burned up some of the plantings in a few areas. Probably less than 5% of the areas planted and seeded with native plants burned, and only a small fraction of that was negatively impacted. Well established plants sprouted back really quickly after the fire; whereas, some shrubs and perennials that were not well established, and were only planted a year or two ago, didn’t come back after being burned.
Being resilient to the fire allowed the native gardens and habitat at KRC to act as an oasis in an area which burned pretty hot overall in the McKinney Fire, providing valuable pollen and nectar for endangered monarch butterflies and other pollinators and wildlife within the fire footprint. Monarch butterflies used the milkweed in the native plant gardens at KRC throughout the summer and early fall at KRC, nectaring on the flowers, laying eggs on the plants, caterpillars munching on the leaves, caterpillars eclosing from chrysalises on the plants, and producing more monarchs and that will help the imperiled western monarch butterfly population.
Additionally, naturally occurring showy milkweed on the property that burned in the fire was growing back and pushing new growth within weeks of the fire.
Overall, the impacts to human infrastructure and native plantings at KRC were minimal, showing that native plantings, the removal on non-native species and the maintenance of defensible space had a positive effect on the overall impact of the McKinney Fire at KRC. .
The plants that didn’t make it through the fire were replanted this fall and efforts at KRC will continue focusing on native plant restoration, native plant gardening, defensible space and home hardening that will beautify the property, provide valuable pollinator and wildlife habitat, and help KRC weather the next fire storm. Living with wildfire takes preparation and thoughtful management of your surroundings, it also requires a little luck. KRC was both lucky and prepared, allowing the property to continue thriving with wildfire on the Klamath River. Fire is an inevitable part of life, but losing homes, structures and infrastructure is not inevitable if we work to adequately prepare homes and communities with defensible space and home hardening.
For more information please check out the following:
This time of year, it is important to us to show our appreciation for some of the many non-profit organizations that help conserve and protect the important biodiversity of our region, provide invaluable environmental education, and make the region a better place to live and explore.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native seeds is a small, rural, woman-led business that has a commitment to be ecologically and socially responsible in our business practices and to give back to the land and community that make our region so special and unique.
While providing native seeds for native plant and pollinator habitat restoration projects, running our business off of solar energy, and volunteering our own personal time for conservation and environmental efforts demonstrates our commitment to running a sustainable business and lifestyle, it is also important to take that commitment one step further and provide donations to non-profit organizations and community efforts that do amazing work in our region.
If you live in southwest Oregon or northwest California, this upcoming native plant sale in Phoenix, Oregon, hosted by Pollinator Project Rogue Valley, is a great opportunity to purchase native plants for fall planting! KSNS will have a booth and we look forward to seeing you there!
Each year we start collecting seeds in May and usually wind down at the end of October, or in some years into November, depending on fall weather. That means that we are collecting seeds for half the year, every year! We start in the low country and work up in elevation as seeds ripen in the high country, but even at low elevations there are late-blooming species that ripen late in the summer or early fall. Right now is probably the peak of seed collection, as both low elevation and high elevation species are on!
Each year the timing of seed ripening for specific species changes a little. This year we had a wet, cool early start to summer and native seeds have matured a little later in the low country, but have been pretty similar to the average seed collection times in higher elevation areas. We keep detailed seed collection data on the location and date of when and where we collect our seeds to make future seed collection trips more successful and to help us hit the right time to collect seeds.
We have been busy in the field this summer and haven’t had time to do much writing or computer oriented tasks — of course, we’re still getting your seed orders shipped! — as we work hard, drive and hike far out in the backcountry, and collect seeds, often on steep terrain and off-trail, in the heat of summer, to bring you the seeds you need to meet your native seeding and planting goals.
Each year we are excited to offer a few new species to our growing list of diverse native plants seeds, from a wide variety of habitat types, and this year is no different! We’ll have some new, exciting species this year, as well restocked availability for popular species that have been out of stock for a while.
Be patient with us as we get our inventory updated as we are also busy cleaning and packaging seeds! Our trusty Dybvig and Clipper seed cleaning machines have been working away, helping us clean our seeds for packaging. Cleaning seeds is time and labor intensive, but also enjoyable! You really get to know a plant when you clean its seed and look at the seed in detail, observing all the parts that make it particularly adapted to its natural environment.
We have seed collection contracts to fulfill, and waiting/notification lists to contact with updated inventory information. If we are lucky to have found seed for the species you’ve been waiting for this summer, we’ll let you know when we have it ready! Otherwise, just peruse our SHOP page and see what’s available and start dreaming up your fall seeding and planting plans now! August is the perfect time to start planing for fall seeding!
Special thanks goes to Troon Vineyard for having the vision to support the creation of a Native Plant and Pollinator Botanical Garden on their property as part of their Biodynamic and regenerative agriculture goals. You can visit the botanical garden during tasting hours at Troon Vineyard! Feel free to pop in and check it out, and watch the garden develop as it matures, as this is only year two of this exiting project, established mostly by direct seeding of native seeds from Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds.
A few scattered showers brought some gorgeous rainbows that accented the garden for the start of the tour!
The Siskiyou Crest is a rugged, remote and spectacularly diverse mountain range straddling the border of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon. Little known, but incredibly wild and beautiful, the Siskiyou Crest is the only mountain range in the Pacific Northwest running east to west, connecting the volcanic Cascade Mountains to the Coast Range.
This vital habitat connectivity corridor extends from the sagebrush clearings and quaking aspen groves near Mount Ashland, to the fog drenched redwoods of the Smith River. From sagebrush to sea, the Siskiyou Crest is the axis for biodiversity on the West Coast and home to some of the most diverse conifer forests in the world.
In June 2019, partners Luke Ruediger and Suzie Savoie, co-owners of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, hiked nearly 200 miles through the wildlands of the Siskiyou Crest, starting on the Pacific Crest Trail at Interstate 5 near Siskiyou Summit on the western edge of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument above Ashland, Oregon, and ending 10 days later on the shores of the Pacific Ocean south of Crescent City, California. The journey traversed the beautiful Applegate River watershed, the headwaters of the Illinois River, the Smith River and many, many miles of the rugged Klamath River watershed.
We hope to bring you along on this visual journey across this wild and largely unknown region, through old-growth forests, lush mountain meadows, colorful rock gardens, and across the long, rugged spine of the Siskiyou Crest.
Although it’s taken us two years to put this video presentation together, it has been a labor of love, and has allowed us to share this journey with others who may never get to see it themselves, and deepen the understanding of the importance of the region.
Our route through the heart of the Siskiyous traversed two states, Oregon and California, five counties, two wilderness areas, three National Forests, including the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the Klamath National Forest, and the Six Rivers National Forest, as well as the Smith River National Recreation Area and Redwood National Park.
With a portable solar panel for charging our phones and cameras for filming our journey we hiked through long hot days, cold, misty mornings, persistent summer downpours and windy afternoons in the high country, then dropped into a thick marine layer of fog to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Check out the film to learn more about the place we love and call home here at Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, and see gorgeous, eye-candy photos of the incredible botanical diversity of the region!
For more information you can check out the Sagebrush to Sea: A Journey Across the Siskiyou Crestweb page or facebook page.