We’ve added a new species to our seed packet inventory!
Western wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) is a biennial to short lived perennial wildflower with knockout, four-petaled, bright yellow to deep orange flower clusters borne at the top of an erect stem that grows from a basal rosette. Western wallflower is in the mustard (Brassicaceae) family and grows throughout the United States, but mainly in the West. It is also referred to by the common name, Sanddune wallflower, due to its preference for well drained, rocky or sandy soil throughout its range.
Although it has a preference for well drained soil, it grows in a wide variety of habitat types, from sea level to high elevations, which leads to variability in appearance.
Western wallflower blooms in spring to early summer, depending on elevation. In bloom it will grow between 1-2′ tall. It has tubular, upright seed capsules that burst open and spread seed as they dry out.
Western wallflower is attractive to pollinating species such as bees and butterflies, and is a larval host plant for numerous butterflies, including Sara orangetips and others.
Western wallflower will grow best in part-shade to full sun, with well drained, rocky or sandy soil. It grows well in medium-dry garden conditions. It can grow as a single stemmed or multistemmed plant. If pinched when first bolting to flower, it can produce more flowering stems.
It is an especially prolific bloomer 2-3 years following wildfire. Wildfire not only helps trigger seed germination, but it also clears out vegetation and increases available nutrients in the soil, allowing for more sunlight and nutrients for larger, more robust plants.
Unlike humans that may be called “wallflowers” because they are shy or unassuming, Western wallflower can be quite showy. From our research, the use of the term “wallflower” for shy people comes from the European relatives of Western wallflower that have a propensity to grow out of cracks in walls or rocky paths. Western wallflower is anything but shy!
Seed Germination Instructions
No pre-treatement necessary. Sow seeds outside in fall to early spring.
Western wallflower grows in a wide variety of habitat types. From low-elevation river washes, canyons, oak woodland, and chaparral, to mid-elevation mixed conifer forests, to high elevation rocky ridges and subalpine meadows.
If you love the world-class biodiversity of the Siskiyou Mountains, you’ll love southern Oregon artist, Deb Van Poolen’s, newest biodiversity-focused poster, “Plant Diversity in the Siskiyou Mountains.” Featuring rare, endemic, and special plants of the region, the poster includes twenty plant species that inhabit the subalpine region of the Siskiyou Mountains.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds proudly sponsored Deb’s exquisite work, and we support her efforts to bring biodiversity to life through art. Check out Deb’s other amazing posters as well, and support art that supports biodiversity!
“Deb’s posters focus on the region where the Cascade, Siskiyou and Klamath mountain ranges meet in Southern Oregon and Northern California. Renowned as a world-class hotspot of biodiversity, this area teems with life. The posters for sale are beautiful pieces of art, plus rich in educational and scientific information.”
We have a new species available: Alice eastwood’s fleabane – Erigeron aliceae! Check it out with our description below:
Alice Eastwood’s fleabane can steal the show in high mountain meadows when blooming en masse, however, even a single flowering plant is attractive to pollinators and people alike. This species is a perennial wildflower that is native to western Washington, western Oregon, and northwestern California where it inhabits meadows, rocky ridges, talus slopes, prairies and open forest, primarily at higher elevations (4,000′-7,000′), including the subalpine zone. A member of the Asteraceae or daisy family, Alice eastwood’s fleabane grows from a fibrous, rhizomatous root system, with green leaves and white, pink, or lavender flowers with a yellow center. Bloom time depends on elevation and moisture availability, but ranges between June to September. It generally grows around 6″-1′ tall. Alice eastwood’s fleabane prefers full sun to part shade and medium moisture. It will rebloom after deadheading, providing a long season of flowers for the many pollinators that are attracted to the flowers.
Although first “discovered” in the Siskiyou Mountains in 1900 by Thomas Howell, this species was named for acclaimed American botanist Alice Eastwood who lived between 1859-1953, and was procurator and Head of the Department of Botany at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. This species is sometimes referred to as Alice’s fleabane, or Alice’s daisy, for short.
Alice Eastwood was a very important botanist during her time. Her lasting legacy lives on in the many species named after her, as well as her prolific writing and enduring work at the Academy. Stories about her include this one from the Wikipedia page about her life:
“Eastwood was credited with saving the Academy’s type plant collection after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Departing from the curatorial conventions of her era, Eastwood segregated the type specimens from the main collection. This classification system permitted her, upon entering the burning building, readily to retrieve nearly 1500 specimens.”
Seed Germination Instructions: No pretreatment required. Sow outside in fall to early spring.
Alice Eastwood c. 1910 – California Academy of Sciences, and Alice eastwood’s fleabane
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds (KSNS) has created a Seed Germination and Propagation Reference Guide to help you more easily and successfully germinate native seeds of plants native to the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion of southern Oregon and northern California.
These short protocols provide basic information for seed germination, including recommended cold-moist stratification, warm-moist stratification and heat treatment times, or if no pretreatment is necessary at all.
We also make recommendations for when to sow the seeds outside to achieve the best germination results; however, these recommendations are for the Klamath-Siskiyou region and climatic conditions in other regions may necessitate different seasonal sowing times. For regions that have less winter chill time (e.g. coastal regions), artificial cold-stratification may be essential for seed germination.
Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) seed germinating in the fall in Eugene, OR. Photos by James H.
Remember that seeds are living organisms that may not always behave in the way you expect! That’s why experimentation is at the foundation of seed germination success!
We love getting feedback from our customers and clients regarding their own experiences with seed germination. Sometimes people have different results than we do, which can make seed germination protocols difficult to generalize for different regions of the country. Different methods can sometimes achieve the same results and vice versa. We feel it is important, however, to provide some basic seed germination information and short protocols to get people started with their own seed germination experimentation.
James H. in Eugene, Oregon emailed us the photos above of Western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) seed he purchased from us that germinated quickly after he sowed the seed this past fall. Our experience has been that this species needs 60-90 days of cold-moist stratification for seed germination, but perhaps because the seed was very fresh, or perhaps because Eugene has a more mild climate than the Siskiyou Mountains region where we germinate our native seeds, James achieved different results. We appreciated getting James’ feedback and photos!
As you can see from the photos, James uses cages to protect his seedlings. Cages are important to prevent seed predation by birds, squirrels, mice and other small mammals. Wire cages or bird netting is an easy solution to prevent sometimes major losses of seed and/or germinates to wildlife.
Those who are familiar with using cold-stratification for triggering native seed germination may enjoy trying other types of seed treatments. Experimentation with heat treatments for fire adapted species can be really interesting and fun, and can help deepen your understanding of plant and fire ecology.
There are many methods of heat treatment, including hot water, oven, and direct heat. Using an oven or hot water are some of the easiest heat treatment methods. For Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum), however, our experimentation has found that direct heat works the best to break down the tough seed coat.
Yerba Santa: The Holy Plant
Yerba Santa has a rugged beauty that’s hard to beat. The aromatic evergreen foliage of thick, leathery and resinous dark green leaves, combined with gorgeous white to lavender, trumpet-shaped flowers in late spring that are often adorned with bumble bees and other pollinators, is the perfect combination for a drought tolerant native planting project. Yerba Santa typically inhabits dry, sun-blasted slopes and ridges, often in rocky soil, but can be found in a variety of habitats, from disturbed sites, valley bottom grasslands, foothill chaparral and woodlands, to high elevation rocky ridgelines. It can grow from 2-6′ tall, depending on the location and growing conditions, and when mature it can spread by woody underground rhizomes and form clonal stands.
Yerba Santa is native to California and southern Oregon, where it is adapted to the Mediterranean climate and is a “fire-follower,” germinating readily by seed after wildfire events, and sprouting from underground rhizomes. Yerba Santa is an important medicinal plant with significant ethnobotanical uses. The name Yerba Santa means holy plant in Spanish. Many Native American tribes and modern herbalists have long-used various parts of the plant for a wide range of ailments.
Yerba Santa is currently classified in the Boraginaceae (Borage) family, and was formerly classified in the Hydrophyllaceae (Waterleaf family). It is deer resistant, drought tolerant, and is best grown in full sun in well drained soil.
We currently have a limited amount of seed packets available of Yerba Santa seeds, but we hope to expand our availability for this species in years to come.
Many people know and love Yerba Santa but have a hard time growing it from seed. The trick: heat! Using a metal pail and a handheld propane torch, a flash burn of Yerba Santa seeds has worked well for us for successful seed germination. We place uncleaned Yerba Santa seed in the metal pail and use the propane torch to light the material on fire for a quick, flash burn.
If needed, a small amount of wadded newspaper will help to ignite the material. Remember that this will get hot and can be dangerous. This heat treatment method should be conducted with safety in mind, and should only be used outdoors, away from combustible material and on a calm day with no wind, preferably during the rainy days of late fall or early winter when fire danger is at a minimum.
If you are unable or uncomfortable using direct heat to treat Yerba Santa seeds, alternatively, you can heat the seeds in an oven for 5 minutes at 190 °F, or scarify the seed coat by rubbing the seeds between two pieces of sandpaper to help break down the tough seed coat.
Remember that seeds are living organisms that may not always behave in the way you expect! That’s why experimentation is at the foundation of seed germination success!
Seed pot of Yerba Santa, grown from heat treated seed.
Yerba Santa seedlings ready for transplanting.
Transplanted Yerba Santa seedlings.
Seed Coat Dormancy
In general, there are two types of seed dormancy: seed coat dormancy and internal dormancy. Internal dormancy is most often overcome using cold stratification methods. Seeds with seed coat dormancy usually have a tough seed coat that is impermeable to oxygen and/or water, allowing the seed to stay dormant, sometimes for a very long time, until an external mechanism (e.g. fire, animal digestion, chemical reaction, etc.) cracks the seed coat and allows for oxygen and water to permeate the seed coat and trigger seed germination.
Using Charate for Fire Adapted Species
For some species, just adding charate (charred wood containing leachable chemicals) to the soil alone can stimulate seed germination. Heat treatment is a mechanical treatment that can crack the seed coat and allow for germination; whereas, using charate or liquid smoke is a chemical treatment. Chemical treatments mimic the signals fire adapted species get when plants on the soil surface have burned in a wildfire and open ground is available for seed germination success.
In other words, the chemicals from charate signal to the seeds: “Hey, there’s great post-fire conditions up on the soil surface for successful seed germination, growth, and plant establishment. You should germinate now while there’s room to grow and mineral rich ash to help you grow healthy and strong!”
If you want to experiment with using charate for a natural chemical treatment for fire adapted species, use the following method: Char small branches with a propane torch until blackened through — do not burn to ash — or use charred wood from a campfire or woodstove. Finely grind the charred wood to a powder. Mix the powder into your soil. If you don’t have the materials to grind the charred wood, soak it in water for 24-48 hours and use the extract to water the soil. Char wood only from species that don’t have allelopathic properties.
Using an Oven for Fire Adapted Species
Mimicking fire through the use of an oven can be used to heat seeds and open serotinous cones of species such as knobcone pine. Serotinous cones are sealed with a resin that must be melted for seed dispersal. This adaptation allows species to exploit the favorable conditions of the post-fire environment, and cones can remain sealed for over twenty years. Just place cones on a lined baking sheet and heat them briefly in the oven until they open.
For heat treatment of seeds in the oven, just place the seeds on a tray and place in the oven at the recommended temperature and for the recommended duration. You may need to do some research prior to heat treatment, to find the recommendations for the species you are treating. As mentioned above, for Yerba Santa seeds, the recommendation is to heat the seeds in an oven for 5 minutes at 190°F.
If the temperature recommended for heat treatment is between 180°- 200°F, it is possible that a hot water treatment of the same temperature and for the same duration would give comparable results.
Using Hot Water for Fire Adapted Species
In general, when using hot water for fire adapted species, bring water to a boil, take the water off the flame, immerse the seed in the hot (not boiling) water, and let the seeds soak overnight.
More specifically, seeds should be placed in about six times their volume of water that is between 180°- 200°F. They should be left to cool and soak in the water for 12 to 24 hours, after which they are ready for sowing. The seeds should be sown promptly.
Although many species germinate readily after hot water treatment, we haven’t found this method successful for Yerba Santa seeds. Perhaps they need to be boiled for a short time for this method to work, instead of just placed in hot water, but we found a method that works for us — direct heat using a propane torch as described above — so we stopped experimenting with hot water treatment for Yerba Santa. We do use hot water treatments regularly for other species, however, with great success!
Small batches of larger sized seeds can be scarified by hand, using a file or knife to make a nick or slice in the seed coat, or by using a rock tumbler to allow for the penetration of oxygen and water through the tough seed coat. Some care must be taken to avoid injuring the interior radicle of the seed. Smaller seeds can be rubbed between sandpaper. Yerba Santa has smaller seeds, so the best way to scarify the seed would be with sandpaper.
2021 New Year’s Resolution: Experiment with Heat Treatment!
Whether you’re germinating Yerba Santa seed or seed of other fire adapted species, the treatments mentioned above will help you start experimenting. Make a New Year’s resolution to try one type of treatment for a fire adapted species in 2021! Seed treatments are like food recipes, there can be many different methods to achieve similar results, and experimentation is the key! And like food recipes, once you get the hang of a new trick, it becomes second nature.
Many of the plants we know and love in the West are not only adapted to wildfire, but they need periodic wildfire to reproduce and/or thrive. Whether their seed germination is stimulated by wildfire, prescribed fire, Indigenous burning, or seed germination methods such as those described in this blog post, understanding how fire adapted plant species reproduce is an important part of understanding native plant communities and conservation.
In 2016 Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds collected seven pounds of native seed under contract for a private land native seeding project on a ridge below Mt. Ashland near Ashland, OR. The site had recently been disturbed during hardscaping upgrades, creating the perfect opportunity to seed natives. All of the seed was hand collected in the Siskiyou Mountains, with a good portion collected right on the property in areas where intact habitat and abundant seed was available.
In the fall of 2016, seed from 58 species of native wildflowers and grasses were hydroseeded. Four years have passed since the project began, resulting in a vibrant and showy display of native wildflowers, and a drastic increase in pollinator species diversity, including a brand-new, large colony of digger bees that decided to move in next to the project this summer in order to take advantage of the abundant pollen and nectar resources. Over four years regular weeding and light watering has aided the seedling establishment and helped keep the area primarily native plants.
We created this video to document the success of the project and highlight how naturescaping with native plants can bring not only beauty to your property, but also an increase in native species diversity that provides important habitat for pollinators and wildlife.
Successful native seed projects benefit from at least a few years of monitoring, maintenance, nurturing and upkeep. The level of summer maintenance needed will vary depending on the location and site conditions of each individual project.
Some sites have much heavier competition from non-native or invasive species that can outcompete the native plants being grown from seed. Other sites may need some supplemental summer irrigation to help the native plants establish while they are young.
Monitoring the native seed project site through the summer can help identify any issues that may need to be addressed. Long-term monitoring and tending of the area will lead to a higher percentage of native plants, which will provide better habitat for pollinators and wildlife, as well as native edible and medicinal plants for people.
Using the example of one of our native seed projects at a private fishing retreat on the Klamath River, this blog post will discuss weeding, irrigation and monitoring for a successful native seed project. The project site was prepped and seeded in early fall 2018. The seed mix included 57 species of wildflowers and native grasses native to the local area.
Weeding invasive yellow star thistle and dyer’s woad out of a two-year-old KSNS native seed project site along the Klamath River in northern California.
Summer maintenance includes weeding to help knock back non-native and invasive plant species in order to give the native species a better chance to establish and grow. Keeping down the encroachment of non-native and invasive species within your seed project area is an important part of the long-term maintenance of the project; however, different projects may need to work harder to eliminate non-native species than others, depending on the desired outcomes, and available time to weed yourself and/or money to hire someone to weed for you.
Although you may not completely eliminate non-native and invasive species altogether, it is important to keep in mind that native plants, in general, support three times as many species of butterflies and moths as introduced plants, and overall, native plants support more native wildlife and birds as well. The higher percentage of native plants you can achieve in your native seed project area, the more optimal habitat for native pollinators and wildlife you will create, as well as the potential for an increase in native edible and medicinal plants for people.
Identification of small seedlings can be tricky sometimes. When weeding non-native and invasive plants out of a native seed project it is imperative that there is correct identification of the seedlings so native plants aren’t inadvertently ‘weeded’ out of the project area. Additionally, careful weeding is important, so that root disturbance to the nearby native plants is minimized while pulling out non-native and invasive plants.
The use of supplemental summer irrigation can help native plants grown from seed establish during the first year or two after seeding. Especially during drought years, like this year in the Klamath-Siskiyou region, young plants may succumb to drought stress and die. In nature this is just a part of natural cycles, but when a lot of time, labor and money has gone into a native seed project, the success of the project is important. Water is not available for every project site; however, if it is available, a little water can go a long way toward ensuring project success.
For projects that are using locally collected seed from drought tolerant species, regular irrigation is not necessary. In fact, some drought tolerant native plants can die from too much irrigation. You just need enough to help the drought tolerant plants establish.
In the Klamath-Siskiyou region on really dry, sun-baked sites, a deep water every 2-3 weeks may be helpful from late spring to late summer for the first 1-2 years, but for higher elevation sites, moister sites, or projects in part-shade, a deep water once a month may be all that’s needed to help the plants establish better.
Idaho gumweed (Grindelia nana) blooming during the summer of 2020 in our Klamath River project seeded in the fall of 2018. Idaho gumweed germinated readily and bloomed in the second summer.
Monitoring a native seed project is a visual assessment that tracks some the following aspects:
which species germinated well in the seed project area;
which species failed to germinate;
which annual species were able to flower and go to seed;
which perennial species put on growth or began to bloom;
what non-native or invasive species grew in the project area;
how many species in your seed mix did or didn’t survive the first year;
what insects, pollinators or wildlife used the plants in the project area;
Monitoring can just be a casual evaluation, or you can document the information in a file or spreadsheet for the future and implement more quantitative and detailed, long-term monitoring projects involving plots, transects and photo points. No matter how formal or informal your monitoring method, you can use the information gained to benefit your site or future project areas.
Learning, watching your plants grow, and observing their use by wildlife are the most rewarding parts of a native seed project. These rewards can be better appreciated if you monitor your site. Any form of monitoring, no matter how casual or formal, will help you learn from your project, refine your techniques and become a better land steward.
Annual ballhead gilia, and perennials, Indian paintbrush and barestem buckwheat blooming in the second summer of the project.
Elegant tarweed (Madia elegans) is an annual wildflower that blooms late in the summer, providing beneficial floral resources for pollinators at a crucial time. It has long been valued as a native food crop. Tarweed germinated some the first year of the project, but germinated even more and bloomed profusely in the second year.
Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) is a ‘workhorse species.’ It germinates readily, is drought tolerant and deer resistant. It also reseeds itself. Oregon sunshine bloomed in the second summer of the native seed project.
Whether you’re maintaining or ‘wild tending’ a large or small native seed project area, a little bit of work can make a big difference in successfully growing native plants from seed! Enjoy the results!
Due to a growing demand for native plant project consultation during the COVID-19 situation, Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds (KSNS) is now offering virtual consultations through Zoom or Facetime in order to accommodate social distancing options. Contact us for more information about our virtual consultations or to set up an appointment. We are still providing outside, on-site consultations as well, with social distancing measures in place. KSNS can provide consultation services for native planting projects and native seeding projects.
Listen to an interview with Suzie Savoie of Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds in a new episode of the PolliNation Podcast – a pollinator health podcast. Interviewed by OSU’s Pollinator Health Extension Specialist, Andony Melathopoulos, also of the Oregon Bee Project, Suzie discusses growing native plants for the benefit of pollinators.
You can listen to the PolliNation Podcast or read the transcript by clicking on the link below.
“Southern Oregon has some of the most amazing pollinator species, in large part because of the unique native plant communities. In this episode we learn about the best spring blooming plants for pollinators and how to grow them.” -PolliNation Podcast
The photo gallery above features some of the native plant species mentioned in the PolliNation Podcast interview.
Following up on California Native Plant Week, yesterday marked the beginning of Oregon Native Plant Appreciation Week. These back to back weeks help celebrate the incredible native plants of California and Oregon, including the spectacular diversity in the Klamath-Siskiyou region.
Yesterday was the beginning of Oregon Native Plant Appreciation Week (April 26 – May 2)! This year’s Oregon Native Plant Appreciation Week poster includes myco-heterotrophic plants that are partly or entirely non-photosynthetic and obtain energy and nutrients from fungi. The Klamath-Siskiyou region is home to all three plants featured on the poster. Although you can’t easily grow myco-heterotrophic plants, there are many native plants that can be grown from seed.
Need some sunflowers to brighten up your day during COVID-19 stay at home orders? Want to grow a native yellow sunflower similar to the Desert sunflower featured on the California Native Plant Week poster? Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds offers seed for Bolander’s sunflower (annual), Deltoid balsamroot (perennial) and Narrowleaf mule’s ears (perennial) and Idaho gumweed (perennial). The Bolander’s sunflower can still be grown from seed this spring since it is an annual, but the balsamroot, mule’s ears and Idaho gumweed all have seeds that need to overwinter to achieve the cold-moist stratification requirements necessary for springtime seed germination.
Under stay at home orders there are still many ways to celebrate Native Plant Week:
Learn a new plant on a hike
Share wildflower photos on social media
Teach a child about the importance of native plants
Create art of or with native plants
Plant native plants for the benefit of native plant conservation, pollinators and wildlife!