It’s been quite the winter in the Klamath-Siskiyou this year. I write this with two and a half feet of snow outside and a one and a half mile snowshoe to the nearest plowed road — an unusually big snow year at 2,100′ in elevation!
As winter settles in and you start daydreaming about springtime and wildflowers, take some time to reflect on wildflower seed mixes as well — more specifically, what species are actually in those wildflower seed mixes?
If you support the conservation of native flora, intact ecosystems, biodiverse landscapes, traditional ecological knowledge, or if you belong to a native plant society, or other environmental organization that works for land conservation or pollinator advocacy, for example, you may be just as dismayed as I am to learn that many commercially available packets of “wildflower” seed mixes don’t actually contain native wildflower seed at all, and may, in fact, contain noxious weed seeds.
Native wildflowers of the Klamath-Siskiyou
In most commercial wildflower seed packets the term “wildflower” is often used to refer to species that naturalize easy, or in other words, species that can can take over quickly and flower profusely, spreading themselves around in abundance. Unfortunately, this describes many non-native species that take over native plant habitat, displacing native flora and impacting floral diversity as well as pollinators adapted to native plants.
Your winter daydreams of vibrant wildflower meadows flowering in profusion may turn into a noxious weed nightmare if you don’t do your due diligence in researching what species are in a wildflower seed mix.
In an unpublished study from 2002, a University of Washington undergraduate student researcher grew out the seeds from 19 “wildflower” seed mix packets. The result: All 19 packets contained from 3 to 13 species that were identified as being invasive in some part of North America. And even worse, eight of the plants were identified as noxious weeds.
In the University of Washington’s, UW Today, Sandra Hine’s 2002 article about the research explained that the seed packets used were, “distributed by firms including Burpee, Ed Hume, Lake Valley Seed, Lilly Miller, Molbak’s, Napa Valley Wildflower, Nature’s Garden Seed and Sundance. Seventeen of the mixes in the experiment were purchased and two were gift items.”
Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) was found in four of the wildflower mixes, but only one had it listed. Toadflax is listed on Oregon’s state noxious weed list. Hine also explained, “Gardeners might be surprised at the flowers and seeds that are readily available for sale that are considered invasive or noxious. For instance, the wildflower most commonly observed as part of the mixes was the popular bachelor’s button (Centaurea cyanus), germinating in beautiful hues of pink and blue from three-quarters of the packets tested. Bachelor’s button might be fine if kept confined to one’s own yard but it’s invasive — that is it outcompetes other plants — when it gets into native grasslands and prairies.”
Bachelor buttons easily escape gardens and invade nearby native plant communities.
This problem is not limited to large corporate seed companies; unfortunately, even smaller seed companies that espouse organic and non-GMO ethics include non-native or invasive plant seeds in their “wildflower” seed mixes. Take a look, there’s not many native species included in these lists:
Territorial Seed Company’s “Northwest Wildflower Mix”: Five-Spot, Siberian wallflower, Scarlet flax, California poppy, Lance leaved coreopsis, Yellow lupine, Blue flax, Russell lupine, Chinese houses, Baby blue-eyes, Corn poppy, Shasta daisy, Bird’s eyes, Dwarf godetia, Clarkia, Globe gilia, Mountain phlox, Tall white sweet alyssum, Black-eyed susan
Peaceful Valley’s “Regional Northwest Wildflower Mix”: Aquilegia vulgaris, Centaurea cyanus, Cheiranthus allionii, Chrysanthemum Maximum, Clarkia amoena Semi-Dwarf Single Mix, Clarkia unguiculata, Collinsia heterophylla, Coreopsis lanceolota, Eschscholzia californica, Gilia capitata, Gilia tricolor, Layia platyglossa, Linum grandiflorum rubrum, Linum perenne, Lupinus densiflorus, Lupinus polyphyllus Russell Strain Mix, Lupinus succulentus, Nemophila menziesii, Papaver rhoeas, Phacelia campanularia, Rudbeckia hirta.
Eden Brother’s “Pacific Northwest Wildflower Seed Mix”: Gypsophila elegans, Centaurea cyanus, Nemophila menziesii, Clarkia amoena, Digitalis purpurea, hacelia campanularia, Collinsia heterophylla, Papaver rhoeas, Coreopsis lanceolata, Cosmos bipinnatus, Eschscholzia califorica, Gaillardia aristata, Rudbeckia hirta, Lupinus perennis, Lupinus polyphyllus, Cooreopsis tinctoria, Cheirianthus allionii, Linum usitatissimum, Linum grandiflorum rubrum, Phlox drummondii, Cosmos sulphureus, Rudbeckia gloriosa
Sustainable Seed Company’s “Northwest Wildflower Mix”: Baby Blue-Eyes, Bird’s Eyes, Black-Eyed Susan, Blue Flax, California Poppy, Chinese Houses, Clarkia, Dwarf Godetia, Corn Poppy, Five-Spot, Globe Gilia, Lance-Leaved Coreopsis, Mountain Phlox, Russell Lupine, Scarlet Flax, Shasta Daisy, Siberian Wallflower, Sweet Alyssum, Tidy Tips and Yellow Lupine.
Seed Savers Exchange’s “Flower, Bird and Butterfly Mix” doesn’t list the species that are in this flower mix, but the photo that accompanies it depicts bachelor buttons as being part of the mix.
When you buy seeds from Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds you can be rest assured that 100% of the species in our inventory are native to the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains, valleys, grasslands, woodlands, rock outcrops, or forests. Our seeds are wildcrafted from genetically diverse stock that is regionally adapted and beneficial for the local wildlife and pollinators that have evolved and adapted with them. Healthy, intact ecosystems depend on thriving native plant communities!
“We’re entering the Earth’s sixth era of extinction — and it’s the first time humans are to blame. CNN introduces you to the key species and people who are trying to prevent them from vanishing.” — CNN.com
The search for Franklin’s bumblebee (Bombus franklinii) if finally getting the national attention it deserves through CNN’s “Vanishing: The Earth’s 6th mass extinction” video series. In one video from the series, CNN reporter John D. Sutter follows preeminent bee researcher, Dr. Robbin Thorp, as he searches for Franklin’s bumble bee on Mt. Ashland in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon.
The renowned floral diversity of the Siskiyou Mountains gives rise to an amazing diversity of native bee species; in fact, northwest California and southwest Oregon has the highest diversity of bumble bee species of anywhere in the world. Preserving the botanical diversity of the region is paramount for the protection of wild bees and pollinators.
“Anthony Barnosky, an expert on this from Stanford University, told me humans have about 20 years max to shape up before this mass extinction becomes inevitable. And by mass extinction he means three-quarters of all known species would be lost.
Franklin’s bumblebee should be a wake-up call — a window into a dystopian future.
It certainly was for me.” — John D. Sutter for CNN.com
Soaproot, also known as amole or amole lily, has a range that extends from southwest Oregon down to San Diego, California. It grows in diverse habitat types throughout its range: valley grassland, chaparral, mixed evergreen forest, foothill woodland, closed-cone pine forest, northern coastal scrub, and coastal sage scrub. In the Klamath-Siskiyou it is most often found in foothill woodland, mixed conifer forest, and white oak or madrone woodland in the valley bottom.
Calflora classifies the genus Chlorogalum in the Agavaceae family, while the Oregon Flora Project classifies it in Asparagaceae. The Calflora classification of Chlorogalum in Agavaceae is surprising, as the only other plants in the Agavaceae family in the Klamath-Siskiyou include Camas (Camassia) and Rushlily (Hastingsia), and these are related to Agave and Yucca, including the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia). Who would’ve thought that soaproot is related to the Joshua tree? Amazing!
Depending on the location, soaproot will bloom between May and July. The flowers are borne on a very tall (up to 2′ tall) flowering stem. When you encounter a large stand of soaproot in flower it is a lovely sight, and when you do it will be in the evening or early morning, as the white soaproot flowers open in the evening, stay open overnight, and close up in the morning. Because of its flowering time, it is generally our lesser known, night flying pollinators that pollinate soaproot; however, if you watch soaproot flowers in the warmth of the early evening you may still find bumble bees and other day flying native bees and pollinators searching for pollen and nectar before nighttime comes on.
Soaproot flower popping open in the early evening.
Soaproot grows from a large, elongated bulb covered in thick coarse fibers. The juices of the bulb contain natural saponins that can be used as a soap — hence the name. Native American tribes within its range used soaproot for soap, but they also used the fibers of the bulb for brushes. The Miwok people reportedly roasted and ate the bulb as a winter food, cooking out the inedible saponins. Other tribes may have eaten soaproot too, as well as used it for various medicinal uses.
I can personally attest to the soapy qualities of soaproot — it does indeed make a fine soap!
After flowering and setting seed, soaproot goes dormant for the remainder of the summer and fall, pushing up new leaves in early winter.
Soaproot grows easily from seed, however, to reach the flowering stage it may take 3-5 years. The first few years the long, strap-like leaves will grow from the large, fibrous bulb, feeding the bulb for future flowers.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds has seed of soaproot in stock now! Just shoot us an email if you want to give this useful and unusual native bulb a try in your garden or native plant project.
Native bee pollinating soaproot flowers in the early evening.
We have added many species to our inventory this fall! The quantity available varies from species to species, so if you want something in particular, order soon so it doesn’t sell out. Some species have already sold out before they could be added to our inventory because of early-bird customers who contacted us with specific interests. Don’t see something you want on the list? Email us and let us know what you are interested in. We may have really small quantities that don’t make it on the list, or we can collect seed for you next year.
Our updated inventory includes the price per single packet of seeds for each species on the list. If you are interested in larger quantities just email us and let us know.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds also offers native seed collection services through contract. If you need large quantities of seed for a project, contact us! This works best if we have a few months, at least, before the start of seed collecting time. Low elevation seed collecting can start as early as May, and high elevation seed collecting occurs anytime mid-summer to fall. Land owners who want to encourage biodiversity and native plant conservation on their land find the use of locally wildcrafted, ecoregion-specific seeds benefits the overall quality of their land stewardship goals.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds offers contract seed collection services.
Fall and early winter is the perfect time to plant many native seeds. Some annual species, like bluehead gilia (Gilia capitata), need to germinate with fall rain. They will overwinter as a small seedling in order to put all their energy into flowering next summer. Many perennial species need exposure to the cool, moist temperatures of winter in order to break the dormancy of the seed and germinate in the spring.
Happy native seed planting! -Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds
With the fall equinox approaching on September 22nd there are some late-season beauties still in bloom, and many native plant seeds to pick! Fall is the busiest time of year for us at Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds, as we work hard to collect seed inventory for the coming year and finish up seed collecting contracts before the season ends.
We will have many new additions to our seed inventory this year, but with the busy seed collecting time upon us, we may not have time to fully update our inventory until October. If you know what you want now, let us know and we can reserve seed for you while you wait for all the seeds to be harvested, dried and cleaned.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds will have a booth at the Talent Harvest Festival on October 1st. We will have native seed packets and potted native plants for sale, including late-blooming native asters.
Coming up in November we will be giving a talk about creating pollinator habitat with native plants at the Master Gardener’s Winter Dreams, Summer Gardens Symposium. We will post details for this event when they are finalized.
Until then, enjoy the last flowers of summer and the cool transition into fall.
-Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds
Red beardtongue (Keckiella corymbosa) flowering in early September along lower Canyon Creek near the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
In honor of Oregon Native Bee Conservation Awareness Day I would like to feature a few late-blooming native coneflowers that our native bees love!
Klamath-Siskiyou native plants have coevolved alongside its native bees, creating a mutualism we should protect and support through land conservation and land stewardship. Native plants provide native bees with more nutritious food and better overall habitat than highly bred cultivated plants do.
Plant natives for Oregon Native Bee Conservation Awareness Day!
Did you know that we have native coneflowers in the Klamath-Siskiyou? Most people are familiar with the midwestern prairie coneflower: Echinacea. Echinacea is a great medicinal plant that pollinators love in the backyard garden setting; however, it is our native coneflowers that provide the best habitat for pollinators along local mountain streams and in intact mountain meadows.
Coneflowers are part of the sunflower family!
Western coneflower (Rudbeckia occidentalis) is a common plant in moist high elevation meadows in the Klamath-Siskiyou. This species is well-loved by native bees despite the lack of ray flowers (petals). It may be less showy to the human eye, but to native bees it is a forager’s paradise!
Our native Rudbeckias are related to black eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), a native to Eastern and Central North America and a commonly cultivated plant in the horticultural nursery industry.
Waxy coneflower (Rudbeckia glaucescens) is found in wetlands in the western half of the Klamath-Siskiyou — from the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Oregon, to northern California’s Smith River.
California coneflower (Rudbeckia californica) grows in moist locations in the Klamath Mountains in northwestern California, down through the eastern Sierras. This species is not recognized as occurring in Oregon by the Oregon Flora Project, but it occurs just over the border in California. (I don’t have a photo for this species)
Bigelow’s sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii) brightens up meadows with its cheery yellow flowers. Native bees and butterflies are often found foraging and nectaring on sneezeweed flowers. The name sneezeweed comes from an historic use of the dried flowers and leaves as a snuff — not because the flower is an allergen!
Native coneflowers make excellent native plant additions to your pollinator garden. The late-season blooms will provide much needed nectar and pollen as other native flowers start to wane. Forget all the highly manipulated, latest, gimmicky echinacea cultivars in the garden catalogs, and plant native coneflowers for the benefit of native bees and other pollinators! You may even be visited by a male bumble bee sleeping underneath a coneflower in your garden at night like pictured below! 🙂
Right now is crunch time for seed collecting in the Klamath-Siskiyou. Late blooming, low elevation plants are setting seed as collecting in the low country winds down. Mid-elevation plant seeds are ripening up in abundance as the summer heat sets in. Early flowering, high elevation plants are beginning to set seed as well, beginning the high elevation seed collecting season which lasts until October. We have been out in the field as much as we can collecting native plant seeds for fall and winter planting.
While Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds collects a wide variety of native plant seeds that we feel will be of interest for retail sales, we also offer contract seed collecting services. This service gives landowners, gardeners, nurseries, and botanical gardens the peace of mind that the specific species they need will be collected in a specified quantity. Rates for seed collection services vary, so email us today with your project needs: firstname.lastname@example.org
High elevation wildflower season is at its peak. Take a hike in the mountains to beat the summer heat and get out and experience the high elevation wildflowers in bloom while you can!
Suzie Savoie from Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds will be giving a free presentation at Wild Wines in the Little Applegate Valley on Wednesday, July 20th at 7pm.