Central Oregon occupies a nearly 8,000-square-mile area in the heart of the state. Stretching across Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties, the region stands at the confluence of four distinct geologic regions and presents a wide range of ecosystems including mountain, desert and grassland habitats. An astounding diversity of native plant species exist within central Oregon, including some that are rare in other areas of the state.
Native Trees of Central Oregon
Central Oregon's unusual mix of terrain and climatic influences hosts a diverse mix of coniferous and deciduous tree species. Stands of mountain alder (Alnus tenuifolia) and black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) overlap throughout much of their central Oregon range with lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta murrayana) and ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa). Sometimes called thinleaf alder, mountain alder dominates the landscape along cool mountain streams and moist, open fields. It forms picturesque stands with black cottonwood, a species of poplar known for its fragrant, grayish-green foliage. Lodgepole pine and ponderosa pine occur at higher elevations amid the Ochoco and Cascade ranges of central Oregon, intermingling with lowland deciduous species in high mountain valleys.
Native Shrubs of Central Oregon
Numerous native shrub species occur throughout central Oregon, from the moist mountain region to the high desert. In sheltered areas along mountain waterways, stands of kinnickinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) thrive. Both are low-growing, evergreen shrubs known for their highly ornamental flowers and berries. They occur in areas of abundant moisture and well-draining soil, especially sand-rich bottomlands along the eastern slope of the Cascade Range. In semi-arid high desert areas of central Oregon, shrub species such as buckbrush (Ceanothus velutinus) and grey rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) dominate. Both occur in pinewood ecosystems, with buckbrush thriving in the shaded understory and grey rabbitbrush dominating the open glades and sunny slopes.
Native Flowering Plants of Central Oregon
Wildflowers grow in abundance across central Oregon, sending up a carpet of colorful blooms in spring and early summer. Species such as western columbine (Aquilegia formosa), blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium idahoense) and arrowleaf balsam-root (Balsamorhiza sagittata) occur in abundance throughout the region, as well as showy varieties such as scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata). Known for its trumpet-shaped crimson blossoms, scarlet gilia produces a large bunch of flowers atop a single short stem. It thrives in rocky areas, sprouting from crevices and serpentine outcroppings in the Cascade and Ochoco mountains of central Oregon.
Native Grasses of Central Oregon
Few native grass species now thrive in central Oregon due to the introduction of alien grass species for cattle pastures. Of the few native grass varieties still found in the region species such as indian rice grass (Achnatherum hymenoides), prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha) and Great Basin wild rye (Leymus cinereus) are most prevalent. Found in remote valleys and protected areas, these native grass species are known for their characteristic mound-like growth habit and extreme hardiness.
- "Common Plants of the Upper Klamath Basin"; Sarah Malaby; 2007
- "Plants Of The Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska"; Jim Pojar; 2004
- "Oregon Trees and Wildflowers: An Introduction to Familiar Species of Trees, Shrubs and Wildflowers"; James Kavanagh; 2005
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