Planting Back - giving as opposed to just taking


There is only one species of ash that grows in the NW, so you’ve probably been using Oregon ash. There is also mountain ash, which is a completely unrelated shrub that grows as higher elevations. If you’re in Eugene, then you’re in the epicenter of Oregon ash’s range. It forms entire forests (small ones) along Coyote and Spencer Creeks as well as at Amazon Park. In the West Eugene Wetlands you can often see it resprouting. It grows very easily both by seed or from live wood. I’ve never tried transplanting it, but in the forest it resprouts very easily, so I’d imagine its easy to move. Its a wetland tree and 99.5% of our Willamette Valley wetlands have been converted to agriculture - mostly grass seed farms. So I think Oregon ash has been drastically reduced in its extent. Its also a very important habitat tree for birds, insects, and lichens, and supports (along with wetland oaks) the best NW foraging spots I’ve ever seen. So I very much believe in finding spots to grow it and its associated plants.

As far as the nettles, you can certainly spread them via seed. You can also transplant rhizomes (the roots that grow laterally from the base of the plant. You’d likely want to do either in fall. Maybe October/November. Prepare a spot by clearing invasive species, then put down a mulch, plant rhizomes and sprinkle seeds. That’s about all there is to it. Nettles are an aggressive plant that can hold there own. But they do need moist, yet well-drained soils with lots of organic matter. So finding the right spot is important. Other plants are similar, though with varying degrees of pickiness. Every species has a type of soil and a shade/light regime that they prefer. Most plants also can be spread either by a part of the plant or by seed. Its just a matter of getting comfortable enough to experiment. Nettles and thimbleberries are good ones to start with if your in a forested setting. Valley bottom, camas isn’t a bad option, though I’d recommend seeding camas unless you can salvage the bulbs from a spot that’s slated for development.


Thank you Alexander and Sean for this very interesting and enlightening conversation! I’m enjoying it thoroughly and learning a lot!!! :sun_with_face:


That is so awesome you know about one of my sit spot locations… I love amazon creek… I will tell you this I have never seen an ash forest like this anywhere other than Eugene…It’s soo cool through every season…Spend a lot of time in amazon watching birds and plants…People have been working very hard to remove ivy in there… The forest floor is carpeted with Camas almost entirely now that the ivy is almost gone. I often find myself daydreaming that amazon creek had a larger more expansive ash forest… It’s not that large I can walk through the entire patch in probably an hour

About insects in Ash! I have learned to be very observant when harvesting downed sticks, if there are any holes I don’t take it…Have found so many boring beetles in the older sticks…Gotta get them right when they fall basically

Thanks for adding that about the thimble berry, there are about 10 thimble berry plants on the edge of my nettle patch as well I’m excited for. they are one of my favorite berries and I completely missed out on them last year (I work summer camps with kids all summer)

As far as Nettles go is it relatively normal for them to have dark red on their leaves? Just curious I noticed most of them have almost like a dark red vein on the leaf.

Thanks you guys I’m enjoying this too


Regarding planting willow and dogwood: I believe you can just cut sticks and plant them in the dormant season. I live at a place that has tons of willow and this is how it’s done here. I’m not sure about ocean spray. I’ve also know people who cut and plant “sticks” seasonally near Olympia for salmon habitat restoration along the Black River.

Anyone know where there’s wapato near Corvallis/Philomath area? Where I live there’s a pond that’s available for growing tons of wapato. Silverweed too. I saw some at Seal Rock yesterday but didn’t want to dig it up there.

One of my favorite plants is Artemesia Suksdorfii “Coastal Mugwort”. You can get seeds from Inside Passage in Port Townsend, WA.


This site looks interesting:

Basically has a huge list of seeds for sale for native habitats by region and species. Inside Passage seeds comes up a lot.

Here’s Willamette Valley:


In the classes I took at the ReWilding School they taught us to observe, then interact, then observe, then interact. Your interactions start as minor modifications, then as you observe that place more, then you can gradually make bigger modifications. Also, they start with a sit spot, then work their way out from there.


wise words Nathan, thank you! interrelationships are so important and something i am just fascinated to learn more about. i have definitely hesitated with some activities because i felt like i didn’t fully “understand” (appreciate? “grok”?) the community of life i was focusing on… would love to hear more of your thoughts and experiences! :sun_with_face::evergreen_tree::blue_heart:


That spot in Amazon Park was a huge inspiration to me. There are others like it, but they’re few and far between. Where they exist, though, there are literally hundreds of thousands of native food plants still present in a reasonably intact state. Those are the places that need to expand, in my opinion.

I don’t know about the red vein on the nettle leaves. I do think of them as having both green and purple coloration, though. You’re pretty comfortable with identifying them?


You’re right about the willows. They’re adapted to resprouting following floods, so they can be broken apart then just start growing again. Other shrubs are a bit more difficult. Dogwood, I imagine, would need rooting hormone to grow from cuttings. But I’ve never tried it. All of that would typically be done in the dormant season.

I know where there is an enormous patch of wapato near Corvallis, but I don’t know that I can advocate gathering it there because I don’t think they’d be receptive to digging there at this point. I can probably get you some in the fall. I have a few tubs of them. They’re leafing out right now. But let me know if you’re around in about October. I’d actually be interested in trying to expand a population in a body of water that’s not a tub in my backyard!

Same goes for the silverweed. They produce tons of stolons, so let me know if you’d like any.

Native seeds are hard to get ahold of. There are some good vendors, but they mostly do wholesale. I’ve begun collecting them and I actually have started selling a few packets here and there. But If you have any particular requests, I’ll likely be out gathering in a few months. I usually have 10-20 species that I think are key WV edibles that I keep seed for. I’m hoping to expand that quite a bit.


Today I pulled a bunch of garlic mustard, and transplanted some elderberry and nettles.


Hey Sean, I just confirmed with someone who’s done it (and saw the plants) that she planted Red Osier Dogwood with just sticks.

I’d also like to propose that it’s not too late to plant sticks. I was just down at Margaret Mathewson’s for a basketry workshop and she offered willow cuttings. I have willow coming out my ears where I live so I declined. But she suggested it’s not too late.

I think what would help with “Planting Back” is a rough calendar of dates of activities for Willamette Valley, or possibly West of the Cascades in general, much like the ubiquitous garden calendars everywhere (Gardening West of the Cascades, etc.). This is something I’ve worked on in the past, but mostly for harvesting/foraging and migrations (e.g. Swainson’s Thrushes typically appear when Salmonberries are ripe). Knowing when to plant sticks, harvest seeds, plant seeds, and all that seems the biggest road block (besides knowing how to propagate, which is a little more documented for some species) for myself.


Oh, I didn’t think of red osier dogwood. I was thinking of Pacific dogwood. Honestly, I’ve never tried either, but red osier makes more sense since it is more of a riparian species.

That’s a great idea regarding a calendar. Perhaps I could help with something like that over the summer as a collaborative effort. I have a narrow range of experience, but its certainly growing every year.


I have a long term goal of creating a guide to plant associations with an emphasis on food plants. My plan is to include timing of important management (I don’t like that word) activities within each plant association. For example, oak woodlands have several previously described plant associations, each with different important food plants. The timing of harvest, seed collecting, etc. might be different for each species or within each plant association. Each might also have important disturbance regimes such as fire or flooding that is important for people to either be aware of or directly influence. Might take a while, though :slightly_smiling:.


Not sure why I can’t post pics here. Oh well i tried.


Maybe it’s a code issue? You should be able to.


I’ve been able to post pictures on the memes thread. Can you describe what happens when you try? The one thing I can think of is that there’s a file size limit but the application should say that the file is too big if that’s the case.


SeanPrive and DennisL - I love the calendar idea - especially with plant associations and environmental factors included - that would be SO helpful!! I’ve been planning to start a “calendar” style list for myself for my very local area (s. puget sound) so that i can easily refer to what to plant, what to forage, what to collect, etc… Would love to hear your ongoing thoughts about this as the idea progresses! :sun_with_face:


It says it is uploading, then after a minute, it just goes back to blank.

Trouble uploading images?

The major book I know of is Propagation of NW Native Plants.

I know a bit about S. Puget Sound because I lived there off and on for 18 years.

Here’s a short list of what I used forage around this time (March/April):

Greens/“salad”: claytonia, dandelions, plantain, salmonberry shoots and flowers, maple flowers, etc. Cooked greens: Nettles, Fiddleheads.
Herbs: Devil’s Club (Oplopananx Horridus) roots/new shoots (without killing the plant…), Nettles.
Mushrooms: Oysters (usually on Red Alders near creeks).

Tracie, if you plan on planting back, I’d be happy to tell you all of my harvesting spots near Olympia, WA.


This is an awesome thread… I don’t have my own “property” right now where I can do planting, but I have been experimenting with propagating a bit in parks (under the radar) near my current home. I’ve done some nettle transplants, and the other day I started a bunch of seeds with some friends that they had… nettle, yarrow, burdock and some other herbs and non-native veggies (the European and non-native starts are going into a garden and not the woods.) I’m definitely getting back into it as the weather gets warmer.