Native Plants

During the summers of 2017, 2018, and 2019, we screened Oregon native plants for their attractiveness to beneficial insects, such as pollinators and parasitoids.  This study was inspired by the great work that has come out of Doug Landis’ laboratory at Michigan State University.  To our knowledge, no such list of plants (vetted by controlled research trials) exists for Oregon.

We selected 23 native Willamette Valley wildflower species based on drought tolerance, as well as four exotic garden species known to be attractive to pollinators for a comparison. In the spring of 2017,, we planted five meter squared plots of each species, forming five “blocks” of all 27 species for replication. Weekly, we monitor the floral bloom, perform timed pollinator observations, and use an “insect vacuum” (see below!) to sample insects in each plot.

Table 1.  Native plants selected for this study.

Plant Species Common Name Life History Bloom Color
Clarkia amoena Farewell-to-spring Annual Pink
Collinsia grandiflora Giant blue eyed Mary Annual Blue
Gilia capitata Globe gilia Annual Blue
Lupinus polycarpus Miniature lupine Annual Purple/Blue
Madia elegans Common madia Annual Yellow
Nemophila menziesii Baby blue eyes Annual Blue/White
Eschscholzia californica California Poppy Annual Orange
Helianthus annuus Common sunflower Annual Yellow
Phacelia heterophylla Varied-leaf phacelia Annual White
Acmispon (Lotus) parviflorus Annual White/Pink
Achillea millefolium Yarrow Perennial White
Anaphalis margaritacea Pearly everlasting Perennial White
Asclepias speciosa Showy milkweed Perennial Pink/White
Aquilegia formosa Western red columbine Perennial Red
Symphyotrichum subspicatum Douglas’ aster Perennial Purple
Camassia leichtlinii Common camas Perennial Purple/White
Eriophyllum lanatum Oregon sunshine Perennial Yellow
Fragaria vesca Wild strawberry Perennial White
Iris tenax Oregon iris Perennial Purple
Sedum oregonense Cream Stonecrop Perennial Yellow
Sidalcea virgata Rose Checkermallow Perennial Pink
Sisyrinchium idahoense Blue-eyed grass Perennial Blue/Purple
Solidago canadensis Goldenrod Perennial Yellow

Not only are we interested in finding plants that support ecosystem services; we also want to find plants that gardeners find attractive, and that they would want.

This is where you came in. We asked you to help us rank our study plants, by letting us know which ones you would like to see in your own garden, based on their looks, alone.

From this research we plan on developing empirically based, pollinator-friendly planting lists for the PNW. Stay tuned!

Check out the posts below and other posts by Aaron for research updates:

For additional updates and photos from this study, follow along at: