Elisabeth C. Miller Library

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #262

Flora of Oregon. Volume 1. by Stephen C. Meyers, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2016-01-01

Flora of Oregon. Volume 1 cover

The first comprehensive flora of the state of Oregon in over 50 years is in progress with the first of three volumes released this summer. This volume is focused on ferns and their kin, conifers, and monocots, but in addition to the expected and detailed plant descriptions and range maps, there is an excellent introduction to the wide diversity of ecosystems in this state, including the Siskiyou Mountains. “Rare plants in the region are concentrated on serpentinite and dunite and soils derived from these heavy-metal rich rocks. Many of these plants are narrow endemics of only southwestern Oregon, but several have ranges that extend into adjacent northwestern California.”

Taking a cue from field guides, “Flora of Oregon” includes a list of recommended places throughout the state to see the greatest number of plant species. Highlights in the Siskiyou Mountains ecoregion include the Table Rocks (although beware, there are geographical features elsewhere in Oregon that also go by this name), the trail through the Rogue River canyon downstream from Grants Pass, and the Mt. Ashland-Siskiyou Peak ridge that “is home to a unique flora that is transitional between California and Oregon floras.”

If you’d prefer to explore nature from the comfort of your couch (or one of the comfortable chairs in the Miller Library), you might vicariously go botanizing by reading the biographies of a dozen or so prominent Oregon botanists included in the introduction. I found the story of Lilla Leach (1886-1980) most interesting, especially her discovery of the Siskiyou Mountains endemic and monotypic genus Kalmiopsis leachiana.

In 1930, she was walking ahead of her husband John Leach, who was also an active field botanist, and their pack burros when “’suddenly I beheld a small patch of beautiful, low growing, deep rose-colored plants. Because of their beauty, I started running and dropped to my knees.’” May we all have such exciting moments when exploring for our native plants!

Excerpted from the Winter 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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