Flora Catalogue

A catalogue of native wildflowers, plants, and trees at Paramount Open Space park.



Barestem Biscuitroot

Lomatium nudicaule

Is in the carrot family and included in a group of plants called Lomatiums. There are at least 16 Lomatium species in Washington. Most have brown to yellow flowers with fern-like leaves and are found in dry environments of eastern Washington.

Barestem biscuitroot has edible leaves that smell remarkably like celery. They can be found in prairies and open woods with sandy soils in the Puget Sound area.

The barestem biscuitroot in Paramount were planted in 2018 as part of an effort to establish a few small prairies in open areas occupied by Himalayan blackberry. The plants were grown from seed gathered in the San Juan Islands.

Bitter Cherry

Prunus emarginata

The name of this tree does not deceive. Like most wild cherries across the United States, the fruits taste so bitter that almost no one eats them. And if you do try them don’t swallow the pits. They contain an appreciable amount of cyanide.

The trees themselves are tiny by Pacific Northwest standards, rarely exceeding 50 feet in height. Bitter cherries occupy the same ecological niche as many other deciduous trees in the northwest. They are pioneers, colonizing forest clearings only to be slowly replaced by conifers lurking in their shade. Once the conifers overtop the pioneers they kill them by depriving them of sunlight.

Bitter cherries occur sporadically in Paramount and are naturally established, but most cherries in the park are bird cherries. A European species that is widely established in Seattle and has, to some degree, displaced bitter cherry.

BigLeaf Maple

Acer macrophyllum

This is one of two native maples in the Seattle area, the other is vine maple. I’ve planted a few in open sunny areas in Paramount, but most of these trees appear to have established naturally and are common throughout the park.

This tree lives up to its name. With leaves up to 2 feet across no one can argue that they are not big. And yes, you can produce maple syrup from bigleaf maple, but the trees need to be growing where winter temperatures stay below freezing for long periods of time.

Black Cottonwood

Populus trichocarpa

Like the past two species, California hazelnut and red alder, black cottonwood has blasé flowers called catkins. Long dangly stems with tons of tiny greenish flowers.

Why are catkins so boring? Well most flowers we notice are brightly colored to attract insects who act as pollinators. Catkins depend on wind for pollination. Since wind doesn’t really give a crap what color flowers are there is no evolutionary pressure to produce showy flowers. Hence boring flowers.

Black cottonwood is the tallest hardwood (i.e., trees with leaves rather than needles) west of the Mississippi River and can reach well over 100 ft tall. They also grow very fast! This tree is 109 feet tall and towers over the red alder growing around it even though they are about the same age.

There are about 10 black cottonwood trees in Paramount and all appear to be naturally established. I would love to plant more! There is a degraded wetland in Paramount filled with invasive species that would be the perfect spot for a forest of cottonwoods. They love wet areas.

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California Hazelnut

Corylus cornuta

Like red alder, hazelnuts flower in winter around here. Watch for the yellow male catkins or tiny pink female flowers in late January. They are tiny, but bright pink and one of the first signs that winter is beginning the long path towards spring.

California Hazelnut, like vine maple, is solidly in the giant shrub/small tree category. It almost always has multiple stems like a shrub, but for a plant that regularly grows to 40 or 50 feet tall, shrub seems like a bit of an understatement.

As you might suspect, California hazelnuts do produce nuts, but they are quite a bit smaller than the cultivated varieties you see at the store so get ready to be underwhelmed if you decide to harvest wild hazelnuts.

California Hazelnut is common in the upland areas of Paramount. Many individuals are taller than 40 feet and are almost certainly naturally established.

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Pseudotsuga menziesii

Probably the most common tree in the Puget Sound area. These trees are not all that common at Paramount. Forests in this tiny park are primarily deciduous alder and big leaf maple. But scattered Doug-fir ranging from 20 to about 100 years old occur. One way to ID this species is the narrow pointed brown buds at the end of the twigs (seen here). True firs have similar needles, but the buds are shorter, and more rounded.

Dull Oregon Grape

Mahonia nervosa

This is Dull Oregon Grape, a close relative of Tall Oregon Grape. If you scrape away the bark of either species you’ll immediately notice the exposed stem has a bright yellow color. This is Berberine, an alkaloid with a number of medicinal properties. Berberine is also toxic and can be absorbed through the skin so be cautious if you want to check it out.

Dull Oregon Grape is one of the more common shrubs in the Puget Sound Lowlands, found in the understory of just about every coniferous forest. It is widespread in Paramount wherever conifers are growing. As with Tall Oregon Grape, the berries of Dull Oregon Grape are edible, but incredibly sour.

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Evergreen Huckleberry

Vaccinium ovatum

Along with red huckleberry, evergreen huckleberry are found at low elevations throughout the Puget Sound region. While red huckleberry prefers to grow in cool and moist conditions of the forest understory evergreen huckleberry grows best in drier sunnier conditions along forest edges.

Evergreen huckleberries are the only native huckleberry that retains its leaves through winter. The berries also ripen much later than other species. Usually in early fall rather than mid-summer.

There is only one lonely evergreen huckleberry I know of in Paramount and it grows in an area that was restored in the 1990s so it is highly likely it was planted. The forest has become quite dense in this spot over the years and the evergreen huckleberry is slowly dying from lack of light. I hope to take cuttings from this plant and transfer them to other locations in the park with more sun.

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Grand Fir

Abies grandis

There are only a few of these in the park, but grand fir are common at low elevations in western Washington. The younger trees have a nearly perfect Christmas tree-shape, but older trees are another story and lose all semblance of symmetry. There are many ways to distinguish Doug-fir and grand fir. One of them is pictured here. Take a look at the bud ls at the end of the twig. They are sort of chubby and round. Now look at the Doug-fir. They are long and pointed. Both species have soft needles that have a strong citrus smell when crushed.


Camassia leichtlinii

Camas was an important source of food for many northwest tribes and continues to be a culturally important plant. Camas grows in prairies throughout western Washington and historically these areas were managed to promote camas through regular prescribed burning.

Today this plant, and it’s relative, common camas, are increasingly rare in the Puget Sound area. This is because prairies have been plowed under and developed. Those that remain have little or no regular fire and are slowly transitioning to forest.

The plant pictured here was grown from seed collected in the San Juan Islands and camas was first planted at Paramount Open Space in 2018. My goal is to establish two examples of native Puget Sound prairies in this small urban park.

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Henderson’s Shooting Star

Dodecatheon hendersonii

A close relative of Cyclamen which many of you have probably had as a house plant at one time or another, there are several species of shooting start in the northwest. Henderson’s shooting star is found in prairies and open woods of the south sound. The plants here were salvaged from a construction site this winter through @nativeplantsalvage. They are now one of many species in a newly established wildflower meadow at Paramount Open Space.

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Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

A creeping shrub adapted to poor soils and dry conditions. It’s ability to survive extreme neglect combined with attractive evergreen leaves and bright red berries in the fall have endeared it to many landscapers in the Seattle area. The easiest way to find Kinnikinnick is not to search the wilds of Washington, but rather to check out the parking strips the next time you are at the mall.

Kinnikinnick is part of a group of plants called Manzanitas. They all have bright red berries, evergreen leaves, and thrive in dry habitats. There is one other species of Manzanita in the Puget Sound area aside from Kinnikinnick. Further south from Oregon into California the number of species increases dramatically. They are all quite similar in appearance so only the most zealous Manzanita aficionados can identify them.

Kinnikinnick is the only species of Manzanita in Paramount. A few individuals were planted in the prairie restoration site in 2018 and appear to be doing well.

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Heuchera brevistaminea

Very common in the Pacific Northwest at low elevations and often the first flower of winter. The diminutive white flowers appear in late January or early February. Osoberry is obvious during winter because they are the only tree or shrub that has fully leafed out.

Oval-Leaf Blueberry

Vaccinium ovalifolium

This is a bit of an oddball because it occurs at mid elevations in the Pacific Northwest. What’s it doing in Paramount? I got this one near Snoqualmie Pass with a Special Forest Products permit from the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. It lived in a pot for a few years in Wallingford, then Central District and now has a permanent home at Paramount. The berries are deep blue and look delicious, but sadly they are a bit on the mealy side. For sweeter berries you need to keep hiking to tree line where you’ll find Cascade huckleberry. It’s Latin name is, appropriately, Vaccinium deliciosum.

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Pacific Bleeding Heart

Dicentra formosa

A common wildflower of forests throughout the Pacific Northwest, and frequently planted in gardens. Pacific bleeding heart can be purchased at garden nurseries and in all but the driest gardens is easy to get established.

Pacific bleeding heart is abundant in Paramount, some populations appear to be naturally established, others were planted as part of restoration efforts in the 1990s, and yet other were planted during restoration over the past few years.

Pacific Dogwood

Cornus nuttallii

A purely understory tree in the lowlands of the Puget Sound region, individual trees rarely grow more than 60 feet tall. Pacific dogwood arguably has the showiest flowers of our native trees. Many yards in Seattle have dogwoods, but these are almost always an east coast cousin, Eastern dogwood, that grows from Florida to Maine. Gardeners prefer them over Pacific dogwood because trees are smaller and more compact. They are also less susceptible to a fungal leaf rot that causes leaves to shrivel and die off.

A few Pacific dogwood trees occur here and there in Paramount. Some are quite old and all appear to be naturally established.

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Red Alder

Alnus rubra

These are actually one of the earliest plants to flower around here and usually “bloom” in January. The word bloom is a bit of a stretch because their flowers are brown, inconspicuous, and far above the ground so most people never notice this harbinger of spring.

Red alder is known as a pioneer species. They are often some of the first trees to establish in disturbed areas and their roots have an association with bacteria that allow them to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Essentially, they generate their own fertilizer.

While many Pacific Northwest trees are known for their huge size and longevity, red alder are quite the opposite generally reaching around 80 feet tall and living for only about 50 years.

Red alder are common throughout Paramount and are naturally established. In many areas of the park English Ivy has toppled alder trees and the thick ground cover of invasive species has prevented new trees from growing. Much of our restoration work is focused on reversing this trend so the forest can transition from short lived alder to long-lived evergreens rather than to a tangle of invasive species.

Red Huckleberry

Vaccinium parvifolium

The tiny green flowers of this northwest shrub are all but invisible in spring but the bright red berries in summer certainly aren’t! Red huckleberry are common throughout the lowlands of western Washington and occur naturally in Paramount. Often found beneath the shade of conifers, red huckleberries have a penchant for growing on rotting logs or stumps.

Fun fact about huckleberries in Washington: Species are zoned by elevation and the sweetness of the berries seems to increase with altitude.

Red Elderberry

Sambucus racemosa

A tall, lanky, fast growing shrub found mainly west of the Cascades. There’s also a blue elderberry mainly found east of the Cascades. The colors in the names refer to the berry colors.

Elderberries are mostly edible. That is, the berries have some mild toxicity. They can be eaten in small quantities raw, but really should be cooked to destroy the toxins. Cooked berries can be made into a number of foods including wines and jams. The flowers are also edible and can be used to flavor drinks.

Red elderberry is naturally established in Paramount and there are about 5 or 6 individuals scattered about in sunny openings. I have also planted a few seedlings I got from other locations in the Puget Sound area to add to the genetic diversity. The plant here sprouted last summer in an area where we cleared Himalayan blackberry and promptly grew to seven feet tall in a single summer!

Redwood Sorrel

Oxalis oregana

A forest understory plant found from Seattle southward and on the Olympic Peninsula.
At Paramount redwood sorrel was widely planted in areas where forest restoration was conducted throughout the southern third of the park in the 1990s, but otherwise does not occur.

Anyone who gardens is familiar with creeping wood sorrel, a smaller yellow flowered relative of redwood sorrel from Asia that is now every gardeners nightmare the world over.

The leaves of redwood sorrel contain oxalic acid which gives the leaves a tart apple-esque flavor. Don’t eat too many though! Oxalic acid is mildly toxic.

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Rubus spectabilis

These are the first native plants in the northwest to produce edible berries, usually some time in May. Salmonberry are common around the lowlands of Puget Sound including at Paramount Open Space. Most salmonberry in Paramount has probably always been there, but if you see an orange flag next to one, it means I brought it to the park from a plant salvage.

Siberian Miner’s Lettuce

Claytonia sibirica

One of the northwest’s “weedier” native plants, they are ubiquitous in the Puget Sound region. Sporadic plants occur throughout Paramount and will very likely become quite common in restored areas since they will no longer be suppressed by invasive species. Many additional plants arrived over the past year as bonus plants on potted natives.

And you may be wondering about the name. Well, it’s pretty self explanatory. The plant was used as a wild vegetable by early European settlers. It is edible and tastes a bit like lettuce. That is to say, they are quite bland.

Skunk Cabbage

Symplocarpus foetidus

Paramount has a pretty well established population of skunk cabbage along streams that meander through the park. They start flowering in early March and before long the brilliant yellow flowers will be replaced by gigantic bright green leaves.

Smith’s Fairybells

Disporum smithii

Like many spring wildflowers that grow in conifer forests of the northwest Smith’s fairybells are in the lily family.

As far as I know there is only one small group of these plants and they are tightly clustered around a vine maple that was planted during forest restoration about 20 years ago. Could this have been an accidental hitchhiker on nursery stock or was it intentionally planted? Either way, there are no naturally established fairybells in Paramount. I will likely be splitting this plant and spreading it to more locations around the park!

Saxifrage Sunday

Actually sort of boring because all the western Washington saxifrages have easily overlooked greenish nondescript flowers. Nevertheless, this is fringecup and is the earliest flowering of the four saxifrage species in Paramount. The plant here is part of a giant clump of fringecup. They were likely planted during restoration in the 1990s because this patch is in a reforested area and fringecup doesn’t occur elsewhere in the park. Despite their absence from most of Paramount they are a common native wildflower in Seattle and can be found in many city parks.

Sitka Spruce

Picea sitchensis

There are only a few of these in the park and all were planted as part of forest restoration projects. I got this one as a tiny seedling on the Olympic Peninsula in 2009. Since then it’s been traveling around with me as a potted plant. I finally planted it in Paramount last year. Spruce is super easy to tell apart from other conifers… as long as you can grab a handful of needles. If they’re spiky it’s definitely a spruce!

Slough Sedge

Carex obnupta

This plant is an inhabitant of saline and freshwater wetlands from British Columbia to California. At Paramount it is found sporadically in the re-graded wetland at the south end of the park. Slough sedge makes great habitat for ducks. I’m hoping to establish a larger population of it in Wetlands throughout the park to improve waterfowl habitat in the park.

Star-Flowered False Solomon’s Seal

Maianthemum stellatum

Sort of a mouthful. This is one of the many plants in the lily family that carpet the forest floor during spring in the northwest. Why is this a “false” Solomon’s Seal? Well, Solomon’s Seal is native to Europe and early botanists thought these guys looked like them so voila. A plant with an uncomfortably long, yet unoriginal name.

Star-flowered false Solomon’s Seal was absent from Paramount Open Space until 2018 when it was introduced as part of forest restoration efforts. The individuals planted were salvaged from a future housing development just off I-5 in Snoqualmie about 6 years ago. Look for them along trails in the southern third of the park.

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Tall Oregon Grape

Mahonia aquifolium, also known as Berberis aquifolium

Yes, there is also a shorter Oregon Grape, but is called Dull Oregon Grape because yes, Tall Oregon Grape has shiny leaves. And to add to the confusion Oregon Grapes are not grapes. Not even remotely related to grapes. They just have berries that sort of look like grapes. The berries are edible, but only those with a serious taste for sour foods would like them.

Tall Oregon Grape is found in dry, sunny habitats. Ironically, the few Tall Oregon Grapes in Paramount grow in a wet shady forest. This is an area where a lot of forest restoration work was done in the 1990s so someone probably planted them.

Trailing Yellow Violet

Viola sempervirens

It is odd that a plant with a name that means purple has yellow flowers, but such is the case for many native violets in western Washington. We’ve got some with flowers that reflect their namesake, but most are either yellow or white.

Violets are a family of plants that include many species cultivated for the horticultural industry. Many of you have probably planted pansies in your yard at one time or another. These are a close relative of violets.

Trailing yellow violet is the only native violet in Paramount. It is naturally established and occurs in just a few locations in areas with large conifers.

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Vine Maple

Acer circinatum

These are the tiny flowers of vine maple. Sometimes a short tree, but mostly a gigantic shrub, vine maples do well beneath the shade of the northwest’s evergreen forests.

Vine maple is nearly ubiquitous in western Washington. From the moss festooned rainforests of the Olympic Coast to avalanche tracks high in the Cascades and even urban parks like Paramount, vine maple is everywhere. The only place in this part of the state you won’t find it? The San Juan Islands. For whatever reason it either didn’t or can’t colonize these islands. Instead another diminutive maple takes it’s place in the forest understory: Douglas maple.

The vine maples in Paramount are for the most part naturally established although I have planted my fair share over the past few years. It’s likely some where also planted during restoration work in the 1990s.

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Western Hemlock

Tsuga heterophylla

Mature hemlocks are common in Paramount, but many have died over recent years. Part of a trend in western Washington and Oregon likely caused by a fungus and a string of drier than normal summers. Recognizing that drier summers will be the norm, we are only planting western hemlock in areas of the park that stay wet throughout the summer.

Western Trillium

Trillium ovatum

With the exception of two plants along a trail that were likely planted during restoration in the 1990s, no trillium existed in the park when I started Friends of Paramount in 2018. This is one of about two dozen I planted a few years ago. The plants were salvaged from construction sites in Issaquah and Snoqualmie. As you can see they seem to like their new home!

White Fawn Lily

Erythronium oregonum

The plant pictured here was collected from a native plant salvage near Olympia. Thanks @nativeplantsalvage!

There are tons of new fawn lilies in Paramount sown from seed I collected in the San Juan Islands, but these plants won’t be flowering for some time. Fawn lilies grow painfully slow. Plants grown from seed take about 4 or 5 years before they flower. The light rail extension will be done by the time they finally start flowering!

There are four species of fawn lily in Washington. Many of you are probably familiar the two alpine species: glacier lily (white flower with a yellow center) and avalanche lily (yellow flower). The fourth species is pink fawn lily and they are found at low elevations on the Olympic Peninsula.

Western Red Cedar

Thuja plicata

By far the most common conifer in Paramount. Mature trees are found in most areas of the park. After restoration efforts started in 2018 cedar seedlings began germinating in restored areas. The absence of young cedars in most of the park along with their appearance after restoration are clear indications that invasive species were suppressing tree regeneration. Old-growth cedar trees in Washington can reach 1500 years old. That means cedar seedlings in the park could still be around in the year 3520!

Western White Pine

Pinus monticola

Sorta hard to see the needles on this one. Shoreline marks the southern end of their range in Puget Sound and this tree may well be one of the southernmost western white pines in this area. Paramount has about 5-10 of these tall and arrow straight trees. All are mature trees in the 80-100 year old range. This marks the sixth and final native conifer found in Paramount Open Space.

Woodland Strawberry

Fragaria vesca

Strawberries are a native plant here in the Pacific Northwest. In fact woodland strawberry is one of three species of strawberry that grow wild here. All produce edible fruits, but unfortunately they are tiny and easily crushed. This means picking wild strawberries in large enough quantities for storage in the freezer probably isn’t going to happen, but if you find them in season they make a sweet trail side snack.

Woodland strawberries were planted in Paramount during forest restoration over the past few years. They are rapidly becoming established and in some areas have turned into the dominant ground cover, replacing the bindweed and Himalayan blackberry brambles that were cleared to make way for native plants.

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Youth-On-Age (OR Piggy-Back Plant)

Tolmiea menziesii

The two common names for this plant refer to it’s capacity to prolifically clone itself. Each fall as the old leaves lose their vigor tiny new plants emerge at the junction of the leaf and stem. As the leaf sags to the ground the new plants take root and a new generation is born. Piggy-back plants produce tons of seed as well and their dual approach to reproduction makes them on of the more common wildflowers in forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Another factoid about piggy-back plants: they make great house plants! Despite their preferred habitat of wet shady forests they tolerate the low humidity of indoor environments well.

Piggy-back plants are found mostly in areas of Paramount that were restored in the 1990s (southern third of the park) so they may have been planted during this time. But that is far from certain, piggy-back plants are ubiquitous and may have already been in the park. I have also added additional piggy-back plants I gathered from native plant salvaged in Snoqualmie and Issaquah.

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