Garry Oak Ecosystem Plants of Whidbey Island, WA
Enjoy a sampling of plants associated with Garry oak ecosystems on Whidbey Island. Each plant is sorted alphabetically by their scientific name and, when available, includes the year and location of the first recorded discovery of the plant on Whidbey Island. Descriptions prepared by Society member Ron Brightman.
Loosely clumping perennial plant to 2 ft. high producing feathery aromatic leaves and flat clusters of many small, usually white flower heads during summer. Collected from a dry hillside near Goose Rock on Whidbey Island in 1934.
Bulbous perennial plant to 14 in. tall consisting of a small number of slender basal leaves (withering by bloom time) and naked, erect flowering stems topped by heads of small usually deep pink flowers with pointed, curved petals in early summer. Collected from Whidbey Island prairies in 1897.
Clumping bulbous perennial plant to 20 in tall producing multiple, grassy basal leaves above which nodding heads of small pink flowers are carried on unbranching stems during summer. Collected from a gravelly beach on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Upright branching, gray barked deciduous shrub or small tree to 30 ft. Short tufts of narrow petaled, stark white flowers line the upper branches as rounded young leaves with toothed upper margins are partially unfolded in spring. Small bluish black berries follow from June onward, are edible but vary in flavor. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Loosely clumping perennial plant to 3 ft. tall when in flower producing narrow leaves coated with white wool beneath and summer clusters of small yellow heads edged by papery white bracts. Collected in Langley on Whidbey Island during 1921.
Clumping perennial plant generating often tall (to 48 in.) seldom branching flower stems ending in red-and-yellow, spurred flowers in early summer. Divided leaves on long stalks are concentrated near the base, with only a scattering of stemless leaves being borne above these. Collected in 1897 from a dry wash on Whidbey Island.
Shrubby to large evergreen tree sometimes over 100 ft tall with grayish green leaves, bloomy beneath and either smooth or saw toothed along the margins. Trunks curving, coated with peeling reddish bark that is green at first. Panicles of small creamy urn shaped flowers go on to become gritty reddish berries with apparently widely varying success, with well fruited trees seeming to be the exception. Collected on Goose Rock, Whidbey Island in 1936.
Creeping evergreen shrub with rough stems and shiny, blunt ended dark green leaves. Close clusters of small, urn shaped, pinkish spring flowers are followed by bright red, edible but bland berries in summer and winter. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1923 from dry hills in Langley.
Perennial clump or mound of flat, slender, evergreen leaves from which emerge dense rounded heads of pink flowers at the ends of leafless stems to 16 in. long in spring and summer. Collected from sandy beaches on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Upright flower stems to 3 ft. long bearing large yellow spring daisies originate from perennial clumps of large (to 2 ft.), long stalked, angular leaves. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1897, where it was found growing on sandy bluffs.
Tall Oregon Grape
Clumping evergreen shrub sometimes to 14 ft. tall but often less produces pinnate, spine edged glossy leaves that often redden during winter, terminal bunches of small yellow spring flowers followed sporadically by edible but sharp tasting bloomy purple berries. Collected at Admiralty Head on Whidbey Island during 1898.
Bulbous perennial plant bearing few linear basal leaves that are spent by its early summer flowering time, when upright leafless stems to 10 in. long are terminated by open heads of small, upfacing, purplish flowers with vertical white staminodes in their centers. Collected from prairies on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Camassia leichtlinii subsp. suksdorfii
Bulbous perennial plant to 48 in. tall producing stout, spear shaped flower stalks from the centers of vase shaped groupings of narrow, pointed basal leaves in spring. Upper parts of stalks feature spikes of dark purple flowers with long, uniformly spaced petals that twist together when spent. Collected on Whidbey Island at Admiralty Head in 1898.
Camassia quamash subsp. maxima
Bulbous perennial plant bearing loose tufts of slender basal leaves, bloomy on one side and exceeded by slender stems to 26 in. long terminating in spikes of asymmetric, light blue to deep bluish violet flowers in spring. Collected from Whidbey Island prairies in 1897.
Perennial tuft or mat of rounded basal leaves and slender flowering stems to 20 in high sparsely furnished by a small number of narrow leaves, above which out facing, blue, bell shaped flowers bloom in summer. Collected from a rock outcrop at Goose Rock on Whidbey Island in 1937.
Clumping, upright perennial plant to 14 in. high with oblong, shortly lobed leaves transitioning up the stems into yellow or orange yellow bracts that line the upper parts, obscure the greenish flowers in spring. Collected from dry ground on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Petite perennial plant to 10 in. high with short, narrow leaves and tiny but up facing spring and early summer flowers with deeply lobed white petals. Collected from dry bluffs on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Giant Blue Eyed Mary
Spring blooming annual plant reaching 16 in. and bearing on the upper parts of its stems small, unevenly 5 lobed lavender blue flowers with the 2 upper lobes markedly paler than the lower. Collected in 1897 from sandy meadows on Whidbey Island.
Small Flowered Blue Eyed Mary
Annual plant producing in spring small 5 lobed purplish blue flowers, with the 2 upper lobes often paler than the 3 lower, on leafy stems to 15 in. high. Collected from sandy meadows on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Tall (to 30 ft.), vigorously thicket forming deciduous shrub that brings red stem color to wet places during winter. Leaves with curving veins often redden in fall, late spring-early summer heads of small, starry white flowers are followed by bitter white berries. Collected on Whidbey Island from the edge of Cranberry Lake in 1934.
Slender perennial plant to 20 in. high. Long stalked, deeply divided leaves occur mostly on flowering stems which are topped by spurred, deep purplish blue flowers with paler centers in spring. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1897, where it was found growing on sandy banks.
Henderson Shooting Star
Spring blooming perennial plant with basal rosette of short, broad leaves and flowering stems to 16 in. high topped by clusters of flowers with short, back swept magenta petals banded yellow, dark purplish black near the flower opening. Collected in 1897 from prairies near Coupeville on Whidbey Island.
Long stemmed, woolly haired perennial plant with a low, broad habit and leaves that may be simple or lobed, entirely yellow heads of summer daisies. Collected from rocky slopes at Goose Rock on Whidbey Island in 1931.
Variable, fleshy stemmed annual or colonizing perennial plant to 3 ft. tall with conspicuously bright yellow, partially red dotted flowers during spring and summer. Collected from moist bluffs on Whidbey Island in 1897.
White Fawn Lily
Spring flowering, bulbous perennial plant to 16 in. tall producing paired, mottled basal leaves and small sets of recurving white lily flowers with yellow, often red rimmed bases inside. Collected on Whidbey Island from woods near Prairie Center in 1950.
Clumping or creeping evergreen perennial plant, to 12 in tall when bearing its small white flowers in spring, above its prominently veined, 3 parted leaves that are green on both sides. Edible, but tiny red strawberries follow in summer. Collected from woods on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Spring blooming, bulbous perennial plant to 24 in high or more. Narrow leaves are here and there on the unbranched stems which bear a small number of down facing, darkly mottled or checkered bell shaped, yellow flowers. Collected at Admiralty Head on Whidbey Island in 1898.
Thicket forming evergreen shrub to about 7 ft. tall. Firm, glossy, oval to egg shaped leaves form a backdrop for short wands of small, pinkish urn shaped bells during spring and early summer. Rounded, purplish black berries that follow are edible but hairy and rather dry. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1936, at Cranberry Lake.
Upright growing, hairy evergreen perennial plant to 3 ft. tall producing mostly basal leaves consisting of a single, much larger terminal leaflet below which multiple smaller leaflets line the stalk. Yellow spring and summer flowers at the top of the plant are yellow but small, few in number and unimpressive, develop into roundish, noticeably hairy fruits. Collected on Whidbey Island at Goose Rock during 1936.
Tufted evergreen perennial plant to 2 ft. tall in flower, with long stalked, toothed basal leaves and see through plumes of widely spaced, tiny white flowers in spring and early summer. Collected during 1897 from rocks on Whidbey Island.
Sometimes tall (20 ft.), arching deciduous shrub with straight stems, lobed leaves and conspicuous, creamy white, early summer plumes of small creamy white flowers. These mature into dry tan fruits which darken unattractively later, persist during winter. Collected in woods on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Rocky Mountain Juniper
3-30 ft or more. evergreen coniferous shrub or tree producing a mixture of both small, scale like and awl shaped needles, small rounded berry like seed cones. Collected from dunes near Cranberry Lake on Whidbey Island in 1934.
Upright growing, tufted perennial plant to 12 in. tall with deeply divided basal leaves, flowers with 3 lobed pinkish petals on upper parts of stems in spring. Collected from Whidbey Island prairies and banks in 1897.
Fine Leaf Desert Parsley
Perennial clump of much divided, bluish feathery leaves from among which emerge stems to 2 ft. tall ending in branching heads of tiny but intense yellow flowers which can be encountered during a long period from late winter to early summer. Collected in 1897 from prairies on Whidbey Island.
Tree climbing, deciduous, woody twining vine to 20 ft. or more high. Egg shaped to oval leaves are whitish beneath, fused into pairs just below where clusters of orange, trumpet shaped late spring to early summer flowers are borne on stem ends. Close bunches of reddish berries that follow look succulent but may be poisonous. Collected in woods near Coupeville on Whidbey Island in 1950.
Semi-evergreen woody climber that may ascend trees to at least 20 ft or carpet the ground. Rounded leaves are waxy beneath, merge together where immediately beneath small, 2 lobed, tubular pink and yellow, early summer flowers. Round, bright red berries that come after are not edible. Collected in 2004 from the edge of a field at Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island.
Sometimes large (to 17 ft.) and sprawling deciduous shrub with pointed leaves and short, paired yellow trumpet flowers in early summer subtended by persisting bracts which redden by the time the corresponding sets of 2, shiny black, poisonous berries are mature. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1898, at Admiralty Head.
Sickle Keeled Lupine
Erect, hairy and leafy perennial plant to 2 ft. tall producing palmately compound leaves and summer spikes of dull white, purple or yellow, up curving pea flowers with pointed tips, followed by flattened hairy pods. Collected from old fields on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Two Color Lupine
Branching, hairy stemmed annual plant to 16 in. high with small compound leaves and short spikes of small, blue and white pea flowers in spring which transform into short, flattened hairy pods. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1897.
False Lily of the Valley
Patch forming perennial plant to 15 in. high with a small number of prominently veined, heart shaped leaves on erect stems above which conical spikes of many small white flowers are borne in spring, followed by green berries with reddish mottling, which eventually become entirely red. Collected in 1936 at Cranberry Lake on Whidbey Island.
Large False Solomon’s Seal
Closely clumping perennial plant producing unbranched stems to 37 in. high which all point in the same direction, are well furnished with oblong, pointed leaves and terminate in spring with conspicuous branching panicles of numerous small white flowers. These flowers are replaced later by a scattering over the same panicle branches of green berries with red spots, which mature entirely red. Collected in rich woods on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Starry Solomon’s Seal
Creeping perennial plant to 2 ft. high with arching stems lined with alternating, pointed, oval noticeably veined leaves and ending in short, unbranching spikes of starry white flowers in spring. Some of these flowers become green berries that are striped reddish black, later becoming entirely red. Collected on Whidbey Island at Ebey’s Landing in 2004, where it was growing in forest on a sandy bluff.
Deciduous shrub or tree to 40 ft. tall, with slender, sometimes thorny stems and leaves which may be lobed, become quietly multicolored in autumn. Spring heads of inconspicuously white apple flowers produce small, yellowish narrow apples of firm consistency and sour flavor. Collected from the edge of Cranberry Lake on Whidbey Island in 1934.
Leaning deciduous shrub or small tree to as much as 23 ft. noticeable for displaying smooth edged, fresh green young leaves and pendent spikes of unisexual white flowers at the end of winter. Orange, then bluish black plums which follow on female plants are small in size, large seeded and have a tinge of bitterness. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1898, at Admiralty Head.
Tufted perennial plant to 1 ft. high producing a small number of slender, vertical leaves above which flowering stems bearing 2 small leaves near the top display out facing, wheel shaped spring flowers with reddish purple to pink petals. Collected from a prairie on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Pale barked, straight stemmed deciduous shrub to 10 ft. or more bearing 4 petaled, fragrant white flowers with many stamens in late spring and early summer. Pointed woody seed capsules follow. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1934, from a bluff near San de Fuca.
Arching deciduous shrub sometimes 10 ft. or more tall with shredding brown bark and lobed leaves, dense round heads of white flowers with many stamens in late spring and early summer, which become inflated yet compressed, dry seed capsules. Collected in moist woods on Whidbey Island during 1897.
Spring blooming, hairless annual plant to 22 in. high. Slender erect stems with paired, clasping oval leaves end in short round clusters of small, fragrant pink flowers with short spurs, lobes facing to one side. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1897, where it was growing in sandy soil near a beach.
Creeping evergreen fern producing licorice flavored rootstocks, fronds to 2 ft. long with tapering, pointed divisions and central stalks coated with slender, hairlike scales on the underside. Collected from an open rocky slope at Goose Rock on Whidbey Island in 1931.
Medium to large deciduous tree to over 60 ft. tall, sometimes much more with rough gray bark, hairy buds and twigs, wide spreading, crooked branches and glossy, dark (blackish) green leaves with rounded lobes and angled bases, rarely reddening in autumn. Rounded acorns have caps that are smooth inside. Collected in 1897 on Whidbey Island.
Hairy stemmed, openly upright perennial plant with flowering stems to 30 in., 3 parted, additionally divided basal leaves and widely spaced, terminally situated buttercup flowers with 5-6 comparatively narrow yellow petals. Collected from a dry prairie on Whidbey Island in 1896.
Vase shaped, often leaning deciduous shrub to about 10 ft. Produces small, lobed, aromatic leaves and drooping spring clusters of small, conspicuously colored pink or red flowers followed by flavorless, bloomy black berries in summer. Collected in 1921 at Langley on Whidbey Island.
Slender prickled, delicate looking deciduous shrub to as much as 8 ft. tall with pinnate leaves containing rounded, toothed leaflets and cinnamon scented, small pink flower flowers in early summer followed by pea sized, bright orange fruits that lack sepals at maturity. Collected on Whidbey Island near Coupeville in 1899.
Thicket forming deciduous shrub, sometimes 12 ft. tall armed with paired, stout thorns at intervals on the stems. Produces pinnate leaves with oval to egg shaped, sharply toothed leaflets, and large, saucer shaped fragrant pink flowers in late spring and early summer. Large, red or purplish rounded fruits follow. As with all roses these have an edible rind but their insides are packed full of hairs and seeds. Collected from low wet ground on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Loosely prickly deciduous shrub generating a thicket to 15 ft. high of orangish branches, shaggy at the base. Startlingly colored, strong pink to reddish, nodding spring flowers start to appear here and there on the bushes before the 3 to 5 parted leaves with pointed tips are much expanded. Red, yellow or pinkish raspberries follow but are mushy and lack flavor. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1929 from along a wooded stream near Langley.
Shrub or conical deciduous tree to 80 ft. Spring catkins are followed by dull dark green leaves, often widest above the middle and bloomy, as well as rusty hairy beneath. Unusual among regionally native willows for being characteristic of forested settings, as when it was collected in 1934 at Snaklin Point on Whidbey Island.
Deciduous shrub or sometime tree to 36 ft., as was one measured on Whidbey Island in 1993. Pinnate leaves with large pointed leaflets, malodorous if handled attend dense, pointed clusters of tiny white flowers at the branch ends in spring. The small, usually bright red berries that follow are also densely borne, sometimes black, brown or purplish, with occasional rare individuals bearing ones that are orange, yellow or white. The fruits of this species are not edible unless cooked. It was collected at Cranberry Lake on Whidbey Island in 1936.
Pyramidal perennial plant to 4 ft tall with thick stalks and lobed, sharply toothed leaves, much larger near the base of the plant and small umbels of yellow, sometimes purple tinted small flowers at the ends of the uppermost stems in spring. Collected from Whidbey Island prairies in 1897.
Slowly creeping, evergreen, perennial succulent plant to 8 in. high in flower. Blunt, thick, bloomy leaves are widest above the middle, may be red or purple tinged. Undivided stems end in branching, flattish heads of small, bright yellow, starry flowers in summer. Collected from rocks on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Blue Eyed Grass
Tufted perennial plant reaching 16 in. when in flower and producing a small number of vertical slender leaves, well above which small, bluish, wheel shaped flowers with conspicuous yellow centers face outward from among 2 shorter leaves at the tops of separate flowering stems during summer. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1897, where it was growing on prairies.
Deciduous shrub producing extensive thickets of slender reddish stems sometimes over 10 ft. tall. Toothed leaves are grayish with hair beneath, pointed pink plumes of small fluffy flowers branch near the base, are borne on stem ends in summer. Collected in 1897 from low wet ground on Whidbey Island.
Cooley Hedge Nettle
Erect, hairy, square stemmed perennial plant to 60 in. high, spreading by underground roots. Leaves triangular and toothed, replaced at tops of stems by spikes of stalkless, 2 lipped deep reddish purple flowers with a few white blotches on the 3 lobed lower lips in summer. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1898.
Thicket forming deciduous shrub occasionally 10 ft. tall. Roundish, sometimes lobed, clean looking bluish green leaves appear on slender, arching stems early in spring. Tiny pink bell shaped flowers are borne on the twig ends in summer, followed by conspicuous, round white inedible berries that persist into winter. Collected from a meadow at Goose Rock on Whidbey Island in 1936.
Perennial plant producing erect leafy stems to 4 ft. high from a spreading root. Lower leaves are short stalked and lance shaped, the bottommost often withering by the time the bluish daisies borne in variably shaped, often large inflorescences open during summer. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1897, where it was growing on prairies.
Thin looking, shrubby to tall (over 60 ft.) evergreen conifer with a very broadly pyramidal head of long branches, red and purple, scaly bark. Female trees produce very light crops of small red berries among the abruptly pointed, short, often yellowish, sometimes deep bluish green needles in summer. While the flesh of these fruits is edible the single seed nested within their open topped centers is quite poisonous. Collected in 1934 from dunes near Cranberry Lake on Whidbey Island.
Meadow Death Camas
Bulbous perennial plant to 18 in. high when in flower. Erect stalks terminated by racemes (usually) of small white flowers with pointed petals in spring have several glossy, linear leaves borne on their lower half, with those near the base being much larger. Poisonous when eaten, with a history of growing among Camassia plants in nature long making it a problem for humans. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1897.
Perennial plant to 18 in tall and growing from a short rootstock. Produces solitary flowers with 3 large white, later pinkish petals on short stalks from the center of 3 broad, pointed leaves at the tops of undivided, leafless stalks during spring. These flowers are followed by greenish, capsule like berries.
Bulbous perennial plant to 2 ft. tall in flower. Has a few slender, ridged leaves and generates unbranched stems which are topped by dense, roundish heads of small, white or blue tinged, bowl shaped, up facing flowers in early summer. Collected in 1897 from a Whidbey Island prairie.
Sometimes 10 ft. or more high evergreen shrub with horizontal sprays of toothed, narrow, pointed glossy leaves and small bunches of pinkish bell shaped flowers in spring and early summer. Small, edible berries follow, these are typically purplish black but may also be bloomy or blue. Collected on Whidbey Island in 1898, at Admiralty Head.
Early Blue Violet
Slowly creeping perennial plant to 4 in. tall, with rounded to oblong leaves and violet blue flowers with white centers during spring. Collected from edges of prairies on Whidbey Island in 1897.
3 in. tall evergreen perennial plant that spreads by stolons when mature, produces rosettes of thick, heart shaped leaves, and small yellow flowers with black veins on the 3 lower petals in spring. Collected during 1898 at Admiralty Head on Whidbey Island.