Oregon

P90310KIf California is the most excellent state in the entire Unites States of America and surrounding Universe, and Oklahoma is the second most excellent, then Oregon might be number . . . hmmm . . . fourteen or fifteen . . . or maybe like twenty or something. However, in MY (very important) opinion, Oregon is like the third most excellent state, and almost ties with Oklahoma! That makes it even slightly more excellent than Pennsylvania, Vermont and Arizona! Yes, it is THAT excellent!
Even the state tree of Oregon is excellent. It is the Douglas fir, pseudotsuga menziesii. That is like the second most excellent of the state trees, right after the coastal redwood of California. If California did not claim the coastal redwood as the state tree, Oregon is the only other state that can claim it as a native, since the native range of coastal redwood extends ever so slightly into the very southwest corner of Oregon.
There was a time when redwood was the main timber tree here, but that was only because it was the most readily available. As the supply was depleted, it was reserved for fences, decks, structural lumber that is in contact with concrete foundations, or any other situation in which its innate resistance to decay was important. Douglas fir became the most common lumber, and is still what homes are built from now.
Besides all that, Douglas fir is one of the grandest of trees in North America.
Then there is the state flower of Oregon. Well, it is not so much to brag about, although it is still better than the state flower of Oklahoma, which happens to be mistletoe. (Okay, that is another subject for later.)
Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, blooms late in winter with these bright golden yellow, but otherwise unimpressive flowers. The few small black berries that develop over summer are mostly taken by birds before anyone notices. The glossy and prickly dark green foliage is quite appealing, and happens to do well in partial shade, but this is the state flower, not the state foliage.

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Oregon Grape

80228Oregon has good taste. Douglas fir, one of the most useful of timber trees in America, was selected as the state tree. Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, was designated as the state flower. Although the tight clusters of tiny bright yellow flowers that bloom about now may not be as flashy as other state flowers, they contrast handsomely against the glossy and deep dark green foliage.

The pinnately compound evergreen leaves are larger than they seem to be. The smaller individual leaflets that resemble holly get noticed first. They are are not quite as wavy, spiny or thick as leaves of English holly are, so can work well where spiny foliage would be objectionable. Dark grayish blue berries are not abundant, but happen to make good jelly for those who hunt for them.

Mature plants get about five feet tall and broad, and can spread wider like Heavenly bamboo does. Foliage might be a richer shade of deep green, with a slightly more relaxed texture, in partial shade. A few garden varieties are available, including some that are more compact, and some with more rounded leaflets. Old canes should be pruned out as they get replaced by newer canes.