The skunk cabbage above is an ancient prehistoric plant with giant leaves when mature. The wild plants of coastal Oregon are important to the outdoor forager. Coastal plants have a history of use by First Peoples who utilized them for foods, medicines, and material use. From the majestic Red Cedar to the nutritious Stinging Nettle. There is much to discover with Oregon’s coastal wild plants.
Wild plants of coastal Oregon are important to survival
Oregon Coastal Plants include, trees, shrubs, herbs, and grasses. Native plants are sought after for foods, medicines, tools, and more. Our lives are interwoven with wild plants. And without them we and all wild creatures could not survive.
Western skunk cabbage – Lysichiton americanum
The second week of one wet February as I was driving along HWY 101 heading north towards Reedsport. I noticed off to my right and down in a swamp, hundreds of beautiful small green leaves poking out of the muck.
Western Skunk Cabbage contains calcium oxalate, which is toxic to humans if eaten raw. Skunk Cabbage has accounts of use by First Peoples as a famine food. But because of the painful reaction of ingestion. I do not recommend ingesting this plant.
I have used this plant for many other purposes but seriously do not eat the Skunk Cabbage leaves of our Western variety. The leaves get huge! When you come across a grove of these beauties, they will astound you!
Bears and skunk cabbage
Bears love to munch on the young plant leaves in early spring. And you will find this plant in low, wet, and swampy locations along the coast or higher elevations in the cascades.
Uses of skunk cabbage
Wrapping fresh salmon, steelhead, and clams in Skunk Cabbage leaves and then baking the whole mess underground. That’s a northwest feast. The leaves impart a passable flavor.
I have also used the leaves as a quickie rain hat and twisted a temporary drinking cup from the smaller leaves.
Like all wild plants, one needs to be respectful of the power these plants have. Know for sure what you’re handling and before eating any wild plant!
The first berries of spring
One of the first wild berries to bloom each spring along the Oregon coast is the Salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis. The flower has 5 petals, pink to magenta. The lovely flowers glow among the hedges of barren canes before the coarse leaves unfurl.
The berry colors range from yellow, salmon, to reddish, a large bland tasting berry but a fine trail snack. Though consuming to many at once can cause mild diarrhea. But they are fine to eat. First People’s rarely dried the Rubus as its mostly water and difficult to dry for long term.
Edible and Medicinal Plants
Look what I found today as I was walking along a thick, dark, trail to the beach, Trillium Ovatum, also known as the Wake Robin, of the Lily family, is one of the first spring blooms. We welcome the delicate blossoms that grace the forest and bring promise of fairer weather ahead.
Manzanita, Arctostaphylos columbiana, is bearing blossoms on the Oregon coast as of late January.
Manzanita blossoms are important food for Anna’s Hummingbirds, which winter here on the Oregon coast and interior northern California.
The ripe little apples, or fruit, make a wonderful refreshing drink. When ripe and sticky the fruit go’s in a sieve basket and hot water poured through, allowed to cool and enjoy. Excellent on a hot summer day!
Wild Ginger, Asarum caudstum, blooms late March to mid April. A unique bloom. The roots or rhizomes grow just under the dark loose soil. Wild ginger root is edible raw or cooked and has a pleasant to strong spicy flavor. Cook with wild ginger root just like you would with commercial ginger. Make a tea from the root and several cups will cause a sweat.
Common Dandelions are beginning to flower. This is a wonderful herb and a great tonic for spring. As a culture, we spend excessively much time, poison, and money to rid this edible and medicinal plant from our lawns.
Wild plants coastal Oregon
The Oregon coast is renowned for its bountiful diversity of wild plants. And happily for us this includes wild mushrooms.
Fall and early winter are the best times for mushroom picking. Mushrooms are gathered year around If you know where to forage for them.