By Xander Rose
Hello, I'm Xander Rose, the orchard manager at Raintree Nursery.
We grow and sell many types of plants of course. On the nursery are many wonderful fruiting native plants. There might be some where you live, too! I will be writing this blog all about fruit trees and bushes in the Pacific Northwest. I thought I'd start by highlighting some natives.
There are many edible fruits native to the Pacific Northwest that are easy to grow.
There’s an attractive bush that has fruit that tastes somewhat like blueberries. It's a native plant that Raintree offers named varieties of for sale. I'm referring to the native and low-maintenance saskatoon, also known as serviceberry, Canadian blueberry, or juneberry. That’s one of the problems with common names; there can be many of them, adding to the confusion! Let’s try using the scientific name for the serviceberry: Amelanchier alnifolia. That second name in the scientific nomiker means alder-like leaves, just to share that trivia.
What other great edible fruits grow wild as natives in the Pacific Northwest? There’s salal, (Gaultheria shallon), which is a hardy perennial groundcover or short bush with rich black berries. Native Americans got a lot of use out of those berries. Bumblebees love its flowers! Raintree offers salal. In the groundcover-type department, there are also kinnickinick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and native strawberries (Fragaria species), to name a couple. Some Rubus species include the caneberries: fresh orange salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis), delicious and unique-tasting blackcap raspberries (Rubus leucodermis), sweet trailing blackberries (Rubus ursinus), and more! Cascara or chitum (Rhamnus purshiana) is a small native tree with edible black berries that birds love, and human can eat, too. To round out the list, beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta) produces edible nuts. Oregon crabapple (Malus fusca) has small sour fruits that could be used as a minority part in cider or other processed apple products.
Looking for native, edible fruiting perennials on your property can provide clues as to what nonnative fruits might also grow well. For instance, there are many native huckleberries (Vaccinium spp.). Likely, where they grow well, so would blueberries (also genus Vaccinium).
If native edibles already grow where an orchard will be established, then consider leaving them as habitat for native bees and other pollinating insects, as sources of food and shelter for birds (that may also feed on orchard insect pests), and as refuge for other beneficial wildlife, such as predatory insects. I love fruits in general, but I particularly appreciate natives. I would add the small caveat that certain native fruiting planta could be a source of pests on your planted fruit trees. For instance, at home I may have a minor problem with tent caterpillars spreading from native crabapples. It's not a big deal though.
Raintree grows native fruiting plants that could do very well in most Northwest yards and gardens. Those include salal, evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), and serviceberry.
Happy growing! Because, after all, change is the only constant. -Xander Rose