Every summer, various Oregon wildflowers blossom in the lush forests, open meadows, and beautiful beaches of our state. Here’s a list of some local summer wildflowers you may encounter on your next walk, hike, or trip to the coast.
Yellow Sand Verbena
Yellow Sand Verbenas can be found near the Corvallis area, commonly on the Oregon coast. They are easily identified by their bright yellow color, long stems, and succulent-like leaves.
These wildflowers grow in spherical clusters, often housing between 17 and 34 flowers in each inflorescence. In season from May to October, it’s easy to find these vibrant flowers in scrubland and sand dunes on the Pacific coast, from Washington to south central California. These wildflowers’ root structures were actually commonly eaten by the Chinook Indian Nation.
The Olympic Onion is a unique wildflower found in multiple parts of the Pacific Northwest, including Benton County. This native beauty flowers in midsummer, growing three to eight inches, and producing grass-like leaves and clusters of pink to white, bell-shaped flowers. To find this wondrous wildflower, look for the Olympic Onion in alpine, subalpine, and coastal habitats where the soils are moist and rocky.
This common wildflower can be found in almost every county of the PNW and at multiple national parks, including Olympic, Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, and Crater Lake, as well as in the Wallowas, the Steens, the Siskiyous, and the West Gorge.
Growing up to 48 inches, these eye-catching flowers “nod” downward and are bright red with some yellow coloring. The Red Columbine is native and is attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. You can find these wildflowers in coastal, meadow, west-side forest, east-side forest, and subalpine habitats, flowering all spring and summer long. The Red Columbine was used by some Plateau Indian tribes to make perfumes and was also commonly used medicinally for multiple purposes by several Native American tribes.
Common California Aster
Despite the name, these wildflowers are common in Oregon and in Benton County. Chances are, you’ve noticed these small, purple-hued flowers. They have slender, upright stems with basal leaves and clusters of small, lavender or white ray flowers. Common California Asters can be anywhere from 20 to 40 inches tall, and they are mostly found in coastal and meadow habitats in the summer months.
The Elegant Brodiaea wildflower is hard to miss with its vibrant blue to purple flowers and unique shape. These flowers are named accurately, as their ascending petals and upright stem structure truly give them an elegant, regal look. Common in western Oregon and northwestern California, these beauties can grow to be 20 inches, flower in early summer, and can be found in meadow and west-side forest habitats.
Fun fact: this wildflower has underground bulbs to store energy.
These common wildflowers are easily spotted due to their tall structure – growing up to four feet, their bright, spoon-shaped orange to yellow flowers cluster at the top of the upright stem, producing a sweet fragrance. Thriving in drier areas, these wildflowers are often found in meadow, west-side forest, east-side forest, and shrub-steppe habitats, flowering throughout the summer. For a guaranteed look at the Western Wallflower, the Siskiyous, Steens, Wallowas, and the Olympic and North Cascades national parks have been known to be homes to them. The Western Wallflower is also referred to as the Sanddune Wallflower and the Prairie Rocket.
The Vanilla Leaf wildflower was given its name for the sweet, vanilla-like smell of its dried leaves. Not only is this flower fragrant, but its look is also unique, with eight to 16 inch stems and spikes of small white flowers, which slightly resemble stars. These wildflowers are commonly found in the western parts of Washington, Oregon, and California, thriving in coastal and west-side forest habitats, and flowering from the early spring to the midsummer. You can find them in the Olympic, Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, and Crater Lake national parks, as well as in the Siskiyous and the West Gorge.
Fireweed, with its tall frame growing up to five feet, numerous long leaves, and dense spikes of deep pink flowers, is a native wonder of the PNW. Showy and colorful, these flowers bloom all summer and thrive in meadows, west-side forests, and east-side forest habitats, as well as in areas that have been disturbed, like recently burned meadows and clearcuts. For a chance at seeing the Fireweed, look in the Olympic, Mt. Rainier, and North Cascades national parks. The young shoots and leaves of the Fireweed wildflower can actually be cooked and eaten, and they were traditionally collected and eaten by Native American and Siberian people as good sources of vitamin C and provitamin A.
An evergreen vine, short, oval leaves, and paired, fragrant trumpet-shaped flowers that are pale pink in color: these are the characteristics of the Twinflower. Common in much of the PNW, Twinflowers enjoy west-side forest and east-side forest habitats, specifically their moist, shady areas. These wildflowers flower all summer and can be found in the Olympic, Mt. Rainier, North Cascades, and Crater Lake national parks, and the Siskiyous and the West Gorge. Interestingly, the Twinflower’s genus, Linnaea, was named after Carl Linnaeus, who is considered the “father” of modern botanical nomenclature.
Yellow Pond Lily
This pond wildflower has heart-shaped leaves that grow from an underwater root system and house yellow cup-shaped flowers. Yellow Pond Lilies are usually found in shallow ponds or slow streams at elevations below the treeline, and have homes in the Olympic, Mt. Rainier, and North Cascades national parks, the Wallowas, the Steens, the Columbia Basin, the West and East Gorge, and the Siskiyous. They flower in midsummer and are native to the PNW. Yellow Pond Lilies have also been used as sources of food and for medicinal purposes. The seeds of the plant are edible – they are like popcorn seeds, and can also be steamed as a vegetable, made into flour, or cooked like oatmeal. Medicinally, the leaves and rootstocks of Yellow Pond Lilies have been used for ulcerous skin conditions and swelling.
By Cara Nixon