It's Native Plant Appreciation Week and we're excited! Did you know that Washington enjoys an amazing biodiversity with over 3,000 native plant species from rain forest plants on the Olympic peninsula to the desert species in eastern Washington and that preserving native plant ecosystems is critical for protecting wildlife, birds, fish, and water quality in our state? We wanted to find a way to celebrate these mighty plant superheroes, so we've gathered a list of species native to Washington and matched them with the superhero they are most like.
Click through the gallery to learn more about these mighty native plants and their superhero counterparts or skip down to the list- it starts right below the gallery.
Iron Man - Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor):
Like Iron Man, Oceanspray is known for its strength and hardness. In fact, it has the nickname of "Ironwood". Like the metal of Iron Man's suit, this wood can be tempered over a fire to increase its durability. It has even been used as a peg in construction, replacing nails. This native plant can be found on the edges of forests. Watch out for its lilac-like cream flowers which remain on the plant over winter.
Groot - Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa):
Like Groot, cottonwood can be a bit intimidating but is a sweetheart. Cottonwoods are known for falling down in windstorms. Fortunately, the snags left behind are a great habitat for bugs, birds, and small mammals. Similar to Groot, cottonwood can regrow from even a small piece. A new tree can grow from a branch breaking off and becoming lodged in the ground!
Hulk - Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata):
Like Bruce Banner transforming into the Hulk, the Western Redcedar starts as a puny plant before growing into one of the largest trees in our area. The Quinault Lake Redcedar is the biggest recorded at 20 feet in diameter and 174 feet tall. The redcedar can be found all over the Puget Sound area, especially on wet sites. Look for its J-shaped branches and scaly leaves.
Wolverine - Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana):
Like Wolverine, Nootka rose displays powerful claws, or hooked thorns, to be reckoned with. A group of roses growing together produces a thicket and provides a safe haven for birds. Similar to Wolverine's healing factor, Nootka rose can regenerate quickly; it can be clipped down to the ground and come back to its original height in one season.
Flash - Pacific Willow (Salix lasiandra):
Like Flash, this willow moves at superhuman-plant speeds. As one of the fastest growing trees in our region, willows can often grow more than 3 feet in a season. You can find this plant growing near a water source such as a stream or wetland. Look for its bright yellow-green new growth and long lance-shaped leaves.
Storm - Spatterdock (Nuphar polysepalum):
Like Storm, the leaves of the Spatterdock are said to have the power to be able to change the weather, according to Native lore. This is our native pond lily and can be found in slow moving water such as lakes, streams, and wetlands. Look for its bright yellow cup-shaped flower floating on the surface near large heart/egg-shaped leaves.
Captain America - Brittle Prickly-Pear Cactus (Opuntia fragilis):
Like Captain America, this native cactus is protected by a shield, which happens to be thorns. These spines are actually modified leaves. Watch out for it the next time you are at the beach in the San Juans, especially if you are barefoot-ouch!
Spider-Man - Manroot (Marah oreganus):
Like Spider-Man, Manroot can climb a wall in a blink of an eye. This squash-like plant sends out leafy climbing stems that quickly scale up any obstacle in its way whether a fence or tree. Look for it in open areas especially in the vicinity of water.
Aquaman - Common Eel-grass (Zostera marina):
Like Aquaman, eel-grass plays a vital role in the sea. Similar to Aquaman calling for help from creatures of the sea, eel-grass attracts a wide variety of sea life from tiny diatoms and bacteria to crabs and salmon. Eel-grass is an underwater blooming plant, not a seaweed. You can find it in inter-tidal areas on sheltered shores.
Thor - Bigleaf Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus):
Like Thor, lupine depends on a tool to make it a robust, powerful being. Lupine's roots form nodules which house bacteria that fix nitrogen, powering up the plant, and the soil around it. This popular plant has a large cluster of flowers and has been cultivated into many different colors for the garden.