Running salmon

Small green superheroes protect our salmon

Native plants from around the region can have a huge effect on salmon

It may not seem very likely, but some of the biggest (well, sometimes smallest) heroes that tirelessly protect our salmon populations can be found in your own backyard. They’re native plants from around the region and believe it or not, they can have a huge effect on salmon. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have eight native species of salmon living in our lakes, streams and rivers—many of them are listed as threatened or endangered.

That’s where our green, native plant superheroes come in:

• Native trees and shrubs provide shade—creating cooler areas in the water where salmon can chill during their long journeys.

• Their leaves attract bugs to the water, a favorite snack of baby salmon.

• They have a stronghold on dirt in the soil, preventing run-off into waterways.Non-native plants, however, allow dirt to wash away into nearby lakes, streams and rivers—making it difficult for fish to breathe.

Planting native plants in your yard helps not just salmon but the entire local ecosystem.

To get started, check out where to find native plant nurseries near you. As a laid-back gardener myself, I have a few favorite native plants that I’d recommend to anyone. These plants are beautiful and nearly indestructible, so they suit my style perfectly.


Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) – The cute little (non-edible) white berries on this bush are a delicacy to birds, leading to hours of backyard bird watching throughout the year. During the winter when the leaves are gone, the berries look like little white ornaments hung on delicate branches. Due to their bright white color, the plant is also called Corpseberry and described as a food for wandering ghosts.

Ocean spray

Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor) – The tallest of my favorites, this shrub sends out fragrant sprays of beautiful white flowers each spring which attract hummingbirds and butterflies to my little urban oasis. Ocean spray is also known as Ironwood due to its super strong wood that was once commonly used to make spears and arrows.


Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) – This thornless relative of the raspberry produces an incredible fruit that tastes like a raspberry/strawberry hybrid! It also attracts bees and hummingbirds with its fragrant little white flowers, making it a pollinator friendly native plant. Because it lacks thorns, this plant is perfect for picking berries with children.