Backyard seasonal wetland

Asked March 16, 2016, 9:49 PM EDT

Hello, I have a spot in the backyard of my 1/5 acre property that is, essentially, a seasonal wetland. For whatever reason this corner (say 8 by 15 feet) has horrible drainage, but when there is no rain it gets very dry. Instead of going against the grain and trying to level the corner, amend the soil, etc...I'd like to plant it as a seasonal wetland using Oregon native species where possible. Is there a publication listing species that naturally thrive (or just survive) such an environment? I'm already considering planting camas and a blue elderberry...but I'm interested in other ephemerals and grass/sedge/rush species as well. Thank you! Becky

Benton County Oregon

3 Responses

Hi, Becky,
Kudos to you for wanting to preserve and improve your wetland instead of getting rid of it! I'm sure you will enjoy the wildlife variety that will bring.
Winter wetland and summer drought is a very tough combination for plants, so you are pretty much limited to native plants which are specifically adapted to that regime. Some of them (like Camas) go dormant during the drought of summer, others put down really deep roots to cope.
You are definitely on the right track with the plants you have already selected. I have not found any comprehensive list of plants suitable for home gardens with these conditions, perhaps because there is such a range of microclimates at the edges of a wetland - the difference of a few feet can change what plants will thrive. This publication, A manual of native plant communities for urban areas in the PNW is older, but very useful for identifying plants for different habitats. Starting on pg. 18 you will find plants for your situation.
Also, here is a short list from the OSU Extension publication, Willamette Valley Field Cards, Riparian Bottomland.
Small Trees
4.Willow Salix sitchensis
5.Red Elderberry Sambucus racemosa
6.Cascara Rhamnus purshiana
7.Blue Elderberry Sambucus cerulea
8.Red Osier Dogwood Cornus sericea (C. stolonifera)
9.Pacific Ninebark Physocarpus capitatus
10. Salmonberry Rubus spectabilis
11.Licorice Fern Polypodium glycyrrhiza
12.Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica
13.Fringe Cup Tellima grandiflora
14.Western Meadowrue Thalictrum occidentale
15.Wild Ginger Asarum caudatum
16. Pacific Bleeding Heart Dicentra formosa
17.Red Columbine Aquilegia formosa
18.Cow Parsnip Heracleum lanatum
19.Horse-tail Equisetum telmatiea
Beyond that, as with any garden, experiment with lots of plants, and those that do well, plant more of.
Enjoy your wetland!

Apparently the link to that publication didn't work. Here is the actual location of the .pdf:

Thank you for the great resources! It's true I have at least 10 microclimates/environments in this small area, mostly in 6-12" bands. Should be a lot of fun to see what grows!