Flora of the Okanogan Highlands

While there is a vast plant community within the ecological structure of the varied landscapes of the Okanogan Highlands the trees of the area may be considered the primary members of the flora. This is a list of the species of tree found here:

  • Douglas fir (pseudotsuga menziesii)
  • Ponderosa pine (pinus ponderosa)
  • Western larch (larix occidentalis)
  • Englemann spruce (picea englemanni)
  • Quaking aspen (populus tremuloides)
  • Black cottonwood (populus trichocarpa)
  • Red alder (alnus rubra)
  • Sub alpine fir
  • Lodge pole pine

The following are a series of representative images of the flora community of the Okanogan Highlands.

A late October snowfall dusts the yellow needled larch
Western Larch also known as Mountain Larch is a species of larch native to the mountains of western North America, in western Canada and the United States in eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, northern Idaho and western Montana.This is a large deciduous coniferous tree, which reaches 100’ tall, with a trunk up to 6’ diameter, has it’s needles turn bright yellow in the late autumn and looses all its needles by the early winter months. The largest known Western larch is 153 ft. tall, 22 ft. in diameter, with 34 ft. crown, located at Seeley Lake, Mt. This image is on Boulder / Deer Creek Pass in the Kettle River Range.

Tamarack is the Algonquian Indian name for the species and means "wood used for snowshoes".

It is the same tree also known as Tamarack Larch, or Tamarack, or Hackmatack, or American Larch, Western Larch and Mountain Larch – all the same tree names from different parts of Canada and the U.S.
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Aspen Grove

A dense stand of Quaking aspen inhabit portions of this watershed valley. These deciduous plants are part of a species of the most widely distributed tree in the northern hemisphere Quaking Aspen is found from coast to coast in a band that includes every providence of Canada, the Pacific Northwest, northern California, the Rocky Mountains, Wisconsin, upstate New York and New England. Beside being noted for their shimmering leaves and the golden color they turn in the fall, aspen are unusual because they grow as clones, putting out vegetative shoots rather than forming seeds from which saplings sprout.
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A highland marsh frozen and covered under a blanket of snow
An upland lake marsh area frozen in the depths of winter. Quite now, with the migratory birds having flown south, when spring thaw converts this ice back to water this lake will play a vital roll in habitat for wildlife of the Okanogan Highlands. 

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Ponderosa Pine
Ponderosa Pine...
Also known as Bull Pine, Blackjack Pine, or Western Yellow Pine, is actually ‘Pinus ponderosa’, a very large pine tree native to western North America. It was first described by David Douglas in 1826.

Balsamroot Sunflowers with Ponderosa Pine
Ponderosa pine is a large evergreen. Highly wildfire resistant in it’s natural habitat where spacing between mature trees often exceeds 100 feet due to large area of needle cast which promotes low intensity lightning fires to spread between the trees and control low growing brush and competitive species as well as other Pinus ponderosa which have rooted too close. The cinnamon-red bark with black crevices distinguishes it from other pine species. The tree can often be identified by its characteristic long needles that grow in tufts of two to five depending on subspecies.

Arrowleaf balsamroot (image above) grows in open, dry landscapes, throughout the sagebrush, oakbrush, serviceberry, and ponderosa pine areas. Characteristics include strong drought resistant, good winter-hardiness, semi-shade tolerant, and capable of surviving frequent grazing and trampling. This hardy plant provides good forage for grazing mammals. The flowers are palatable, and all portions of the plant except the coarser stalks are generally consumed.

Some Native Tribes boiled roots, stems, and leaves, for medicinal purposes. Ripe seeds were pounded into flour. The fleshy, edible roots were often eaten raw or boiled.

For more info on the Arrowleaf Balsamroot Sunflower
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Black Cottonwood leaves against the sunrise
Cottonwood riparian ecosystems line all of the major watercourse drainage's in the Okanogan Highlands. They are found along the banks of streams and lakes. This critical habitat once plentiful has declined due to human activity as in the development of reservoirs, changes to the natural flood regime, along with home and crop development have all contributed to the reduction of black cottonwood stands. Unlike it's Ponderosa Pine neighbor, cottonwood tress have a very low tolerance to wildfire which creates another pressure on surviving stands. 

Inner chamber of mature cottonwood
Cottonwoods provide critical habitat for many local, species including the owls, woodpeckers, bats, raccoons, numerous birds and many other wetland dwelling fauna. Additionally reptiles, including the rubber boa are found in cottonwood forests.

Cottonwoods in morning mist
Shoreline cottonwoods shade fish from the hot sun and drop leaves, twigs and other forest debris into the water adding organic matter to the food chain thus supporting invertebrates which get eaten by other species.

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More to come ~ check back soon...


  1. Quaking Aspen add dramatic and contrasting colors, textures and shapes to our foothills and mountains. Because of the Aspens interesting white bark, bright green leaves and golden fall color...Trees-Plants Nursery

    1. Howdy Tim, you got that right - a beautiful and dynamic flora. Thanks for the comment and feel free to link on and follow this blog for updates...