Into the Wild: Planting Trees Beyond the Arboretum’s Borders

Into the Wild: Planting Trees Beyond the Arboretum’s Borders

Waking up at 5:30 am to go on an adventure is something that a fair few have done, but leaving Portland, Oregon to take a road trip south to Happy Camp, California with the intent of planting trees and exploring various roadside and mountain slope plants is probably not as common.

On April 17th, 2024, I joined Curator Martin Nicholson to embark upon such a journey to aid Scott and Jessie of the US Forest Service in an oak conservation project, reforesting an area that had been ravaged by fires. Charred pine trees, iron-rich red sand, weedy blackberry, and the cooked remains of a previous outpost station were what greeted them upon their arrival, but the adventure began long before that point!

The Journey is the Destination

Driving along I-5 with the sunrise behind the Suburban, we proceeded through Grants Pass and made our way up to Greyback Rd, valleys surrounding us and snow-covered mountain peaks in the distance…but not as distant as we thought.

Turning a corner we encountered 14 inches of snow blocking the roadway, piling on even thicker to 4 feet of snow further down the road. Deterred but not defeated, we made a pit stop in an empty lot next to some RV campers to recalibrate.

This is where the roadside botany began! We noticed Mimulus guttatus (below, left), Pinus jeffreyii (below, right), Arctostaphylos, Ceanothus, Erodium cicutarium, Cirsium, and Amelanchier. Hope rekindled after a brief break and seeing some plants, we ended up changing course and proceeded to Happy Camp. Though it was late in the afternoon, our adventures continued as we looked for roads that would increase chances for plant observations along the mountainsides.

More Roadway Obstacles & Spectacles

A fallen pine tree across the road forced us to get out and walk, and fortune favoured the bold in that moment as within 10 feet of the fallen tree, we found a Quercus sadleriana growing in great health. Exactly the plant we were keen to see and document their post-burn reestablishment! Once we spotted that first one, we quickly noted others growing in the area and observed how well they thrived in the open, sunny environment now that the taller trees had burned- no dense canopies to block the light!

Again we set out, finding another mountainside road, and that’s where, in the sunset light, we came across a treasure trove of roadside botany. Quercus sadleriana (below, left), Quercus vaccinifolia (below, right), and Quercus kelloggii all growing within 20 feet of each other


These oaks were all in the presence of Chrysoplesis, Fragaria vesca, Trifolium glomeratum, Phlox speciosa (below, left) , Arctostaphylos, Pseudotsuga, Arbutus, Viola sheltonii, Whipplea modesta, Ribes rozellii (below, right), and Pinus ponderosa.

We worked up quite an appetite following the satisfying events of the evening, so we capped it off with pizza and salad at the Bigfoot-themed pizza shop in Happy Camp with Scott from the U.S. Forest Service, to discuss plans for the next day.

Quirky Quercus

Thursday 18th April, 2024 was a chilly morning, but quickly warmed to a comfortable and work-friendly temperature as we met with Scott and Jessie at the planting site and mapped out where 4 different seed lots of the oaks would be planted. Once all the paperwork was completed, then came the exciting part: digging 60 holes for 60 plants and getting them nestled into their new homes, all before lunch time!

All the trees planted were Quercus sadleriana and this conservation effort will aid the restoration of the natural landscape as well as provide useful scientific data for further research into these plants.

There and Back Again

Leaving Happy Camp and the little red cabin we stayed in, we set off for the 5.5 hour journey back to Portland, but not before stopping to collect a pine cone from Pinus lambertiana, and another pitstop along the Klamath River to observe Lupinus, Eriodictyon californicum, Salix, and others. The trip may have had hiccups but it was successful, proving that if you’re into plants, just pay a little attention, you can find your next adventure even in the most unlikely places!

About the Author

Shaueel Persadee is Trinidadian wildlife conservationist with a double major in Biology and Environmental Sciences who has been studying at the New York Botanical Garden since 2023 adding plant knowledge and conservation to round out his skill set in planet-saving. It has been a lifelong dream to see the Pacific Northwest, growing up hearing about it and seeing films, which brings him to Portland and specifically to Hoyt Arboretum where he can be fully immersed in the diverse plant culture. His favorite place in the arboretum is the benches along the trail leading to the Redwood Deck because this was the first place he stopped to rest when he came to the Arboretum.

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