Enjoyment, Conservation, & Study

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Native Plant Society Of Oregon: Cheahmill Chapter

By David Bates, Contributing Writer

A butterfly sits on  native plants

For a quarter century, local environmentalists and horticulturalists have volunteered thousands of hours in keeping Yamhill County green (and actually other colors if you count wildflowers) with native plants.

The Cheahmill Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon, which was founded in 1961, was launched in 1998 and has collaborated with local governments to transform and maintain public land full of trees, flowers, grasses, and other plants that are literally at home. “The term ‘native’ plant refers to plants that have adapted over time to local environmental and social influences, such as soil types, hydrology, micro-climate and human influences,” explains chapter member Michal Wert, who lives on Chehalem Mountain north of Newberg. “They produce flowers, fruits and seeds throughout the year and create a beautiful, natural look.”

Like many organizations, the Cheahmill Chapter met virtually the last couple of years, but they expect to ease back into in-person meetings in the fall. Along with hosting speakers and educational workshops, the group has held an annual wildflower show and a native plant sale. But work parties outdoors continue, and there’s a lot to do!

If you’ve ever visited or driven by the McMinnville Public Library on Adams Street, you can see the fruits of their labor. The native plant garden that surrounds the Carnegie Building on Adams Street actually predates the NPSO chapter, but since 1999 they’ve maintained the now 11-bed garden. It’s a beautiful showcase for plants that can easily be used in domestic landscaping in a variety of micro ecological niches, from full sun to complete shade. The gardens here include nearly 80 species, including Pacific yew, incense cedar, wild ginger, shrubs like ocean spray, and pink and white fawn lilies.

A similarly ambitious project can be found on Lafayette Avenue at the Yamhill County Public Works Department. When the new facilities were built a few years ago, Wert and Cheahmill volunteers Rob Tracey, Dave Hanson and Jeanie Taylor worked with county staff on a plan for twelve garden beds around the new building and in the parking lot.

In all, nearly 4,000 plants representing nearly 70 species were sourced from Oregon nurseries and planted on the property, including a large wet prairie garden that collects runoff from half the parking lot and a demonstration garden at the entrance. But volunteers also get out of town, working in parks that are tucked into the hills and woodlands. Deer Creek Park west of McMinnville, for example, is the crown jewel of local NPSO efforts. Thanks to restoration of 30 acres of upland and wet prairies, beaver ponds and riparian habitat, it is the most biologically diverse park in the county. You can learn all about it by visiting, because their work has included installing interpretive signs that describe the area’s rich history.

For more information about the Native Plant Society of Oregon, visit npsoregon.org, where you’ll find a link to the local Cheahmill group under “Chapters.” The local chapter is also on Facebook.