In addition to timber, Oregon’s forests are the source of an abundance of other vegetation with commercial value. These non-timber forest products include wild mushrooms, berries, ferns, tree boughs, cones, moss and medicinal herbs such as cascara bark and Oregon grape.
Some Oregon forest landowners manage their forestland to grow these products and harvest them to earn income. Forest greenery used in floral arrangements and holiday decorations, for instance, is a multimillion-dollar industry in the Pacific Northwest. And truffles, a type of fungi that grow in Oregon’s forests, are a culinary delicacy that can fetch high prices.
Below are some examples of non-timber forest products found in Oregon:
Wild floral greens, including plants, fungi, lichen, molds, mosses and liverworts, are used in flower arrangements and bouquets, and other decorative uses, such as basketry.
Evergreen boughs are commonly used during the Christmas season to make wreaths, garlands, centerpieces and other holiday decorations. Boughs from noble fir and incense cedar are the most common species marketed in the Pacific Northwest, and receive the highest prices.
Truffles are spore-bearing fungi that occur underground and grow in a symbiotic relationship with tree roots. Truffles provide trees with water and nutrients, and trees provide truffles with sugar. The fruiting body looks like a chocolate truffle and ranges from cherry- to baseball-sized. Chocolate truffles get their name from the shape and flavor intensity of edible fungal truffles used for cooking. Culinary truffles have a strong aroma and even a small shaving or slice can impart their flavor into bland food. There are thousands of truffle species that exist throughout the world, including several Pacific Northwest native truffles that are desired for their culinary qualities. Two common types of edible native Oregon truffles that have commercial markets are Oregon black truffles and Oregon white truffles.
Wild edible mushrooms are abundant in the native forests of the Pacific Northwest. The Pacific Northwest is home to one of the greatest diversities of culinary wild mushrooms in the world; they grow abundantly in our native forests. Some of our commercially viable wild mushrooms are Queen Bolete, giant puffball, lion’s mane, candy cap, black morel and matsutake.
Huckleberries, a wild fruit closely related to the blueberry, grows in the conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest. Huckleberries are harvested and sold fresh, dried or canned. The berries are also used in jam, tea, wine, syrup, honey, candy, pies, muffins, pancakes, fruit filling, salad dressing, soaps, lotions, shampoos and candles. There are at least a dozen different species of huckleberry, both native and non-native, found in Pacific Northwest forests. These include red huckleberry, oval-leaf huckleberry and evergreen huckleberry.
Oregon grape. a native understory shrub, has edible berries. In addition, the inner bark of Oregon grape roots, stems and leaves contains several alkaloids with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, giving it commercial value in the medicinal herb market.
Cascara bark comes from a large deciduous shrub found in Pacific Northwest forests called cascara sagrada, which means “sacred bark.” Cascara bark, also called “chittum,” has been used by Native Americans for hundreds of years as a natural laxative and has been marketed by the pharmaceutical industry since the late 1800s. Cascara is also used in smaller amounts in sunscreens and as flavoring in liquors, soft drinks, ice cream and baked goods.
Hundreds of species of medicinal herbs grow wild in Pacific Northwest forests. Various trees, shrubs, perennials and lichens have medicinal properties. Since the 1990s, the market for these botanicals has become a multibillion-dollar industry as the demand in the U.S. increases for natural medicines, particularly in the form of herbal supplements.
Native seed is commonly harvested from hundreds of species of native plants that grow in Pacific Northwest forests. Many species are raised in agriculture or nursery settings and harvested by machine. Others are gathered by hand, and sometimes by machine, in the wild. The vast majority of native seeds are used in restoration projects, such as along new roadsides and other developments, to prevent erosion after a major land disturbance such as a forest fire, or to improve wildlife and fish habitat. The native seed industry has been around for decades, but is expanding as landscaping with native plants becomes more commonplace, and as teh ecological restoration industry grows.
"Forest transplants" are naturally occurring plants or shrubs that can be transplanted from forests as seedlings or mature plants and sold to nurseries or directly to consumers for landscaping purposes. Native plants such as sword fern are valued for their beauty, hardiness for local climate conditions and soil, low maintenance and attractiveness to wildlife; there is a strong and growing interest in these plants for residential and commercial landscaping and restoration projects.