Planting for climate change in Eugene? Consider the Mediterranean

Would it surprise you to hear that Eugene has a Mediterranean climate? Warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters are typical of the Mediterranean and, yes, Eugene. And as the climate crisis progresses and changes even more, this likely will become more so. Which means, when we think about which trees to plant, we need to think about trees that will survive and thrive in this climate, and it’s not always the same trees we planted 100 or even 25 years ago.

We’ve been experimenting with planting climate adaptive trees in the Eugene area for more than 10 years now. We look for trees that are adapted to summer drought, as opposed to trees that receive summer rainfall in their native land (like red maple or flowering dogwood); we also take into consideration other ingredients necessary for successfully growing trees, such as Eugene’s poorly drained soils.

Some of these trees that are native elsewhere can be hard to get here, so we take a three phase approach to acquire climate adaptive trees for planting:

We first identify the climate resilient trees available in local nurseries, trees like silver linden or Oregon white oak, and we plant more of them.

Next we look at trees suited for climate change that are available in nurseries outside our area and we import them, sometimes from as far as from central California, or grow them locally, trees like chitalpa or valley oak.

And for our third tier trees, we look at trees not currently available from most nurseries, trees like chinquapin or canyon live oak, and we partner with local nurseries to grow them or we learn to grow them ourselves. We collect and purchase seeds or we buy seedlings (aka, “liners,” in nursery-speak), and learn to grow them to the size and shape suitable for planting on Eugene streets. Since we began this work, some climate resilient trees that weren’t widely available are now grown locally, such as Persian Ironwood or Chinese pistache.

We now plant more climate resilient trees than ever, and get all our trees from Oregon nurseries and our own gardens. We have partnerships with local nurseries that take seeds or liners and grow them out to planting size. We also try a more personal approach: Friends of Trees Eugene Tree Team members Erik and Jeff try growing some of these species in their own yards. As you might expect, this final tactic involves a bit of trial and error; however, we’re pretty pleased to share that more than 25 trees grown from this method we like to call the Tree Team Yard Strategy are now successfully growing in the Eugene area including: Atlas cedar (native to North Africa); Oregon myrtle (though Oregon is in the name, strong specimens are not commonly found in local nurseries); canyon live oak; and California black oak.

Interested in doing some experimenting in your own yard? Drop us a line and we’ll share some seeds or liners to try planting in the fall!

Photo: An Oregon myrtle planted at I-105 Rose Garden, grown from seed by FOTE’s Jeff Lanza.