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Six of twenty-one species of Synthyris are native to Oregon, though some are uncommon to rare; in fact S. reniformis is the only commonly familiar species in Oregon.
It may be a little misleading to make it the January plant pick, but it is one of the very first flowers to appear in the native shade garden, in mild winters yes, as early as January! Okay, though it more usually appears during the late-February through April start on the season, it is still one of the earliest flowers to appear and what gives it its common names of Spring Queen and Snow Queen.
Synthyris reniformis – Spring Queen, Snow Queen
First discovered and named by Lewis and Clark near what is today Cascade Locks, S.reniformis the most widespread and commonly found Synthyris in Oregon, and is really the only one commonly available in nurseries. It makes its home in woodland settings at low elevations.
Its diminutive size and liking for wooded, duff-covered settings makes it somewhat invisible; but look closely in the late winter /early spring and you will be rewarded with the view of the persistent delicacy of the perennial Spring Queen’s lovely little blue-to-blue-violet flowers in the otherwise quiet wasteland of the winter garden, a true herald of spring! And, as one of the first to bloom in spring, it is also a valuable nectar source for the earliest of the season’s garden pollinators, an added plus….Spring is just around the corner!
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Family: Scrophulariaceae (Figwort)
Species: S. reniformis, S. missurica, S.schazantha, S. missurica var. stellata, S. cordata
Common name: Spring Queen, Snow Queen, Kittentoes
Native Range: Common throughout the western United States and Canada, in woodland to open areas mostly low-to-mid elevations.
Characteristics: Small clumps of basal leaves, heart-shaped to roundish with shallow lobes. Rising above are short stems with tiny blue-violet, bell-shaped flowers held in small clusters.
Culture: Grows happily in dappled sunny, well-drained, humus-y part of the garden.
Pests/Diseases: Nothing noted to be of a bother….