Pacific Ninebark is one of our favorite native plants to use in restoration projects. It has long trailing branches that create shady nooks along shorelines and in upland forests. Like many species of the Rosaceae family, it has fibrous roots that help stabilize slopes and streambanks. It’s a great nectar source for many insects, including bees and butterflies. And since the bark isn’t very palatable, deer and elk rarely damage it.
It’s also attractive. The blooming season is fairly short – often mid-May to mid-June – but the dome-shaped clusters of small white flowers catch the eye every spring. The flowers develop into papery red fruit with shiny yellow seeds that are released in the fall.
Pacific Ninebark may not grow as fast as the native willows, but it does tolerate a wide variety of conditions. It grows well in sun and shade; and while it grows best in places where soils are moist for part of the year, it tolerates sites that dry out during the summer. Since a mature Pacific ninebark bush may get to be 15 feet tall and 15 feet across, a patch of these shrubs can form a wonderfully dense thicket that provides excellent nesting sites for native birds and shelter for many species.