Karuk Native Plant Demonstration Garden


 Located at the Daryl “Day Pay” McCovey Memorial Park,  Orleans California

The Garden is a collaborative project of the Karuk Indigenous Basketweavers, the Mid Klamath Watershed Council, the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources, the Orleans/Somes Bar Fire Safe Council, and many community volunteers. It demonstrates local native plants that have traditional and current uses for food, medicine, basketweaving, landscaping, and restoration.  Over time, as restoration efforts continue, fire will be re-introduced to show how the use of fire can benefit native plants and help restore our landscape. 

Did you Know?

Mock Orange (Karuk name: xa'vish, Latin name: Philadelphus Lewisii)  The young straight shoots can be used to make arrow shafts .

Huckleberry (Karuk name: purith'ippan, Latin name: Vaccinium ovatum) leaves can be used for a medicinal tea, treating diabetes and insomnia. The berries were, and remain today, an important food source.

Spikenard (Karuk name: patraa'kup, Latin name: Aralia californica) was used traditionally as a tea to treat arthritis, sinus problems and many other ailments. Spikenard can be seen on the loop trail in the summer and fall.

Find each of these plants, as well as more interesting facts about native plants on plant identification tags throughout the garden.

What are Native Plants?

“Native” plants grow in the same place or habitat in which they    originated.  These plants have grown in a region for thousands of years, and are adapted to the particular characteristics of that place. Native plants have been intimately tied to Native cultures all over the world. Here, in the Mid Klamath region, Karuk traditions and  ecological knowledge are rooted in the uses and importance of native plants and the land management required to cultivate and sustain those plants.There are over 50 species of Native plants in the garden.

Native Plants and Fire

Native plants have evolved with fire, but over the last 150 years, fire has been removed from forest environments. Before that, natural fires, including lightning strikes and purposeful ignition by Native Americans, would bring fire through the landscape on a regular basis. Those fires helped the forest remain healthy and productive.  Continued fire suppression has created brushy and unhealthy forests.   

Many plants and trees are adapted to reproduce vigorously after fire, while others are naturally resistant to fire damage.  Most hardwood species will resprout from the base following fire. Local “resprouters” include manzanita, hazel, California bay, oak, madrone, willow, and ceonothus.  Karuk people rely on burning hazel and willow to encourage new growth for use in basketry.  After a burn, bugs in the wood are killed and the new growth makes straight stems that can be used to weave baskets. Acorn Oaks (tan oak, black oak and white oak) also benefit from regular burning. In the Fall, the first big storms blow the acorns with bugs inside or “buggy” acorns out of the trees.  After the first acorns fall, the leaf litter and buggy acorns need to be burned to clean up under the trees, so the second fall of healthier, bug-free acorns can be collected.  Today, acorns are still used as a very important food source.

Now there is an effort to bring fire back to these fire adapted ecosystems.  “Prescribed Fire”, or fire that is planned and controlled by people to achieve certain goals, is an important tool for restoration and forest management. It can be used before a forest fire to prepare and protect the forest for unplanned fires and increase safety for fire fighters and our communities.

 Volunteers in the garden

Many people have worked to develop this garden since its beginning in 2005.  Invasive English ivy covered about 50% of the area of the garden.  Most of that has been removed by volunteers.  Volunteers have also planted many of the native plants you see here, made trails, weeded and watered transplants.

 Visitors, Volunteers, and Donors to the Native Plant Garden

  • Following the Smoke volunteers (sponsored by Six Rivers National Forest and  Karuk Indigenous Basketweavers)
  • AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project
  • Karuk Tribe Salmon Camp & Environmental Education Program
  • Orleans Elementary School
  • Junction Elementary School
  • Karuk Tribe Summer Youth Crew
  • HSU: Community and Environment Masters Program
  • Klamath National Forest: Happy Camp District STEP volunteers
  • Hoopa Tribal Civilian Community Corps
  • Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources
  • Mid Klamath Watershed Council Watershed Education  Program
  • California Fire Safe Council Grants Clearinghouse
  • Orleans/Somes Bar Fire Safe Council
  • Mid Klamath Restoration Tour Participants
  • AND MANY, MANY COMMUNITY MEMBERS & VOLUNTEERS