Snow queen (Synthyris reniformis) can be seen blossoming close to the ground in coniferous forests and woodlands from early February, making it one of the earliest native blooms to be seen each year in southern Oregon. But it can be very easily overlooked at only 2-6 inches tall, with flowers varying from white to blue to purple, so keep your eyes on the ground if you want to spot them. I noticed this lovely specimen (pictured) on the Sterling Mine Ditch trail near the Little Applegate recently, and once I noticed this plant, I suddenly realized they were everywhere!
There are six varieties of Synthyris (in the Figwort family) in Oregon, but the Snow queen is the species most commonly found at low to mid elevations. It is native to the Pacific NW, from the Puget Sound in Washington, to Northern California. With its flowers arriving so early, the Snow queen is an important source of food for pollinators and nectar eaters. This adds to the many reasons why the perennial Snow queen can be a great choice for planting in your garden.
Written by Lilia Letsch, Rogue Native Plant Partnership