School of Biological Sciences

Marion Ownbey Herbarium

The Plants of Moscow Mountain

The forested ridge of Moscow Mountain, situated northeast of Moscow, Idaho, is a prominent feature of Palouse topography. Moscow Mountain lies at the west end of a ridge of low peaks known as the Palouse Range or Thatuna Hills. Moscow Mountain, at nearly 5000 feet in elevation, and the two peaks, East and West Twin, at nearly 4500 feet, on the ridge to the west, stand well above the town of Moscow, which has an elevation of about 2600 feet. The forested slopes and the ridge of Moscow Mountain can be accessed by various roads and trails. The forests of Moscow Mountain are among the closest to and most easily accessible from Washington State University. 

This website provides information on the plants of Moscow Mountain. A list of the vascular plants of Moscow Mountain is available in two forms: 1. arranged by plant family, and 2. arranged by genus. Both lists provide scientific (binomial) and common names for the vascular plants known to be on the mountain as well as information on the habitats in which they are located. The list of plants was modified from a floristic study of Moscow Mountain by B. Chichester (1955). Select highlighted names from either of the plant lists to see photographs and obtain additional information about the plants. The acquisition of photographs and information on each kind of vascular plant on Moscow Mountain is an ongoing project so please have patience with us while we continue to develop this website. We provide an annotated bibliography that lists books and other publications on the flora of the Pacific Northwest, especially the Palouse region, that can help you to identify plants and learn about plant communities.

One can never be sure that a plant list for a particular area is comprehensive. Botanists do not always find every kind of plant that is growing in a particular area. New kinds of plants can be introduced at anytime. Weedy plants, especially those introduced by the activity of people, are common in agricultural areas, such as the Palouse. Many weedy plants have the ability to spread rapidly, and we can expect that some have moved onto Moscow Mountain since Chichester's 1955 study of its flora. Plant lists can also become out-dated because of local extinction (implying that plants will no longer be found where they once were present). Let us know if you find a plant on Moscow Mountain that is not on our list. 
The flora of Moscow Mountain as we know it now has 374 kinds or species of vascular plants. They are members of 52 families and include flowering plants (angiosperms, including monocots and dicots), conifers (gymnosperms), horsetails (sphenophytes), and ferns (pteridophytes). The forests of Moscow Mountain differ on the north and south slopes.

The forests of the north slope are centered on cedar-grand fir communities. The most common coniferous tree of the north slope is western red cedar (Thuja plicata). The most common plants along the forest floor include: Actaea rubra, Anemone piperi, Asarum caudatum, Cornus canadensis, Disporum trachycarpum, Lonicera utahensis, Pyrola bracteata, Pyrola uniflora, Ribes lacustre, Rubus parviflora, Thalictrum occidentale, Tiarella trifoliata, Trillium ovatum, Viola glabella, and Viola orbiculata.

The forests of the south slope are dominated by ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). At the higher elevations of the south slope the ponderosa pine is mixed with Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and tamarack (larch; Larix occidentalis). Common understory plants of these forests include: Calypso bulbosa, Castilleja miniata, Clematis columbiana, Frasera fastigata, Lonicera ciliosa, Pachistima myrsinites, Prunus emarginata, Rosa gymnocarpa, Trillium ovatum, and Vaccinium membranaceum.

The ravines of the south slope have cedar-grand fir communities similar to those of the north slope. Common plants of the forest understory in the riparian zone of these ravines can include: Alnus sinuata, Betula occidentalis, Carex geyeri, Cerastium vulgare, Cornus stolonifera, Crataegus douglasii, Cystopteris fragilis, Equisetum arvense, Juncus ensifolius, Mimulus guttatus, Populus tremuloides, Ranunculus uncinatus, and Urtica dioica.

Small areas of grassland and steppe vegetation can be found around the base of Moscow Mountain, but the areas where those types of plant communities were present before the arrival of settlers are now used typically for agriculture.

For additional information on the plants of Moscow Mountain or the Pacific Northwest, please contact the Marion Ownbey Herbarium or examine some of the materials listed in the bibliography.

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