Heritage Gardens Page


Utah Heritage Garden at the Thanksgiving Point Animal Park

Joint Sponsors

Thanksgiving Point Education and Earth Science Program
Utah Native Plant Society

Utah Heritage Garden Program Goals

--Teach the people of Utah about our unique and spectacular native plant heritage.

--Demonstrate that water-wise landscaping with Utah natives can be as beautiful and interesting as European-style landscaping.

--Help people discover how gardening with native plants can create a joyful sense of connectedness with wild nature.

--Encourage people to care about the fate of native plants in the wild.

This native plant garden is designed to exist in harmony with bluegrass lawn in a traditional landscape, yet represent a small piece of wild Utah. Most of the plants are from streamside and mountain habitats, where there is ample water. Many produce juicy berries to attract the birds that disperse seeds, a luxury few desert plants can afford.

Trees and Shrubs

River Birch. Betula occidentalis. This graceful many-trunked tree thrives along mountain streams. River birch bark is shiny like cherry bark, and its leaves turn bright gold in autumn.

Red Osier Dogwood. Cornus sericea. This willowlike shrub with white berries grows in thickets along canyon streams. Its bright red twigs or "osiers" were used in basket-making. The plant is especially beautiful in winter.

Squawbush Sumac. Rhus trilobata. The flattened red fruits of this large shrub can be used to make "boy scout lemonade". Its leaves turn a splendid red in autumn, and the fruits often hang on into the winter like Christmas tree ornaments.

Saskatoon Serviceberry. Amelanchier alnifolia. The pretty white flowers of this tall mountain shrub are followed by edible fruits somewhat like blueberries. Saskatoons were an ingredient in "pemmican", a dried trail food used by native Americans.

Twinberry. Lonicera involucrata. This relative of the honeysuckle produces dark purple twin berries in a red cup--an advertisement to the birds. It grows along streams and at springs in the mountains.

Mountain Snowberry. Symphoricarpos oreophilus. This little shrub grows abundantly under the aspens in the mountains. Its tiny pink bell flowers are followed by white "snowberries" that are relished by migrating cedar waxwings.

Golden Currant. Ribes aureum. This shrub of canyon streamsides has fragrant golden flowers. Its edible berries are gold to purple and can be used to make excellent jelly.


Pink Checker Mallow. Sidalcea neomexicana. With peppermint-pink flowers like miniature hollyhocks, this plant forms large patches at marshy places in the foothills.

Meadow Penstemon. Penstemon rydbergii. One of the few penstemons that can tolerate frequent watering, this blue-flowered plant is abundant in poorly-drained mountain meadows.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Penstemon strictus. This tall blue-purple penstemon is relatively tolerant of frequent watering, and has become a staple in wildflower seed mixes. Its cultivar name, "Bandera" means flag or banner.

Butterfly Milkweed. Asclepias tuberosa. This late summer flower is a powerful attraction for butterflies, who sip nectar from its bright orange blossoms. It is found mostly in the prairies and is quite rare in the wild in Utah, though it is readily available from mail-order nurseries.

Mountain Columbine. Aquilegia coerulea. Also called Colorado columbine, this attractive plant has large spurred flowers that vary from white to pale blue. It is a common wildflower in aspen and conifer forests in the mountains.

Golden Columbine. Aquilegia chrysantha. A plant of high mountain meadows and seeps, this plant grows in abundance in Albion Basin. A delicate plant with yellow flowers, it is quite similar to cultivated forms.

Blooming Sally. Epilobium angustifolium. Also known as fireweed, this pretty magenta-flowered plant often becomes very abundant after forest fires. Its tiny windblown seeds travel long distances and find new openings.

Showy Goldeneye. Viguera multiflora. A pint-size relative of the sunflower, this plant often flowers in great profusion along roadsides and in mountain meadows in midsummer.

Firechalice. Zauschneria latifolia. This red autumn wildflower likes to grow on rocky slopes. It provides much-needed nectar to hummingbirds as they migrate south, and is also known as hummingbird trumpet.

White Geranium. Geranium richardsonii. This hardy relative of the potted "geranium" (actually the genus Pelargonium from South Africa) is a common wildflower of mountain forests and meadows. A close cousin, Sticky Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum), has deep rose flowers.


Basin Wildrye. Elymus cinereus. This handsome bunchgrass was once abundant across the Great Basin, but spring haying and overgrazing eliminated most stands soon after settlement This grass is so tall that it was historically said to "hide horse and rider".

Shining Muttongrass. Poa fendleriana. This little bunchgrass is a drought-tolerant relative of lawn grass. It flowers in early spring, with pearly silver-pink flowering heads. It is found over a wide range of habitats in Utah, from desert to mountain.

We thank the following organizations and individuals for their generous contributions toward this and other Utah Heritage Gardens:

USDA Forest Service Shrub Sciences Laboratory, Provo.

Merrill and Robert Johnson at Great Basin Natives, Holden (435-795-2303, www.grownative.com).

Janett Warner at Wildland Nursery, Joseph. (801-232-8164, www.wildlandnursery.com).

Brent Collett and the Production Greenhouses, Thanksgiving Point.

Darrin Johnson's third grade class, Wasatch Elementary School, Provo.

For more information about the Utah Native Plant Society and the Utah Heritage Garden Program:

Call us : 801-272-3275 in SLC
801-377-5918 in Provo

E us: UNPS@xmission.com

Check out our website:

Visit other Utah Heritage Gardens:

Wasatch Elementary School, 1080 North 900 East, Provo.

Provo Canyon Trailhead Park, east end of 2300 North, Provo.

University of Utah Mall, in front of the new Gymnastics Gymnasium, SLC.