Native Plants

Check out our photo gallery for more images native plants!

Native plants in the Boise Foothills evolved to withstand a harsh environment; hot, dry weather, cold winters, periodic droughts, and infrequent wildfires.  Undisturbed native plant communities are dominated by big sagebrush and bitterbrush with a layer of grasses, forbs (wildflowers) and biological soil crusts underneath the shrubs.

-Sagebrush and bitterbrush are upright woody shrubs that provide important habitat for the wildlife and help the soil hold moisture. Neither of these shrubs resprout well after a wildfire, so land managers place a high emphasis on keeping wildfires contained and restoring these valuable shrubs after wildfires.

Sagebrush is the smaller plant in the foreground, bitterbrush is the larger plant behind it. Sagebrush has grayish leaves and bitterbrush has green leaves.

-Native grasses grow in bunches and are well adapted to growing under the sagebrush and bitterbrush. Their fibrous roots protect the soil, while their leaves provide an important food source for wildlife. Most of the grasses in the foothills grow in the spring when rainfall occurs and become dormant during the hot summers and cold winters.

Bluebunch wheatgrass

-Native forbs provide a welcome splash of color in the spring or fall when they flower. These plants are high in nutrition and the flowers are an important food source for pollinators such as native bees.


-Biological crusts are the mosses, lichens and bacteria that inhabit bare ground between the native plants. They also stabilize the soil and take advantage of light rain showers in the spring to grow . Mosses are commonly found under sagebrush and bitterbrush, while lichens grow on soils between these shrubs.

Biological Crusts

Maintaining native plants or restoring them on burned or degraded areas is a priority for the Healthy Hills Initiate and its partners.