Land managers in the South Willamette Valley say people are illegally harvesting large numbers of Oregon grape plants from public lands.
The Oregon grape is the state flower. Its roots have medicinal properties. Christie Johnson, Park Ranger with the US Army Corps of Engineers, says she believes people are taking the roots to sell.
“The reason why we think that’s why they’re taking them is a lot of times they’ll just dig up the plants and cut off the roots and then leave the stems and the leaves on the ground.”
Johnson says Oregon grape plants are important to the forest ecosystem which is why harvesting them without a permit is illegal.
“Oregon grape plants provide habitat for butterflies and bees and other pollinators and then also in the spring those flowers become berries that are good food for birds and small mammals.”
Johnson encourages people to report illegal Oregon grape harvesting to police. There’s a $2,500 fine for removing the plants without a permit.
Members of the public are encouraged to report any suspicious activity related to Oregon grape theft to the local county sheriff department or to the Oregon State Police non-emergency line- 1-800-442-0776.