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Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society

Focusing on native plants and conservation in North Idaho

KNPS Arboretum

North Idaho 
Native Plant Arboretum
Sandpoint, Idaho

in Sandpoint's Lakeview Park, adjacent to the Historical Museum at 611 South Ella Avenue

An Ongoing Educational Project of Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society Volunteers

Founded 1999

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Plant Notes from the Arboretum

Seven unique North Idaho habitats have been created in our Arboretum...


KNPS finds home of its own at the arboretum


Volunteers pose for a group photo Sunday after being honored for their work on the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society's new cabin.

Staff Writer | August 31, 2021 1:00 AM


Tucked away in a corner of the arboretum is the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society's new world headquarters.

Sunday, KNPS members gathered to celebrate those headquarters — a new cabin that is everything from a storage area to a learning center to an area for arboretum coordinator Cara Johnson to work.

"I love this cabin," Johnson told volunteers at Sunday's dedication. "It's so adorable, it's so perfect and the finished result is amazing. But that process from the beginning to now, to all of us being here today, what it really just revealed to me is how important a process like this is."

And while the process wasn't always smooth, and discussions weren't always easy, the result was something amazing, Johnson told volunteers.

"Just to watch all these people come together and have to work together and listen to each other and there's lots of opinions and lots of needs, and logistics to make this happen, and resources, and skills," she said. "And that's what community is. That's what makes a community strong. That's how we make a refined, resilient, connected community is processes like this. And going through that process all together. It's important doing things like this for the good of others, for the good of the group, that a gift like this was more than just the finished results. It was really beautiful."

The project was lead by longtime KNPS volunteer and past president Ken Thacker. Thacker got involved with the project after retiring as president, saying he wanted to stay involved with the arboretum and figured the cabin project was the perfect way.

Johnson said witnessing the creation of the cabin, from the need to move from the historic settler's cabin to discussions on where and how to create their own space in the arboretum was inspiring to watch. Seeing both longtime volunteers and new ones get involved was fun to witness this summer, she said.

"It all started with an idea and then a lot of work and a lot of working together," said Johnson. "And it's been just quietly over here in the corner of town, this beautiful example of community happening, these processes all the time and they just continue. So it's been such a joy to witness."

It is those volunteers to whom the cabin is being dedicated — their work, their dedication and their love for the arboretum, Johnson said.

"It's not just a place," Johnson said. "People love this place and we do all sorts of stuff and it's ever-changing. It's more than a place, it's a process. It's a community."

It was about a year ago that they learned the museum needed the homesteaders cabin, longtime KNPS member Rae Charlton said. Members worked with city officials and neighbors to find their own spot in the arboretum, she said.

"This is smaller than the other cabin but I think it will work for us, and it really is the headquarters for the Native Plant Society because we don't have a building," Charlton said.

Items that had been stored in members' garages — and a treasured desk once owned by arboretum founder Lois Wythe — have made their way back to the arboretum, finding a spot in their new cabin.

A library is planned for the cabin area, giving gardeners and residents a spot to find information about native plants, how to grow them and more. A bulletin board will serve as another spot to connect with the community.

In many ways, Charlton said, the cabin project is both a result of the community stepping up to make it happen and a tribute to what its residents make possible.

"Most of all, I think it really is what Cara said, it is a tribute to this community [and] the way people stepped up and donated time and expertise and materials," she said. "It just blew us away. We never never realized there'd be so many good people coming forward. They're not members, most of them, a few are but most of them are not. Somebody knows somebody who says, 'Oh, sure. I'll help.' "

As excited as they are by their new cabin, members said they are excited by the museum's plan to use the old homestead cabin to showcase what life was like in the community's early days. While its exact age is unknown, the structure was the original homestead cabin of Theodore Hepner, according to a plaque at Lakeview Park. Museum records show the first entry for the land on which it once stood was made on June 12, 1885, when it was platted into the town of Fry, which later became the city of Kootenai.

"But in our view, [the museum's plan is] the best use of that cabin," Thacker said. "It's a historic thing, and they're gonna put displays in there. It's really a museum piece; it's not a storage shed, which is what we used it for."

Their new cabin is both functional and something they can grow and adapt as they need, KNPS president Shawna Parry said.

"This is our world headquarters, the KNPS world headquarters," she said.

Key volunteers were honored at Sunday's dedication, with Johnson, Thacker and KNPS officials paying tribute to those who gave their time, money or both.

• Mark Stockwell, who served as co-organizer with Thacker and took the lead on permitting;

• Dave Bertus, who designed the cabin and served as the project's architect;

• Steve Johnson, who served as project foreman and kept the group on task;

• Carpet One, which supplied the flooring for inside the cabin;

• John Elsa, who did electrical work on the project;

• Sandpoint Building Supply, which gave the group a great deal on supplies;

• Three Amigos Plumbing, which provided an electrical cable bore under the arboretum's trees;

• Stoneway Electrical Supply, which provided all electrical fixtures and wiring;

• The White Pine chapter of the Idaho Native Plant Society, which gave the group a $500 grant toward the project;

• Bob Blair, who built a one-of-a-kind door as well as helping with the cabin's construction;

• Also honored were volunteers George Gehrig, Kirby McKee, Craig Johnson, John Harbuck, Laird Parry, and Ann Torpie; and businesses, Winter Ridge Natural Foods and Avista Utilities.




Dry forests are most often characterized by somewhat shallow, rocky soils and are usually dominated by ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir or grand fir trees. The understory consists of such grasses as Idaho fescue, blue-bunch wheatgrass, and pinegrass; perennial forbs, including lupines; and such shrubs as serviceberry, ninebark, oceanspray, and common chokecherry.

Kinnikinnick is a common low shrub. This habitat occurs on ridges and slopes at lower to middle elevations, usually on southerly to westerly aspects.



Usually surrounded by forested habitats, dry rock habitats occur when plants establish themselves in soil deposited between rocks. Many plants found here are also found in dry forest and even moist forest habitats; however, some plants occur only when a dry rock habitat receives ample moisture in the spring before drying up in summer. Scarlet gilia, blanketflower, kitten tails, pearhip rose, ninebark, oceanspray, smooth sumac, wild yarrow and kinnikinnick are often found here.



Unique in north Idaho - and a result of warm, Pacific maritime weather patterns - interior rain forests support the wettest forest habitats in the state. An overstory of western redcedar and western hemlock towers over devils club, lady fern, maidenhair fern and oak fern. Many rare species occur in inland rain forests, including some you can see here in the Arboretum: beadruby, maidenhair spleenwort, northern beechfern, deerfern, purple meadowrue and white shooting star.



Dry to moist meadow habitats in north Idaho support Idaho fescue, blue wildrye, Junegrass, sticky geranium, lupines, goldenrod and other grasses and perennial forbs. Such shrubs as common chokecherry may occasionally occur.



In moist forests, a mixed overstory of various conifers provides shade to an understory of forbs, such as wild ginger, queencup, twin flower, pioneer violet and bunch­berry dogwood.  Sword fern may also be found here.  Such habitats occur in ephemeral draws and swales and on mountain slopes at lower to middle elevations.



These streamside habitats are found along perennial streams and large rivers, but may also occur on the mar­gins of such wetlands as ponds, fens and marshes. They may be forested with evergreens or with a mixture of evergreens and hardwoods (such as coyote willow, water birch, Sitka alder, thinleaf alder or the rare dwarf birch). Wet meadow habitats support tufted hairgrass and common camas (the latter having been an important traditional food for local Native Americans).



These habitats occur at middle to higher elevations, on mountain slopes, ridges and in draws. They also can be found at lower elevations in cold air drainages (often found in the Priest River area). Subalpine fir and Engelmann spruce often dominate forested habitats, with huckleberry, menziesia and mountain ash or alpine bluegrass and alpine timothy in the understory. The rare Sitka mistmaiden occurs on wet cliffs and ledges.  


Our Wild Medicinal area is a unique exhibit...

Located on the east side of the old log cabin, Wild Medicinals is our only exhibit not limited to native plants.  The reason is that many medicinal plants we think of as being "native" are not truly native, but instead were brought here by traders, colonists, soldiers, and native peoples.  As these plants have naturalized in the wild over the past few hundred years, many people think of them as being native to north Idaho.  Because of this history and the fact that many of these herbs are still used medicinally, some of these naturalized plants are included in this exhibit; however to separate them from the truly native plants, they are identified by a red dot on the label.