Bruce Newhouse has had a lifelong love affair with Oregon’s native plants, animals and habitats. As a long-time member of the Native Plant Society of Oregon, Bruce has made major contributions to the conservation of Oregon’s flora while also helping to raise awareness of the importance of other native species and ecosystems.
Bruce’s early years were spent in the northern Willamette Valley. He grew up in Oregon City, Lake Oswego and Portland. His is a classic demonstration of the role of family in imparting a lifelong passion for the outdoors and nature. During fly fishing trips on the Clackamas River with his dad, his mom would come along to enjoy the plants, and Bruce started learning some native ferns and wildflowers. (He keeps a few wildflowers from a patch of woods near McKay Creek in Hillsboro that were pressed by his mom in her late teenage years.) As a teenager Bruce and his dad skied on Mt. Hood in the winter and during the summer he day hiked and backpacked in the Cascades. He began learning as many Willamette Valley plants and mountain wildflowers as he could using Leslie Haskin’s “Wildflowers of the Pacific Coast” and Elizabeth Horn’s Wildflowers 1: the Cascades. Both books are still on his bookshelf.
At home Bruce’s grandmother got him interested in vegetable gardening, and he remembers her crying upon seeing the twinflower (Linnaea borealis) transplanted by his mom to a flower garden because it reminded her of her childhood in Sweden. Bruce’s mother instilled in him her passion for house plants, knowledge that was to be useful in college when he became the “plant doctor” for others in his dormitory who brought him their ailing plants.
In the early 1970’s Bruce majored in Landscape Architecture/Environmental Science at Oregon State University. He took botany classes from Bill Denison and many classes in forestry and wildlife biology before graduating in 1977. In 1978 he worked as a Resource Specialist for the Multnomah County Outdoor School at Camp Collins on the Sandy River, then landed a job in Grants Pass working for the Josephine County Planning Department. During that time he drove all over southwest Oregon in his 1962 VW Bug, exploring mountain roads. Budget cuts forced a job change to the City of Springfield Planning Department in 1981 where he worked until 1989 when he “retired from government service” and joined with friends on a contract to survey plants on every roadside in Lane County. Bruce became the botanist for the crew; thus began his career as an independent consulting biologist.
After the county road project Bruce began working full time as a natural resource consultant. In 1992 he co-founded his consulting business (with Dick Brainerd and Peter Zika), Salix Associates, and has done assessments and surveys on hundreds of sites and many thousands of acres of habitats in Oregon, Washington, and northern California. Dick and Peter moved on to other pursuits while Bruce expanded Salix Associates and his areas of expertise beyond plants to fungi, birds, amphibians, butterflies, dragonflies – just about any organism one might encounter in the wild – and applied this knowledge to producing detailed and high quality site analyses.
In the mid-1990s Bruce helped found the Carex Working Group (CWG) with a group of like-minded sedge-lovers (a.k.a., crazy people!) and was a CWG member until 2008, when he elected to focus solely on Salix Associates work. With CWG he helped co-author “Field Guide to the Sedges of the Pacific Northwest.” Bruce took many of the photographs and did most of the design work for the book.
Among the botanical highlights Bruce has experienced as a consultant were his discovery in 2012 of the only population of suncups (Taraxia ovata) known to exist in the Willamette Valley and in 2013 of Oregon’s only known population of many-headed sedge (Carex sychnocephala) on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
In the early 1990’s Bruce became involved with the Emerald Chapter of the NPSO, becoming its chapter president. He served as State President of NPSO from about 1999 to 2004. He also was a member of the NPSO’s State Committee for developing policy on native gardening which was adopted by the State Board. Most of Bruce’s activity has been on a variety of Emerald Chapter committees: coordinating the Invasive Ornamentals list; working with the Native Gardening Awareness Committee to produce booklets on native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers; coordinating (with Charlene Simpson, a 2001 NPSO Fellow) the Lane County rare plant review preceding each triennial ORBIC update; and co-authoring the book “Vascular Plants of Lane County” with Charlene and others. Bruce served as coordinator for the 2008 NPSO annual meeting in Eugene. He has led numerous NPSO field trips and he has presented shows on native plants and pollinators for several NPSO chapters and many other organizations. Through all these activities he has raised awareness and appreciation for native plants and their role and importance in Oregon’s natural habitats.
Bruce has applied his energy and enthusiasm for plants, wildlife and science to a wide range of activities beyond NPSO. He is a member of the Oregon Flora Project Atlas Committee and continues volunteer work for OFP. In recent years he has donated thousands of field photographs of Oregon plants to the Flora Project. He has assisted with setup and expert plant ID at the annual Mount Pisgah Arboretum Wildflower Show for nearly 20 years. A passion for all things fungal prompted him to co-found in 1999 the Cascade Mycological Society with his wife Peg (and one other person). They now serve as CMS’s display coordinators for the Mt. Pisgah Mushroom Show each October. Just a sampling of Bruce’s other activities includes Chair of the Stewardship Technical Advisory Committee of the Friends of Buford Park; one of the original members of the Eugene-Springfield Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association; an area leader in the annual Eugene Christmas Bird Count since the early 1990’s; and certified Master Gardener specializing in native plant gardening.
Bruce credits many people as his botanical mentors, including Ed Alverson, Tanya Harvey, John Koenig, Rhoda Love, Nick Otting, Charlene Simpson, Scott Sundberg, Dave Wagner, Barbara Wilson and Peter Zika.
At home in Eugene, Bruce nurtures a lush garden of locally-native plants and their associated pollinators. He enjoys playing piano, wine-tasting, hiking and sharing life with his wife Peg and their cat Mr. Biggie.—Richard Brainerd, Corvallis Chapter.