Traditional Nez Perce culture was closely tied with the natural world, and plants had great importance materially and spiritually. Understanding Nez Perce relationships with plant communities can contribute to the overall understanding of Nez Perce culture, including subsistence, technology, medicine, spiritual matters, settlement patterns, travels, social organization, and relationships with other groups historically and today.
Plants contributed to traditional Nez Perce culture in both material and spiritual dimensions. Plant foods provided over half of the dietary calories, with winter survival depending largely on dried roots, especially kouse (Lomatium spp.) and camas (Camassia quamash). Techniques for preparing and storing winter foods enabled people to survive times of colder winters with little or no fresh foods. Favorite fruits dried for winter were serviceberries (Amelanchier alnifolia), huckleberries (Vaccinium membranaceum), elderberries (Sambucus racemosa var. melanocarpa), and chokecherries (Prunus virginiana var. melanocarpa). Nez Perce textiles were made primarily from dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), tules (Scirpus acutus), and western redcedar (Thuja plicata). The most important industrial woods were redcedar, ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), willow (Salix exigua), and hard woods such as yew (Taxus brevifolia) and syringa (Philadelphus lewisii).