Botanical Rambles

Welcome to the Washington Native Plant Society Blog

Sarah Gage has curated Botanical Rambles for the Washington Native Plant Society since the blog began in 2012. Her botanical work includes managing the University of Washington Herbarium for thirteen years (1988–2001), co-authoring A Centenary Survey of Plant Life in Washington State, and participating in the International Kuril Island Project (1995–2000). Sarah lives and gardens in Seattle and works in salmon recovery at the Recreation and Conservation Office in Olympia.

Jul
30

Three Ts on Tiger Mountain

  Last summer I trained for a 9-day hike, which led me up the stony, steep, and well-traveled trail of West Tiger 3 near Issaquah several times. While not a botanical barnburner, the West Tiger 3 trail has its floral pleasures. Lois Kemp put together the Washington Native Plant Society plant list for all of Tiger Mountain back in 1995 (the plant lists are now housed in a responsive data system , developed with support from the Garneau-Nicon Foundation and chapters of the Washington Native P...
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227 Hits
Jul
28

Bees, Trees, Keys, and “Say Cheese”: A Midsummer Medley

Bumble bee on balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata)Photo: Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office It's the height of summer—a busy and lazy time of year. Here are several options to increase your enjoyment and engagement with Washington's native flora during the summer months, and beyond. Bees My garden is abuzz, and I've been wanting to learn more about the bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, spiders and other multi-legged inhabitants. So I was excited to hear about the Pacific No...
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182 Hits
Jun
25

Kids Growing Sagebrush for Restoration

School may be out for the summer, but kids at an elementary school in Pasco, Washington,  will be caring for a sagebrush plant during vacation. In the fall, they will plant out their seedling to help restore a burned area of Candy Mountain in West Richland. At Robert Frost Elementary School, the sagebrush growing and planting project is the brainchild of Washington Native Plant Society member Gretchen Graber and AmeriCorps tutor Erin Davis, in cooperation with teachers, the school administr...
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275 Hits
May
27

An End-of-May Garden Walk

Goat's beard (Aruncus dioicus var. acuminatus)Photo: Sarah Gage What's in bloom? What's in leaf? What's thriving? What is pffft? These are the perennial questions a gardener asks in May. I've been spending some long days in my Seattle garden, enjoying the lingering twilights and mild temperatures. This goat's beard ( Aruncus dioicus var. acuminatus ) is a surprise. It's only been in the ground a year or so, and last year it was puny. I wasn't sure it was going to survive—or that I would remember...
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446 Hits
Apr
29

Pad Thai and Mima Mounds

Mima Mounds Natural Area PreservePhoto: Sarah Gage Common camas ( Camassia quamash ) is blooming along I-5 between Tacoma and Olympia, and that means it's time for my annual pilgrimage to the Mima Mounds with a to-go order of pad thai. The Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve is about 16 miles south of Olympia, west of Little Rock. It's managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources to preserve the mounds themselves and the prairie ecosystem that covers them here. This Puget prairie gras...
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672 Hits
Apr
21

Seola Pond Project

More than 50 kids weeded, dug, and planted at a small neighborhood pond in unincorporated King County, thanks to the creativity and perseverance of a neighborhood volunteer, Scott Dolfay. Scott received an $800 education grant from the Washington Native Plant Society to buy plants and signage. He also received a small grant from King County. Seola Pond is part of the Seola Creek Drainage Basin , just north of Burien and southwest of White Center, in unincorporated King County. Scott had noticed ...
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  394 Hits
394 Hits
Mar
31

I’m a fool for April

Sagebrush violet (Viola trinervata)Photo: Ben Legler April is finally here, with its promise of warmer and longer days and a bit more rain. It's a busy month, no mistake, starting off with a trifecta of Easter, Passover, and April Fool's Day. It's National Poetry Month, and it seems like every family I talk with is all abuzz with plans for "spring break." What else will April 2018 bring? Will it be cruel, as T.S. Eliot famously declared in The Waste Land, April is the cruellest month, breeding L...
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546 Hits
Mar
11

Joe and Margaret Miller's Legacy

Trunks of western red cedar (Thuja plicata)Photo: Ben Legler In early January, the Washington Native Plant Society received a generous bequest from the estate of WNPS Fellows Joe and Margaret Miller. Joe passed away in 2007 and Margaret passed away in 2015. Although I never met the Millers, I often heard Art Kruckeberg speak fondly of them as advocates for the North Cascades and founding members of WNPS. One of Joe and Margaret's great contributions was a 1971 floristic survey of the Big Beaver ...
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536 Hits
Feb
26

How You Can Help Prevent and Stop Invasive Species

European coltsfoot, Tussilago farfaraPhoto: Crow Vecchio Our friends at the Washington Invasive Species Council, whose work closely aligns with our goals of conserving native plants and plant habitats, have a bunch of great suggestions for preventing the introduction and spread of invasive species. And in conjunction with National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed February 25 to March 3, 2018 as Washington Invasive Species Awareness Week. Clean your gear  C...
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696 Hits
Feb
03

Plant Profile: Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea, a.k.a. Cornus stolonifera)

Why choose red-osier dogwood?  This fast-growing shrub pleases every month of the year. During dark winter days, its red twigs glow under sunny or gray skies. Leafing out, the shrub forms a fresh green backdrop to its own clusters of creamy-white flowers and to other spring-bloomers. Red-osier dogwood will often bloom into late fall, so that you can see it with both flowers and its blue-white berries when the leaves turn yellow or maroon.  What it can do in the garden Red-osier dogwood...
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1034 Hits
Jan
01

Gleanings 2017

As we say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018, I'm cleaning up, cleaning out, and looking ahead! Flipping through my electronic and paper files, I found a number of items that didn't make it into Botanical Rambles in 2017 that I still wanted to share with you. I grew up reading the columnist Herb Caen in the San Francisco Chronicle. He practiced what he called "three dot journalism," in which he connected short news pieces…or anecdotes…or tasty gossip…with ellipses. Though I can't hope to emulate ...
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399 Hits
Dec
01

Riparian Planting in Eastern Washington

I visited several salmon restoration projects in the Yakima Basin at the end of October, and I was excited to see the progress being made to restore native willows, cottonwood, red-osier dogwood, and grasses in old road beds, formerly channelized streams, and other challenging sites. Some resources about planting along streams and rivers in eastern Washington have crossed my path recently, and I thought I would share them with you. The first is a save-the-date announcement from Heather Simmons a...
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604 Hits
Nov
29

Are Generous Plant Lovers the Happiest People on Earth?

Giving Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday Giving Tuesday may have come and gone, but opportunities to give abound this time of year. But why give? As Gretchen Reynolds points out in a recent New York Times article , "the scientific evidence that generosity is good for us has been scant, even as the benefits of selfishness are obvious." However, in the same article she cites a study in which half the study subjects agreed to give money away (i.e., be generous) and the other half agreed to keep money fo...
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354 Hits
Apr
17

Goodbye Koz

Seashore Life of the North Pacific Coast by Eugene N. Kozloff The first word I had that another giant had passed away was this email on March 10 from Mike Ramsey, one of my colleagues at the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office:  "My sincere blessings and gratitude to Eugene Kozloff, for his contributions to Puget Sound and coastal waters education and conservation. In my early years of nearshore education and work Seashore Life of the North Pacific Coast was the primary and ...
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256 Hits
May
10

Botanize Bigger!

Lewis’s mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii)Photo by Jim Ellinboe With your help, the Washington Native Plant Society will reach its fundraising goal for today's GiveBIG event! We are tantalizingly close to reaching our $10,000 goal. You have until midnight tonight, May 10, 2017, to help put us over the top. Log in now and make your gift.  Big or small, all gifts during GiveBIG bring strength to WNPS. GiveBIG , hosted by the Seattle Foundation, is an opportunity to show your support for Washi...
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237 Hits
May
11

Botanize Big, part 2

Tweedy’s lewisia (Lewisiopsis tweedyi)Photo by Ben Legler How About a Hike? Or a class? Or go to a chapter program? There's plenty going on. Check out the field trips , programs , and other activities for plant lovers statewide. Here are a few activities I'm hoping to attend: " Revising the 'Flora of the Pacific Northwest'-What did we Learn and What's Next" by David Giblin, at the Mountaineers in Seattle. This is the Central Puget Sound Chapter's monthly program on June 1, 2017. Click for more i...
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  266 Hits
266 Hits
Sep
22

Happy Trails Joe!

Joe Arnett weighs Hitchcock–and retirement–in the Wenatchee Foothills, June 2017.Photo by Sarah Gage Joe Arnett, long-time rare plant botanist with the Washington Natural Heritage Program , retired at the end of July. Joe has worn many volunteer hats with the Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS). Among the roles that I know he has played are: at-large board member, instructor in the Native Plant Stewardship Program , field trip leader, Editorial Committee member, writer for Douglasia and membe...
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303 Hits
Mar
12

Explorations in 2017 with the Washington Native Plant Society

Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) Photo: Ben Legler By Sarah Gage . Published March 12, 2017 Registration is now open for three stellar events of the Washington State botanizing year: the annual Study Weekend, Botany Washington, and the Know Your Grasses Workshop. Study Weekend 2017—WNPS Annual Member Event This year's study weekend is hosted by the Northeast Chapter of WNPS. Titled From Sagebrush to Subalpine: Exploring the Diversity of Eastern Washington Flora, the three-day event ( May 17–1...
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268 Hits
Feb
19

Washington’s Cherries

Chokecherry fruits (Prunus virginiana)Photo: National Park Service When I was growing up, February had a lot going for it, with three holidays. Lincoln's birthday (February 12 th —studying by firelight; Honest Abe; top hats), Valentine's Day (February 14 th —giving, and hopefully receiving, Valentine cards; candy hearts; a stomach ache by nightfall), and Washington's birthday (February 22 nd —noble profile; wooden teeth; cherry pie). Two days off, with romance in between! What I most remember le...
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283 Hits
Feb
13

Plant Profile: Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)

Pacific bleeding heart. Photograph by Ben Legler, all rights reserved. It's that Valentine's Day time of year, and hearts and flowers are on everyone's mind. This week I'm expanding on a short piece I wrote for WNPS a few years ago that appeared in the Seattle Times ( here it is in the Times ) and other papers around the state. Pacific Bleeding Heart ( Dicentra formosa ) Why it's choice This perennial's lacy leaves and delicate pink flowers belie its rugged disposition. Pacific bleeding heart's ...
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323 Hits
Feb
05

February: Time to Plan

As I write this, it's a bit soggy and cold and gray. Out in the garden, though, buds on evergreen huckleberry ( Vaccinium ovatum ) are pinking up, the hazelnut ( Corylus) catkins are starting to dangle, and the inflorescences of the red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum ) on the south side of the house are busting open. February is a month of possibilities and planning. Here are a few of the many offerings from the Washington Native Plant Society and friends. Cover of the 2017 Washington Nativ...
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261 Hits
Dec
28

Shout Outs for 2016

As the old year fades and the new one emerges, Botanical Rambles counts down 2016 with ten heartfelt shout outs to some of the people who work for the native plants of Washington State. And as the clock runs down, don't forget to make that all-important year-end donation to the Washington Native Plant Society. This highly idiosyncratic collection of praise is by no means all-inclusive. I'd love to hear from you: who, what, when, and where are your native plant heroes of the past year? 1. "We lea...
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  242 Hits
242 Hits
Dec
23

Western Hemlock: A Grinch of Greens

Herbarium specimen of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)Courtesy of the University of Washington Herbarium Many of us bring evergreen boughs or trees into the house this time of year. And how many of us have made the mistake of bringing Western hemlock ( Tsuga heterophylla ) into our homes—only to find needles everywhere. Everywhere, no matter how fresh the branches. The Internet tells us that hemlocks are "not the best" for seasonal decorations. When I worked at the University of Washington H...
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  278 Hits
278 Hits
Dec
12

Across Washington State in Wildflowers

Wildflowers Across Washington posterArtwork by Louise Smith Do you, or does someone you know, want to learn several of the most beautiful plants in Washington State by sight? During these winter days, a great way to do that is to hang the poster "Wildflowers Across Washington" where you can contemplate it daily. I have been gazing at "Wildflowers Across Washington" since it was first produced, back in the 1990s. At the time, I was working at the University of Washington Herbarium. One day, three...
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  230 Hits
230 Hits
Dec
03

Send Those Cards and Letters

Long-time readers of Botanical Rambles know how I feel about snail mail . And December is a great month for sending and receiving actual, real, bona fide cards and letters. As my sister Annie says, "Just say yes to the U.S.P.S." Luckily for all of us, the Washington Native Plant Society offers stunning holiday cards that share the magic of Pacific Northwest winters. Each set features 7 images donated by photographer Mark Turner. Note that the images on this page include Mark's colophon, but the ...
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  198 Hits
198 Hits
Nov
26

Time to Look Ahead: Get Your 2017 WNPS Calendar

Cover of the 2017 Washington Native Plant Society CalendarPhoto: Ted Alway The 2017 Washington Native Plant Society calendar, featuring all of this year's photo contest winners, is now available . Be sure to get one—or several! They make great gifts and supplies are limited. Entertaining and educational prose from Ellen Kuhlmann, of the Koma Kulshan chapter, accompanies the lovely photos. The images are generously contributed by Washington Native Plant Society members like you. In fact, the cont...
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  224 Hits
224 Hits
Nov
12

Bridging the Gap

Delphinium nuttallianumPhoto: Ben Legler ​It's November. Days are short, nights are long, and leaves are down. A friend of mine inelegantly calls November "the armpit of the year." And nationally, we have just finished an inelegant presidential campaign. We face the future with a federal administration and Congress that are not likely to support environmental issues or scientific evidence. I've found some relief by taking a virtual hike at Wallula Gap, with a slide show now anchoring the Washing...
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  220 Hits
220 Hits
Dec
04

Twenty ideas for the gift-giving season

Whether you love it or hate it, the gift-giving season is here. And the Washington Native Plant Society is here to help. You can give your sweetheart, pal, family member, friend, co-worker, spouse, in-law, or even yourself, one of these fine WNPS-themed gifts: 1. A WNPS membership and all the stuff that it includes: the quarterly journal, Douglasia , chapter newsletters, programs, field trips, and much more. It's easy to sign up online and there are membership categories for any budget. 2. The W...
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  207 Hits
207 Hits
Sep
17

Plant Profile: Snow Buckwheat (Eriogonum niveum)

Flowers of snow buckwheatPhoto by Clay Antieau Autumn is coming, and the number of plants still flowering diminishes this time of year. Snow Buckwheat (Eriogonum niveum) is one you can often find in bloom through September in eastern Washington. This plant profile was originally published, in slightly different form, as part of a native plant spotlight series.   Why Choose It? With frosty-green leaves and long-lasting sprays of tiny white to pink flowers, Snow Buckwheat cools the eye in lat...
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  314 Hits
314 Hits
Sep
04

Goodbye Sarah Reichard, and “Where Do We Go From Here?”

I was stunned to learn that Dr. Sarah Reichard passed away in her sleep in late August while leading a UW Botanic Gardens tour in South Africa. I first met Sarah in 1981, when she was an undergraduate in Botany at the same time I was earning my Masters at the University of Washington. I saw her most recently at the memorial service for Dr. Art Kruckeberg , where we shared memories of Art. We chatted about my recent trip to the Chelsea Flower Show in London and her then-upcoming trip to South Afr...
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  233 Hits
233 Hits

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