Botanical Rambles

Welcome to the Washington Native Plant Society Blog
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
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 ...
  394 Hits
394 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...
  1034 Hits
1034 Hits
Jan
15

Native vs. Nonnative Plants in Pollinator Gardens

​It seems these days that questions about butterfly and pollinator gardens have moved on from "why?" to "what shall we plant?"—with the conversation often turning to whether or not it is better to plant native species than nonnative ones. Led by Andrew Salisbury of the Royal Horticultural Society, a team of researchers in Britain undertook a four-year study to try to provide an answer. Their work was published in May 2017 in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation .  The research was done...
  992 Hits
992 Hits
Dec
11

The Holly and the Ivy…Festive, but Not in Your Forest!

Tip of the Holly This is an English holly ( Ilex aquifolium , see photo below) that I pulled out of the ground. What I want to impress upon you are the measurements. From the top to the root collar is about 12 inches. The root then extends another 36 inches. Folks, that's a 2-to-1 root-to-shoot ratio. Maybe they should change the expression "tip of the iceberg" to "tip of the holly." Can you imagine what the root system is like on larger hollies? This is one of the big problems with this invasiv...
  465 Hits
465 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...
  604 Hits
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604 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...
  283 Hits
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 ...
  323 Hits
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...
  261 Hits
261 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...
  278 Hits
278 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...
  314 Hits
314 Hits
Aug
20

A Great Fall Berry from The Forest: Blue Elderberry

Berries of blue elderberryPhoto by Marcia Rivers Smith Blue elderberry is one of the great plants of the Pacific Northwest forest. I have found this berry in nearly every county of Washington State. It grows in wet, cool shady areas. It produces great berries that are prized for their flavor by both humans and wildlife. Native people have used it for as a medicinal plant and to make small flutes or whistles from its stems. Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea (formerly Sambucus caerulea ), the scientifi...
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206 Hits
Apr
25

Join the Celebration: Native Plant Appreciation Week 2016

Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed April 24 through May 1, 2016 to be Native Plant Appreciation Week across Washington State—and you're invited to help the Washington Native Plant Society celebrate. The Washington Native Plant Society is 40 years old this year, and it's Washington's 12 th year of celebrating our flora with Native Plant Appreciation Week. Poster for 2016 Native Plant Appreciation Week. Photo by Ted Alway Klickitat Canyon Lomatium spp. April 2016Photo by Sarah Gage Take a trip I'v...
  187 Hits
187 Hits
Feb
24

Plant Profile: Red-Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)

White cultivar of red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum). Photo by Sarah Gage. I have several white-flowered bushes of Ribes sanguineum in my garden, and when they burst into bloom they cause a number of trite similes to come to mind. Their abundance is like a frothy cascade, a bridal veil, a waterfall…you get the idea. My shrubs came from a start supplied to me by Dr. Eugene Kozloff , well-known as a zoologist and author—and less well-known as a chronic plant propagator and generous plant dis...
  270 Hits
270 Hits
Jan
25

January 2016 News and Notes from WNPS

Botanical Rambles wishes you a happy new year and offers you this capacious—but nowhere near exhaustive—list of things to do and learn. Contents Washington Native Plant Society News Kudos! WNPS Chapter News WNPS Chapter Activities Conservation—Opportunity to comment Trainings Volunteer Opportunities Grant Opportunities Plant Sales Washington Native Plant Society News The WNPS Office Welcomes Visitors. Located in Seattle's Magnuson Park, the office is generally staffed Monday–Thursday, 9:00am to ...
  217 Hits
217 Hits
Jan
01

Winter Berries for the Birds

On a cold fall day, I stand at my back door near Snohomish watching leaves lifted and tossed as if by an invisible wind. Leaves seem to bounce off the ground as I count a dozen orange and black birds rummaging under the bushes as if going through yesterday's trash. I realize a flock of varied thrush ( Ixoreus naevius ) have arrived. For the next several months, they will subsist on a buffet of bugs and berries in my small garden. Specimen of Viburnum edule from the University of Washington Herba...
  222 Hits
222 Hits
Nov
08

Vine Maple Variations

The vine maple ( Acer circinatum )—what's not to like? Well, if you don't like something about one vine maple, look again, a second one may give you what you want. Don't like the color? Try the one down the street. Too big? Too small? Too short? Too tall? You don't have to be Goldilocks to find the A. circinatum just right for you! Unpruned vine maple beginning to show fall color. Photo by John Neorr General Characteristics Before talking about the differences, let's describe the characteristics...
  309 Hits
309 Hits
Aug
12

Principles of Kick-butt Gardening

​For many gardeners, gardens embody desirable objectives such as cultural and personal expression, sustenance, nurturing, the world's beauty, self-reliance, faith…. Nonetheless, gardening is consumptive. It consumes your time, energy, resources (water, gas, fertilizers, pesticides), money, and land. A number of shortcuts, methods, and technologies are available to make gardens consume fewer resources and to save you time and money. A worthy and attainable garden goal is a self-sufficient garden ...
  202 Hits
202 Hits
Aug
01

Coevolution and Pollination

Sidalcea oregana var. calva, photo by Joe Arnett The coevolution of flowering plants and their animal pollinators presents one of nature's most striking examples of adaption and specialization. It also demonstrates how the interaction between two groups of organisms can be a font of biological diversity. Flowering plants are adapting to their pollinators, which are in turn adapting to the plants. Each of the participating organisms thus presents an evolutionary "moving target". The relationship ...
  273 Hits
273 Hits
Jul
18

When in Drought…

Back in May, Governor Inslee declared a statewide drought emergency . Now in July, the U.S. government has declared over 40 percent of Washington State a federal drought disaster area . Mt. Rainier National Park reports late summer-like conditions: On Lower Paradise trails, only some flowers still in bloom: False Hellebore, Gray's Mountain Lovage, American Bistort, and Subalpine Daisy. On Deadhorse Creek and West Side of Skyline Trail, very few flowers. All lupine have gone to seed. At Sunrise o...
  220 Hits
220 Hits
Jul
12

Fires of Summer

It's so hot, July feels like August. But then, so did June. Washington State's continuing drought and hot weather, combined with our Mediterranean climate (i.e., not much summer rain) spells extreme fire danger. So it seems timely to think about how native plants can be part of fire preparedness. This house was spared from the Naneum Canyon wildfire in 2010, thanks in part to the homeowner’s use of Firewise landscaping.Photo: Washington Department of Natural Resources Firewise As Steve McConnell...
  208 Hits
208 Hits
May
05

Got Milkweed?

Monarch butterflyPhoto courtesy of the Xerces Society Western monarch butterflies, like those in the eastern part of North America, are in trouble. Their populations have declined sharply in the last twenty years. In Washington, the western monarch ( Danaus plexippus plexippus ) and its host plant milkweed ( Asclepias sp.) are found only east of the Cascades. In western Washington, we have no native species of Asclepias . And… no milkweed, no monarchs. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) an...
  220 Hits
220 Hits
Dec
04

Don’t Leaf Me This Way!

Big-leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) Editor's Note: In Botanical Rambles' previous two autumns, we've looked at Washington's most colorful fall leaves and at the fall color of berries and beach plants. This year, Jamie Bails invites us to take another look at the value of fall leaves. A few years ago, after watching my neighbor rake and bag fallen cherry leaves, I asked him if I could save him a trip to the dump. He hesitatingly agreed, and I quickly loaded up eight lawn bags into my wheelbarrow b...
  209 Hits
209 Hits
Nov
11

How About A Hedgerow?

With fall planting season upon us, Jeanie Taylor encourages us to consider a hedgerow. Don't say you don't have room for a hedgerow! You can grow a hedgerow even on an urban lot—atop a rockery, along the fence line, or in your parking strip. Hedgerow. Photo courtesy of geograph.org.uk What is a hedgerow? Hedgerows traditionally were used as fences between fields. A "laid hedge" in England contained thorny plants like hawthorn to act as a barrier. Each tree or shrub was cut through the lower trun...
  231 Hits
231 Hits
Oct
01

How Much is that Tree Worth to You?

It's fall, and perhaps your thoughts are turning to leaves. Leaves turning color, leaves falling to the ground, leaves covering the lawn, leaves clogging the storm drain, leaves piling up, leaves rotting. Even evergreen trees shed leaves and branches this time of year, whether part of their cycle of senescence or because a windy day scatters them about. Some days all these leaves can seem a nuisance, even to a plant-loving person such as myself. However, the good folks at the Washington State Ur...
  214 Hits
214 Hits
Sep
05

Pollination: A Sampler

If it is axiomatic that nature will allow or support "whatever works," it is our observation that many, many different things "work" in nature. The wide diversity in floral structures and pollination strategies exemplify this propensity for variety.There are endless variations on the basic story of pollen grains making their way to the stigma of an appropriate pistil, and many are easy to see if you look. Variation one Go out in late winter and check out the elongating catkins of beaked hazel ( ...
  224 Hits
224 Hits
Jul
21

Visit Kruckeberg Botanic Garden This Summer

If you have not been to the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline lately, this summer is a great time to visit. Along with public tours and family events each weekend, the on-site MSK Nursery offers native plants propagated directly from the garden. Admission to the garden is free, but donations are accepted and memberships are encouraged. ​ The public botanic garden is now part of the city of Shoreline's park system, and it is managed by the non-profit Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Foundation. The...
  208 Hits
208 Hits
Jun
10

Three Wild Strawberries of the Pacific Northwest

Fragaria chiloensis Photo by Ben Legler The bloom of strawberries is a sure sign that summer is just around the corner. The Pacific Northwest is fortunate to have three delectable varieties of wild strawberry. Beach strawberry ( Fragaria chiloensis ) can be found along the upper edges of beaches on Washington and Oregon coasts. The leaves are thick and leathery compared to those of other wild strawberries of the Pacific Northwest. The other two strawberries in the region are usually found from t...
  211 Hits
211 Hits
May
05

Beyond Grass

I had a grand time at the Native Plant Sale and Celebration on May 3 rd , sponsored by the Central Puget Sound Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. I got to wear a green vest and walk around providing color commentary for people who were shopping. People most often requested plants for these situations: Ground covers for a place where they were replacing the lawn or where they'd pulled out ivy Plants for dry shade under big trees or roof eaves. These conversations brought to mind an a...
  219 Hits
219 Hits
Apr
27

Appreciating Common Camas (Camassia quamash) during Native Plant Appreciation Week

Common camas, Umtanum Ridge. All rights reserved And we're off! Native Plant Appreciation Week began with a rousing start for me! While botanizing at 60 mph isn't ideal, I love to glimpse the blue of one of my favorite plants, common camas ( Camassia quamash ), along Interstate 5 between Tacoma and Olympia during my weekly trek. The week is full of field trips, programs, plant sales and a couple of garden tours. For more information, see the full Native Plant Appreciation Week listings. Opportun...
  292 Hits
292 Hits

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