Pad Thai and Mima Mounds

20170503_195729 Pad Thai and Mima Mounds
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 grassland, formally known as the Roemer's fescue–white ...
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Plant Profile: Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea, a.k.a. Cornus stolonifera)

Legler_Cornus
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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Riparian Planting in Eastern Washington

Stream Stewardship
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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Explorations in 2017 with the Washington Native Plant Society

Explorations in 2017 with the Washington Native Plant Society
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 17–19, 2017 ) will be headquartered at Eastern Washington ...
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188 Hits

Washington’s Cherries

Washington’s Cherries
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 learning about George Washington in elementary school was that he cho...
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196 Hits

Plant Profile: Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)

Plant Profile: Pacific Bleeding Heart (Dicentra formosa)
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 blue-green foliage and heart-shaped blossoms lighten up full to part sh...
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156 Hits

Western Hemlock: A Grinch of Greens

Western Hemlock: A Grinch of Greens
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 Herbarium, occasionally I would get a request for a specimen of Washington's state tree, western hemlock, from...
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197 Hits

Across Washington State in Wildflowers

Across Washington State in Wildflowers
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 volunteers with the Washington Native Plant Society met at ...
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Pond Weeds and Their Cousins: A Report from the Aquatic Plants Workshop

Pond Weeds and Their Cousins: A Report from the Aquatic Plants Workshop
By the time I found room 246 in Hitchcock Hall, hidden behind construction barriers on the University of Washington campus, class had already begun. I crossed the room quickly to take a seat on a squeaky metal chair stationed behind a microscope. Peter Zika, a botanist specializing in the obscure, was halfway through a lecture on local aquatic plants. Before I aimed my attention at his slides on the screen, I glanced around at the dozens of plants standing in water-filled jars around the lab. I'...
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Plant Profile: Snow Buckwheat (Eriogonum niveum)

Plant Profile: Snow Buckwheat (Eriogonum niveum)
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 late summer and early fall. Happy on little water,...
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167 Hits

A Great Fall Berry from The Forest: Blue Elderberry

A Great Fall Berry from The Forest: Blue Elderberry
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 scientific name for the blue elderberry, is different from the S...
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137 Hits

In the field with Art Kruckeberg

In the field with Art Kruckeberg
Art Kruckeberg, one of the founders of the Washington Native Plant Society, passed away on May 25, 2016, age 96. He was a grand old man of Washington botany, a mentor, and a mensch. Formal obituaries may be found in the Seattle Times and on the University of Washington Biology web page. What follows is an appreciation of Art that I wrote for the Washington Native Plant Society journal Douglasia in 2000. The faithful and the newly converted gathered to hear the gospel of serpentine from one of th...
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Our Stinging Nettles

Our Stinging Nettles
Nettles are in a very small family Nettles are in a very small family, Urticaceae, most of whose members have stings. Washington's native nettle is Urtica dioica . Nettle leaves' stinging is accomplished with hollow hairs, like microscopic hypodermic needles, which exude formic acid when brushed against. An irritating rash may appear on one's skin, its severity depending on the sensitivity of the "victim." Some people have red, burning sores for days. Some people say they don't feel a thing! And...
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147 Hits

Dates to Remember: Botanical Activities Abound!

Dates to Remember: Botanical Activities Abound!
Cue the overwhelm. The spring rush is upon us. Washington Native Plant Society activities Opportunities from other organizations Washington Native Plant Society Activities April 1, 2016 No fooling, applications for the South Sound Native Plant Stewardship Training are due April 1! The Washington Native Plant Society (WNPS) and its South Sound Chapter are offering a Native Plant Stewardship Program for Pierce and Thurston Counties in Spring 2016. The six-week, no-cost program combines classroom l...
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153 Hits

Plant Profile: Red-Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)

Plant Profile: Red-Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum)
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 dispenser. They bloom earlier in my garden than the red cultivars, and the hummingbi...
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Winter Berries for the Birds

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. Highbush Cranberry in the Garden Many years ago, I planted half a ...
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Vine Maple Variations

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! General Characteristics Before talking about the differences, let's describe the characteristics that apply to all vine maples and help us identify the species. Eithe...
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Plant Adaptations and Fire

Plant Adaptations and Fire
Editor's Note: Massive wildfires in Washington State may cause us to see some plants as "gasoline on a stick" (bitterbrush or Purshia tridentata) or as "grassoline" (cheatgrass or Bromus tectorum). But fire is a natural part of many ecosystems, and some plants have developed characteristics that allow them to survive, even thrive, after a fire. In this Botanical Ramble, Ellen Kuhlmann guides us through some of these adaptations. –S.G. Four Fire-Adaptive Traits in Plants Bark thickness This is on...
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Principles of Kick-butt Gardening

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 ...
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Coevolution and Pollination

Coevolution and Pollination
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 between these distantly related taxa is symbiotic...
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173 Hits

When in Drought…

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...
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144 Hits

Fires of Summer

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. Firewise As Steve McConnell, regional WSU extension forestry specialist wrote in Forest Stewardship Notes : Fires are a fact of life in eastern Washington. For those of us living in forested areas it's ...
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Just Because It’s June, June, June: News and Notes from the Washington Native Plant Society

Just Because It’s June, June, June: News and Notes from the Washington Native Plant Society
Where Have You Been Rambling?  You may be forgiven for wondering if Botanical Rambles had rambled off in to the sunset, considering that the most recent post was May 6 th ! Your humble blog curator has been overly busy with her day job, notably helping to organize the 2015 Salmon Recovery Conference and then (trying) to catch up on many end-of-biennium tasks. It hasn't been all work. I introduced an out-of-town visitor to the pleasures of the loop road at Washington Park in Anacortes . She ...
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132 Hits

Got Milkweed?

Got Milkweed?
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) and partners are attempting to reverse the downward popu...
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136 Hits

A Visit to Galiano Island

A Visit to Galiano Island
If you are looking for a winter break that doesn't include airfare, look north to a little island in the Salish Sea that provides quiet shorelines, forested trails, an escape from winter rains, and a community investing big in land conservation. Galiano, located in the Canadian Gulf Islands, is a short ferry trip from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. The island has a year-round population of 1,100 people. Its many miles of community trails are enhanced by camping sites with splendid shore views an...
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Bigleaf Maple Syrup

Bigleaf Maple Syrup
When I was a kid, one of the books that set me on course to becoming a nature lover was the Newbery Award winner Miracles on Maple Hill , by Virginia Sorensen. It has a compelling story and vivid descriptions of walking through snowy forests, tapping sugar maples for sap, boiling it down, testing it—and tasting it. These descriptions stuck with me, although I have never lived in maple syrup country. Or so I thought! Last July, Al Craney and Kevin Zobrist published an article, "Producing maple sy...
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A note from Dick Olmstead, Professor and Herbarium Curator, University of Washington

A note from Dick Olmstead, Professor and Herbarium Curator, University of Washington
Friends and Colleagues, As many of you know, Hitchcock and Cronquist's "Flora of the Pacific Northwest" has been the authoritative guide to the region's flora since its publication in 1973. Generations of students, academic researchers, and field botanists have relied on this work to support their diverse botanical interests. However, the systematics, nomenclature, and distribution of our region's flora has changed over the course of 40 years due to ongoing research, access to more information, ...
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Golden Paintbrush 2014 Global Population Estimates Released

Golden Paintbrush 2014 Global Population Estimates Released
Golden paintbrush ( Castilleja levisecta ) has been the focus of much restoration effort in the Puget Sound region for over a decade. The species is listed as Threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.. With substantial funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, land managers with a large number of partners, including land trusts, state and federal agencies, as well as other organizations, have made enormous strides in recovering this species. By the late 1990's, it had been redu...
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127 Hits

Identifying Deciduous Trees in Winter

Identifying Deciduous Trees in Winter
Editor's Note: This Botanical Ramble comes to us from Jim Freed, WSU Extension Forest Products Specialist. It was originally posted on February 17, 2014 on Forest Stewardship Notes, a joint effort by Washington State University Extension and the DNR Small Forest Landowner Office. In the winter, identifying woody plants (trees and shrubs) takes a bit more work. Since there are no leaves on the deciduous plant, you will need to know what the twigs, buds, bud scales, and bark look like. Quick ways ...
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Don’t Leaf Me This Way!

Don’t Leaf Me This Way!
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 before he changed his mind. I giddil...
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133 Hits

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