Botanical Rambles

Welcome to the Washington Native Plant Society Blog
Jan
31

2018 Washington Botanical Symposium

Washington vernal pool, photo by Joe Rocchio The Washington Native Plant Society is proud to announce our involvement as a sponsor for the 2018 Washington Botanical Symposium. This program is co-hosted by the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and the University of Washington Herbarium at the Burke Museum. The symposium features an extensive network of professional, academic, and amateur botanists are actively engaged in the conservation, management, and study of Washington's diverse flora...
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560 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...
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992 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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236 Hits
Oct
12

Pond Weeds and Their Cousins: A Report from the Aquatic Plants Workshop

Peter Zika in the field at an Aquatic Plants WorkshopPhoto: Washington Native Plant Society 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 scree...
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204 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
Jun
24

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. Art Kruckeburg, 1920-2016Photo by Doug Henderson (1969) The faithful and the newly converted ...
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212 Hits
May
13

Maytime

Maytime is… A completely over-the-top movie musical from 1937, starring Jeanette Macdonald and Nelson Eddy A single, deep red Paeonia hybrid with golden stamens A time when plant lovers in the northern hemisphere shift into high gear All of the above And the correct answer is 4–all of the above! Here are several items for your consideration during this blooming busy time: More color Invasive procedures What do you want to learn? More color I hope you enjoyed the Celebrating Wildflowers coloring ...
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235 Hits
Mar
14

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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241 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 ...
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273 Hits
Jun
20

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. Washington Park Loop RoadPhoto from City of Anacortes It hasn't been all work. I introduced an out-of-town visitor to the pleasures o...
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214 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...
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220 Hits
Mar
05

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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240 Hits
Feb
03

Golden Paintbrush 2014 Global Population Estimates Released

Enter your caption here 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 ...
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200 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...
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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 ( ...
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224 Hits
Jul
08

Birds, Bees, and the Alternation of Generations

Before we get to the birds and the bees (and the flowers), I think it would be informative to first establish some botanical fundamentals. This may not be the most direct approach to examining pollination, which is where we are heading, but you may learn aspects to this story that you never imagined. Every basic course in botany covers the topic of alternation of generations, one of the characteristics of plant life cycles, and the "reduction of the gametophyte" as the evolutionary trends culmin...
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180 Hits
Jan
12

Watch Out—Don’t Miss these Opportunities

Tweedy’s lewisia, a WNPS 2013 winning photograph by Ray Izumi. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Ready or not, the new year is off to a roaring start. Here are a couple of opportunities with deadlines coming up… 2014 WNPS Photo Contest Photo contest deadline is January 15, 2014. Send in your favorite photos! The Washington Native Plant Society is looking for your great photos of Washington wildflowers and native plant landscapes. Help us show off the beauty of native plants and share informat...
  207 Hits
207 Hits
Oct
15

Who Was Wilhelm Suksdorf?

It was not a particularly remarkable birth in the village of Dransau, Germany on September 15, 1850. No bands played; there were no parties. And much of life of Wilhelm Nikolaus Suksdorf would be equally unremarkable. Who could know that the new baby would become one of the three leading pioneer botanists of the Pacific Northwest and perhaps its greatest botanical collector? Beginnings There is no clear beginning to Suksdorf as a botanist. He was shy, with delicate health, and he enjoyed wanderi...
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208 Hits
Sep
04

Back to School

It's really happening, isn't it? August has ended, September is here. And with September comes that back-to-school combination of mourning (for the summer that's ending) and speeding up (for the autumn activities ahead). Time to learn something new, don't you think? The energizing briskness of fall opens up all kinds of opportunities. In addition to a new season of programs offered by Washington Native Plant Society chapters , here is a six-pack of educational and fun choices around the state. D...
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249 Hits
May
23

Learning to Speak the Grass Language

Smith’s melic (Melica smithii). Photographer Clayton Antieau, all rights reserved. As a youth, I was afflicted with debilitating allergy to grass pollen. I'll spare you the details, but I will say that it engaged my curiosity about these plants early on. I saw grasses everywhere, in many habitats and with notably varied habits. I outgrew the allergy—but my curiosity remained. I admired grasses in the wild, grasses as weeds, grasses as food, grasses as garden subjects. I came to recognize many gr...
  207 Hits
207 Hits
Apr
17

Roaming Rove Beetles and Naïve Bumblebees

The arrival of spring always rekindles my interest in pollination biology, that fascinating body of knowledge detailing how plants achieve the delivery of pollen to the stigma of a flower. Pollination is typically required for fertilization and subsequent seed production (there are exceptions, but that is another story). Scientists estimate that nearly 90% of the 300,000+ vascular plant species in the world rely on animals (insect, bird, mammal) for successful pollination. The glue of this relat...
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210 Hits
Apr
10

Ten Taxing Taxonomy Terms for Tax Time

ID Taxonomy: ​I is for Intercalary ​Inserted between other parts. ​Timothy had to mow the lawn again because grasses have those pesky intercalary meristems. ​D is for Dichotomous ​Divided into two distinct parts ​Neither the first or second choice fits well in this dichotomous key. ​T is for Taxon (plural: taxa) ​A taxonomic group of any rank, such as a species, family, or class. ​As Benjamin Franklin (didn't) say to botany students: "Nothing is certain except death and taxa." ​A is for Adaxial ...
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202 Hits
Mar
27

Sign Up!

It's time to sign up, step up, apply, and register. Spring is here and it brings loads of opportunities to learn, to contribute your time, and to get out and about. First off, here are some activities sponsored by the Washington Native Plant Society and its partners. Native Plant Stewardship Training Application deadline April 8 . We are once again offering free Native Plant Stewardship Training in Seattle. Native Plant Stewards help restore Seattle's forested parks. Partners with WNPS are Seatt...
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239 Hits
Feb
20

Getting Acquainted with Lichens

Learning about lichens is fun and adds a new dimension to your time outdoors. But what is a lichen? And how is it different from a moss? To a biologist, the answer is simple: a moss is a plant and a lichen is a partnership between a fungus and algae or cyanobacteria (formerly known as blue-green algae). But that may not help you, since you won't see the algae or cyanobacteria with your naked eye. So here is a general rule of thumb: Mosses are often grass green and lichens are every other shade o...
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201 Hits
Dec
25

Four Things the Washington Natural Heritage Program Does for You

How much do you know about the Washington Natural Heritage Program? I'm always interested in learning more about the good work being done by plant-oriented folks. The Washington Native Plant Society partners with and benefits from key work carried out by the Washington Natural Heritage Program, housed in the Department of Natural Resources. Joe Arnett, Rare Plant Botanist for the Washington Natural Heritage Program, explains four of the top functions of the program. The Washington Natural Herita...
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194 Hits

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