Botanical Rambles

Welcome to the Washington Native Plant Society Blog

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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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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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...
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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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Mountain Beavers: An Important Prey Species for Larger Owls in Seattle’s Parks and Open Spaces

Mountain Beavers: An Important Prey Species for Larger Owls in Seattle’s Parks and Open Spaces
David Hutchinson, who many of us know from his bookselling and birding activities, contributes this closely observed piece about Mountain Beaver and owls in Seattle. Quite often, when one mentions "Mountain Beaver" in polite conversation, the response is: "What's that?" Or else: "Oh I've heard of them, but never seen one." Around Seattle's larger parks and forested places, two groups know the critter well: the larger owls and Green Seattle Partnership forest restoration stewards. The Mountain Be...
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Something Slimy Slithering to a Garden Near You

Something Slimy Slithering to a Garden Near You
A new guide, Land Snails and Slugs of the Pacific Northwest , helps identify 245 terrestrial slugs and snails in and around Oregon, Washington, Idaho and western Montana. Described as an essential resource for biologists, horticulturalists, gardeners and naturalists, the book is rich in color photographs, range maps and complete mollusk characteristics. The author, Thomas E. Burke, a retired U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist, presented recently to the South Sound Chapter of the Washington N...
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Back to School

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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Roaming Rove Beetles and Naïve Bumblebees

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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