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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 sometimes only available reference (published in 1983)."

Another colleague, Josh Lambert, chimed in with, "Yeah, His 2005 Plants of Western Oregon Washington & British Columbia, is the most updated published WA/OR regional flora since Hitchcock and Cronquist ('73). Another great and colorful read! RIP Eugene.

I continued the email chain with:

"So sorry he's gone. What a character! Koz used the UW Herbarium a lot when he was working on his plant books. He was one of my favorite visitors when I worked there (1988-2001). He loved to propagate plants, and several things in my garden originated with him, as I mentioned in my pieces on red-flowering currant and on five plants I appreciate."

Plants of Western Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, by Eugene N. Kozloff

A little bit later, I had this email from John Gamon, of the Natural Resources Conservation Program in the Washington Department of Natural Resources:

"What an interesting, productive and sweet life! I've been trying to recall the species that he sowed seeds of on San Juan Islands that created a mystery a few years ago. I enlisted your assistance in coming up with the explanation of how that species might have come to be growing in the islands. Do you remember what I'm talking about?"

"Years ago, while you were still working in the herbarium, I received a letter from a woman on San Juan Island, along with photographs, of a mysterious plant. She couldn't identify it and asked me if I knew what it was. Turns out it was native to the western foothills of the Sierras, somewhere in central California. You helped put pieces of the puzzle together, which as I recall involved Kozloff."

"He had authored a field guide to the Sierra foothills and in order to get good pictures of some of the plants, he gathered seeds and grew the plants out on property on San Juan Island. Or something like that."

"Again, do you remember the tale? And the plant? It's been bugging me since reading his obituary."

Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii) Photo by California Department of Fish and Wildlife

As it turned out, I did remember that story, which took place in the pre-Internet years.

And I did remember the pretty plant, which turns up every now and then in wildflower mixes. I replied: "Yes. It was a blue flower. Umm… baby blue eyes? Nemophila menziesii?"

Unraveling the mystery had required not a little sleuthing, the details of which I have happily forgotten. The puzzle was resolved by Koz, who 'fessed up with his delightful, if slightly devilish, chuckle.

For more about Koz and his life, please see the obituaries in the Skagit Valley Herald and the San Juan Journal and this fine remembrance by Susan Vernon in the San Juan Islander.

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