Who Was Wilhelm Suksdorf?

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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Eating Native: Recipes from the Field—Oregon Grape Jelly

Eating Native: Recipes from the Field—Oregon Grape Jelly
We are rapidly approaching the end of berry season for the year, although I'm still looking forward to my evergreen huckleberries ( Vaccinium ovatum ). Did anyone else see Roger Downey's fine Ode to the Mountain Blackberry ( Rubus ursinus ) recently in Crosscut ? This week, Amy Dearborn, who propagates perennials for Fourth Corner Nurseries in Bellingham, provides a way to enjoy Oregon grapes into the fall and winter. Thanks to Amy and to Fourth Corner Nurseries for permission to reprint this pi...
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Natural Dyes from Native Plants

Natural Dyes from Native Plants
Many people who own forestland are looking for new ways to use the native plants that grow there. One project would be to learn which plants will produce natural dyes and how to use them to produce finished items. Native plants have provided colors for paintings, craft decorations, foods and body art for thousands of years. Much of the knowledge about which plants to use, how to collect the right plant parts, how to extract the dyes and how to use the dyes has been lost. This resource from the U...
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Weighing in on Northwest Plant Books

Weighing in on Northwest Plant Books
In early July I was hiking on Sauk Mountain near Rockport in a meadow full of wildflowers and was dismayed to find that I couldn't remember the names of some common plants. I wasn't carrying a plant list or a book. Once home I rummaged through my book collection trying to figure out which I should put on the top of my "must take" hiking pile. My bookcase yielded roughly 14 "general" Pacific Northwest plant books, excluding ethnobotany books and hiking guides that comment on wildflowers but aren'...
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Misadventures at the Seed Bank

Misadventures at the Seed Bank
I spent much of this spring and summer on my hands and knees pulling weeds. Not by choice, mind you, but because four years ago I did not understand the concept of the seed bank. Let me explain. In 2008 my wife and I bought an acre in Leavenworth; the site of an old pasture and orchard that bordered the forest. We finished building a house in 2010 and during the previous fall I began work to restore the old pasture to what it might have looked like before cultivation. If I were a purist I would ...
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Fall: Time to Read and Gather Native Seeds

Fall: Time to Read and Gather Native Seeds
Summer is slowly slipping away, but what a glorious one we've experienced! If you're a plant propagation enthusiast like me, collecting and sowing native plant seeds are at the top of your fall 'to do' activities. The Central Puget Sound Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society will hold its Fall Native Plant Sale on October 5 at the Hunter Tree Farm lot at 7744 35th Ave. NE in Seattle. The sale is a fabulous way to acquire seeds, as well as plants, bulbs, seed kits, and bare root stock. W...
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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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Botanico-Literary Question Marks III: Three Minor Botherations

Botanico-Literary Question Marks III: Three Minor Botherations
One: The Kiss In Anton Chekov's short story "The Kiss" he describes the scene at a manor house in the country: "Everyone was conscious of the fragrance of roses, of lilac, and of the young leaves of the poplar." And: "Here, as in the drawing room, the windows were open wide and the smell of poplars, lilacs, and roses flooded the air." Phenologically speaking, I was troubled by the idea of poplar leaves (April?) unfurling at the same time as blooming lilacs (May?) and flowering roses (June?). Two...
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Botanico-Literary Question Mark II: Ivy on the Islands?

Botanico-Literary Question Mark II: Ivy on the Islands?
My nephew recently graduated from high school, and the speaker at his commencement was the novelist David Guterson. He gave what I thought was a fascinating, intricately reasoned speech on how to live a happy life in the face of the existential dilemma we all face. It didn't go over very well with some members of the audience (see the articles about it in the Seattle Times and Crosscut . The text of the talk is on the blog of The Stranger ). But the high school students were mostly very polite, ...
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Quileute Indian Tribe: Weaving Traditions

Quileute Indian Tribe: Weaving Traditions
"If you aren't in the mood, don't weave. It shows up in the work." That's one of the many things Quileute tribal member Cathy Salazar has learned after 16 years of basket weaving. "The weave will get too tight or sloppy if you aren't in the right frame of mind," she said. Despite years of weaving, Salazar didn't fully appreciate the traditional ways of preparing materials for some time because others provided the cedar and grasses ready to use in baskets. "It was all ready to go and Grandma Lill...
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Botanico-Literary Question Marks I: Oaks in Peshastin?

Botanico-Literary Question Marks I: Oaks in Peshastin?
Does this ever happen to you? You're reading along, and something botanical leaps out at you as Not-Quite-Right. It stays there, worrying you like a raspberry seed nestled up to a molar. Here is a literary botanical muddle that created a twinge during an otherwise enjoyable read. I recently read the best-selling novel The Orchardist , by Amanda Coplin. It tells the story of William Talmadge, who grows apples and apricots at the turn of the twentieth century near Peshastin and Cashmere, in the up...
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Watch Out for Watchable Wildflowers

Watch Out for Watchable Wildflowers
Here's some good news. An excellent, but out-of-print, guide to wildflowers in the Columbia Basin is now available online as a pdf, thanks to the Bureau of Land Management. Watchable Wildflowers — A Columbia Basin Guide features great writing and great photos. Here's how it opens: Eastern Washington—Flat, Drab, & Dry, Right? Wrong! From the freeway, the eastern half of the state may appear an endless open space to speed through without stopping, rather than a destination. As you look out the...
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Plant Profile: Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum, aka Adiantum aleuticum)

Plant Profile: Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum, aka Adiantum aleuticum)
Summer is here, and I love our Northwest version of hot weather. As in, where's my sweater? We did have some high temperatures a few weeks back, and I hope we get some more before the season's over. The heat got me thinking about one of the coolest plants I know, the maidenhair fern. What follows is a slight expansion on a piece I wrote for WNPS a few years ago that appeared in The Seattle Times (where you can still see it here ). Why it's choice: Maidenhair fern looks cool — cool like waterfall...
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Comparing Conifers and Deciduous Trees

Comparing Conifers and Deciduous Trees
From the window of my home office, I can look through a grove of loosely-spaced Ponderosa Pines ( Pinus ponderosa ) and into a dense floodplain gallery of Black Cottonwoods ( Populus trichocarpa ) interspersed with a few Mountain Alders ( Alnus incana ). The pines are a stable presence from one season to the next, but in this summer season the deciduous trees seem to throb with life as light and water mingle in a seasonal photosynthetic dance. In just a few short weeks they've created a dense ca...
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Three Photo Contests

Three Photo Contests
While you're out and about this summer, botanizing, hiking, gardening, or lying on the lawn, you may find yourself taking pictures. If so, here are some opportunities to get Washington's native plants into the public eye: WSECU Calendar Photo Contest While it's not yet time for our Washington Native Plant Society photo contest (that call will come later this year), the Washington State Employees Credit Union Calendar Photo Contest is open until July 15, 2013. This contest is limited to photos ta...
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