Botanical Rambles

Welcome to the Washington Native Plant Society Blog
Dec
11

Snail Mail: Still Thriving

My name is Sarah, and I am a snail mail addict. I love to get paper mail. Personal letters are the best, of course, followed by magazines (especially our Washington Native Plant Society journal, Douglasia ). But as my family will attest, I'm not immune to the charms of catalogs, fundraising appeals, and even the well-crafted credit card offer. Say what you will about the commercial and material excesses of December, it is also a time when snail mail can get really interesting. News and photos fr...
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Dec
03

Enjoy Wildflowers Year Round: Order the 2014 Calendar Now

While Hanukkah is in the rear-view mirror—and its coincidence with Thanksgiving some 70,000 years in the future—the year-end gift-giving season of 2013 is fully upon us. You might be making some late Hanukkah gifts, giving presents for the the Winter Solstice, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or making your tax-deductible donations. Or all of the above! Last year we took a look at twenty gifts related to the Washington Native Plant Society. If I do say so myself, those are some great ideas, with perennial...
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Nov
26

Plant Profile: Piggyback Plant (Tolmiea menziesii)

The Piggyback Plant, Tolmiea menziesii. Photo: Starflower Resources, WNPS. As the days draw in, and we spend more time indoors, there's at least one Washington native plant that can join us there. The Piggyback Plant is a well-known and popular native that survives as a houseplant. Are there others that have worked for you? Why it's choice: Bring a spot of woodland into the house with Piggyback Plant. This herbaceous perennial can thrive in a shady garden dell or in an indoor hanging basket. Loo...
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Nov
19

Another Take on Fall Color

I don't know about you, but I am shocked to find that it is November again. Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that we began Botanical Rambles with a post about fall color ? This year I had a chance to roam around Fort Worden State Park for an afternoon, and here is some of what I saw. On the beach: Large-headed sedge ( Carex macrocephala ). The leaves of this distinctive sedge become a lovely golden in the fall, enlivening the tan and gray-green of the dunes. The dark-brown flower stalks—the large ...
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Nov
12

Change is in the Air: A Musical Interlude

Catherine Hovanic on a recent trip. Photo courtesy of Hovanic In this season of change, I find myself humming certain tunes to help ease various transitions. So the subtitles in this post link you to music videos. To everything there is a season… ("Turn, Turn, Turn" The Byrds, 1966) I visited the east coast for three weeks in September-October and saw splendid fall color in the deciduous forests of Connecticut and western Massachusetts. We had excellent weather—classic crisp clear days—while wes...
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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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Oct
08

Eating Native: Recipes from the Field—Oregon Grape Jelly

Oregon Grape. Photo by Shaun Hubbard, all rights reserved. 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 t...
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Oct
01

Natural Dyes from Native Plants

Blue elderberry is among the many native plants that have been used to make traditional dyes. Photo by Catherine Hovanic 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 ...
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Sep
24

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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Sep
18

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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Sep
11

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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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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Aug
28

Botanico-Literary Question Marks III: Three Minor Botherations

Groombridge Place 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 ...
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Aug
07

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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Jul
31

Quileute Indian Tribe: Weaving Traditions

Quileute basket with wolf design, utilizing bear grass, sweet grass and cedar bark, early 1900s. National Museum of the American Indian. "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 preparin...
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