Botanical Rambles

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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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Anticipating the David Douglas Exhibit

Anticipating the David Douglas Exhibit
I was looking for something in the Summer 2013 edition of Douglasia , the quarterly journal of the Washington Native Plant Society, and I found something else. On page 2, I saw a quarter page ad for David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work , a museum exhibit at MAC, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture , in Spokane. The museum website teased my interest with this paragraph: Naturalist David Douglas traveled the Columbia River and interior Northwest (1825-1833), identifying and collecting over two...
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Urban Fern Gallery

Urban Fern Gallery
Enter your text here ... If you live in a city, I'm sure you've seen them too. Emerging from walls, perched on pilings, and seemingly imprisoned beneath grates and guardrails. These urban ferns seem impervious to weeds, landscaping, litter, pollution, desiccation, and other challenges of urban life. No wonder their ancient lineages persist. I recently took the time to photograph some urban ferns in Olympia and Seattle. I've found four native species so far: Lady Fern ( Athyrium filix-femina ) Li...
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Plant Profile: Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

Plant Profile: Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
This week I'm expanding on a short piece I wrote for WNPS a few years ago that appeared in Spokane's newspaper, The Spokesman-Review ( here it is in its original form ). This shrub (or is it a tree?) provoked much discussion on the WNPS listserv recently. See below for excerpts. Why Serviceberry is choice: A show of white flowers in spring, tasty dark blue berries in late summer, yellow leaves in fall, Serviceberry is more than just serviceable. But this deciduous shrub does serve, and admirably...
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Learning to Speak the Grass Language

Learning to Speak the Grass Language
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 grasses, based solely on my familiarity with them as companions. If you asked me how ...
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NAPs and NRCAs: Three Special Places to Know About in Eastern Washington

NAPs and NRCAs: Three Special Places to Know About in Eastern Washington
I'll be completely honest here, and confess that I have a hard time keeping all the different types of special places and public lands straight. I'm getting better at it, but still. I heard of a study once that found that most Americans basically think that all public lands are national parks. I'm not quite that confused, but there's a bunch of categories and alphabet soup out there. So many agencies: WDFW, USFWS, USFS, NPS, NMFS/NOAA, BLM, BPA, DOE, and DNR*—and that's just for starters. The ag...
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