Botanical Rambles

Welcome to the Washington Native Plant Society Blog
Jul
24

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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Jul
17

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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Jul
10

Plant Profile: Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum, aka Adiantum aleuticum)

Maidenhair fronds resist wetting. Photographer: Ben Legler, all rights reserved. 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...
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Jul
03

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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Jun
26

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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Jun
19

Anticipating the David Douglas Exhibit

Scottish Botanist and NW explorer, David Douglas. Curtis’ Botanical Magazine. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. 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: Naturalis...
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Jun
13

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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May
29

Plant Profile: Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)

Flowers of Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia). Photo by Ben Legler, all rights reserved. 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, Ser...
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May
23

Learning to Speak the Grass Language

Smith’s melic (Melica smithii). Photographer Clayton Antieau, all rights reserved. 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 gr...
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May
15

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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May
08

This! Fort Townsend State Park’s New Mural of Old-Growth Forest

Native Plants of Fort Townsend Mural by Larry Eiffert, all rights reserved. In November, 2010, I suggested to our Friends of Fort Townsend group that we commission a natural history interpretive painting for the park. We put together the funding for the project, including an education grant from the Washington Native Plant Society. Fort Townsend State Park is 2 miles south of Port Townsend off of Highway 20. The park includes seven miles of hiking trails through old-growth forest. The WNPS plant...
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May
01

Five Plants—and People—I Appreciate

We're now in the middle of 2013's Native Plant Appreciation Week . I spent last weekend touring some inspiring gardens on the Central Puget Sound Chapter's Native Plant Garden tour. When I got back home, I took an appraising look at my own garden. It's still very much a work in progress—as most gardens are. I poked around, grubbing out weeds and trimming errant branches, and I thought about how my garden is populated with people as well as plants. Here are five plants, and five people, I found i...
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Apr
24

Appreciating Native Plant Appreciation Week

Did you have a good Earth Day when it rolled around earlier this week? And what are your plans for Native Plant Appreciation Week when it starts on April 28 th ? ​ What is Native Plant Appreciation Week? The week gives us a springtime opportunity to enjoy our state's amazing flora. We can take a look at all the work that governmental agencies, non-profit groups, and environmental organizations are doing to protect native plant species and restore native plant habitats. We can participate in ever...
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Apr
17

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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Apr
10

Ten Taxing Taxonomy Terms for Tax Time

ID Taxonomy: ​I is for Intercalary ​Inserted between other parts. ​Timothy had to mow the lawn again because grasses have those pesky intercalary meristems. ​D is for Dichotomous ​Divided into two distinct parts ​Neither the first or second choice fits well in this dichotomous key. ​T is for Taxon (plural: taxa) ​A taxonomic group of any rank, such as a species, family, or class. ​As Benjamin Franklin (didn't) say to botany students: "Nothing is certain except death and taxa." ​A is for Adaxial ...
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