Botanical Rambles

Welcome to the Washington Native Plant Society Blog
Apr
03

Botanical Birthday Greetings to Washington State Parks

Mountain Lake in Moran State Park. Attribution: Cdbavg400 at en.wikipedia March marked the kick-off celebrations for Washington State Parks' 100 th birthday, and brought to mind the great botanizing available in these parks. One of the first centennial celebrations was on March 9 th , when the Friends of Moran State Park and photographer Martin Taylor cooperated for some aerial photos . You can see the summit of Mount Constitution on Orcas Island and the surrounding forest and environs. Looks li...
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Mar
27

Sign Up!

It's time to sign up, step up, apply, and register. Spring is here and it brings loads of opportunities to learn, to contribute your time, and to get out and about. First off, here are some activities sponsored by the Washington Native Plant Society and its partners. Native Plant Stewardship Training Application deadline April 8 . We are once again offering free Native Plant Stewardship Training in Seattle. Native Plant Stewards help restore Seattle's forested parks. Partners with WNPS are Seatt...
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Mar
20

Gardening with Edible and Useful Native Shrubs

I recently moved and have the good fortune of a new landscape to plant and restore on San Juan Island. After Phase 1—planting a fine selection of native trees—I set out on Phase 2: adding shrubs that are useful, edible, or both. They got extra points for color and texture. Here are my top five, in no particular order. A salmon-colored salmonberry. Photographer: Catherine Hovanic, all rights reserved. 1. Salmonberry ( Rubus spectabilis ) I love salmonberry for its beautiful dark pink to magenta f...
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Mar
15

Looking Ahead

Castle Rock. Photographer, Joe Arnett, all rights reserved. My Spring 2013 edition of Douglasia arrived Saturday, on a day of sunshine and mild temperatures. Perhaps it was the sun, but I think this edition is particularly beguiling. And reading it was a great way to top off a day spent immersed in plant life. First I spent several hours in the garden, trimming, clipping, raking, and vanquishing innocent-looking youngsters of shotweed ( Cardamine hirsuta ) and dandelion ( Taraxacum officinale )....
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Mar
13

Plant Profile: Redwood Sorrel (Oxalis oregana)

Redwood sorrel can brighten up a shady spot in the garden. Photographer: Tim Hagan, all rights reserved. It's getting to be that shamrock time of year. Let's take a look at a Washington native species that has handsome shamrock-like leaves. Why it's choice: Redwood sorrel carpets the understory in coastal forests north into British Columbia and south into the redwood stands of northern California. It's leaves are trifoliate, meaning they have three leaflets, in a shape characteristic of other me...
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Mar
06

Four Favorite Native Plant Fragrances

Several native plant fragrances help me mark the seasons each year. I'm sure you have favorites of your own. Here are four that I like to sniff out: A resinous bud of black cottonwood ready to leaf-out. Photographer: Ben Legler, all rights reserved Black cottonwood ( Populus trichocarpa ) This tall deciduous tree leafs out stickily in the spring, its buds and new leaves covered with a yellowish gum. I learned from Pojar and Mackinnon* that bees use the aromatic resin to protect and seal their hi...
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Feb
27

Spring at Washington Park, Anacortes

Susan Alaynick, chairperson of the Salal Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society, offers this personal look at spring flowers in Washington Park, Anacortes . The Salal Chapter serves Skagit, Island, and Northern Snohomish counties. Washington Park is an Anacortes city park lying on the west edge of Fidalgo Island. If you keep heading west past the San Juan Islands ferry terminal, you'll get there. And here's a trail map for when you do. Camas and death camas at Washington Park. Photo by: ...
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Feb
20

Getting Acquainted with Lichens

Learning about lichens is fun and adds a new dimension to your time outdoors. But what is a lichen? And how is it different from a moss? To a biologist, the answer is simple: a moss is a plant and a lichen is a partnership between a fungus and algae or cyanobacteria (formerly known as blue-green algae). But that may not help you, since you won't see the algae or cyanobacteria with your naked eye. So here is a general rule of thumb: Mosses are often grass green and lichens are every other shade o...
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Feb
06

Botany in the Movies, 2012

February is movie month, as we count down to the Oscars on Sunday, February 24 th . While this topic is only tangentially related to Washington's native plants, please indulge me. After Chris Cooper won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as orchid hunter John Larroche in Adaptation in 2002, I was hopeful that we were on the cusp of a time of botanical greatness in film. However, it's been a slow couple of years for botany and botanists in the movies. I didn't see 2011's Unknown , with Liam Nees...
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Jan
30

For Sale: Bare Roots and Live Stakes

Tagging live stakes at Lincoln Park, Seattle. Photographer: Janet Skeels, all rights reserved. While it's still too early in the year for most native plant sales , there's one type of sale that is already underway. And that is the conservation district bare root plant sale. As a lifelong city girl, I never really knew what a conservation district was until I worked for the late Washington Biodiversity Council . Then I learned that conservation districts grew out of the Depression-era dust bowl t...
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Jan
22

Plant Profile: Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var. californica)

Male flowers (in catkins) and red female flowers of our native hazelnut. Photographer: Ben Legler, all rights reserved. I don't know about you, but this is the time of year I start getting antsy for hints that spring is on the way. Which brings us to one of my favorite plants, beaked hazelnut. As Art Kruckeberg notes: "Hazel initiates the rites of spring hereabouts and will be a special omen for those who watch for signs of yearly rebirth." Why it's choice: Two seasons of gold pour forth from th...
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Jan
15

Ten Ways to Connect Kids with Native Plants

What are your earliest childhood memories of native habitats, plants, and animals? I loved a secret hideout behind a cluster of evergreens in our backyard in New York, where I dug in the dirt and collected prickly chestnut burs. My husband Dave remembers long hours of wandering the woods behind his house in Illinois. My botanist friend Julie walked with her grandmother, who taught her many of western Oregon's natives. Most of us have a unique experience that stands out in our memory. I suspect t...
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Jan
08

Destinations: Cowiche Canyon, Yakima Area

Sagebrush violets in March, Cowiche Canyon uplands. Photographer: David Hagen, all rights reserved. Brenda Senturia encourages us to look ahead to the flowering time of the year in Cowiche Canyon near Yakima. The Washington Trails Association website offers additional information on hiking Cowiche Canyon , including recent trip reports. It's not too soon to think about spring wildflowers, especially in the lower elevations in eastern Washington. A well-known location for a remarkable variety of ...
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Jan
01

Blooming Resolutions

It's the New Year. Resolution time, yet again. What do you do about resolutions? Make 'em, keep 'em, love 'em, hate 'em, break 'em, or ignore the whole thing? I like making resolutions so much that I do it several times a year: New Year's Day, Chinese New Year (it's February 10 in 2013), April Fool's Day, my birthday, Rosh Hashanah i.e., Jewish New Year (it's September 4 in 2013). Sometimes I even re-up my good intentions on the spring and autumn equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices. So...
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Dec
25

Four Things the Washington Natural Heritage Program Does for You

How much do you know about the Washington Natural Heritage Program? I'm always interested in learning more about the good work being done by plant-oriented folks. The Washington Native Plant Society partners with and benefits from key work carried out by the Washington Natural Heritage Program, housed in the Department of Natural Resources. Joe Arnett, Rare Plant Botanist for the Washington Natural Heritage Program, explains four of the top functions of the program. The Washington Natural Herita...
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