Botanical Rambles

Welcome to the Washington Native Plant Society Blog

A note from Dick Olmstead, Professor and Herbarium Curator, University of Washington

A note from Dick Olmstead, Professor and Herbarium Curator, University of Washington
Friends and Colleagues, As many of you know, Hitchcock and Cronquist's "Flora of the Pacific Northwest" has been the authoritative guide to the region's flora since its publication in 1973. Generations of students, academic researchers, and field botanists have relied on this work to support their diverse botanical interests. However, the systematics, nomenclature, and distribution of our region's flora has changed over the course of 40 years due to ongoing research, access to more information, ...
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Golden Paintbrush 2014 Global Population Estimates Released

Golden Paintbrush 2014 Global Population Estimates Released
Golden paintbrush ( Castilleja levisecta ) has been the focus of much restoration effort in the Puget Sound region for over a decade. The species is listed as Threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.. With substantial funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, land managers with a large number of partners, including land trusts, state and federal agencies, as well as other organizations, have made enormous strides in recovering this species. By the late 1990's, it had been redu...
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Book Review: Pacific Northwest Foraging

Book Review: Pacific Northwest Foraging
Pacific Northwest Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Alaska Blueberries to Wild Hazelnuts by Douglas Deur, published in 2014 by Timber Press . Pacific Northwest Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Alaska Blueberries to Wild Hazelnuts A good berry book is berry hard to find, and berries have been berry berry good to me, but berry books, not always quite so. In my ongoing "liter-berry" foraging, I think I've perused every berry book there is. Most of them leave me wanting, lik...
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Identifying Deciduous Trees in Winter

Identifying Deciduous Trees in Winter
Editor's Note: This Botanical Ramble comes to us from Jim Freed, WSU Extension Forest Products Specialist. It was originally posted on February 17, 2014 on Forest Stewardship Notes, a joint effort by Washington State University Extension and the DNR Small Forest Landowner Office. In the winter, identifying woody plants (trees and shrubs) takes a bit more work. Since there are no leaves on the deciduous plant, you will need to know what the twigs, buds, bud scales, and bark look like. Quick ways ...
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Don’t Leaf Me This Way!

Don’t Leaf Me This Way!
Editor's Note: In Botanical Rambles' previous two autumns, we've looked at Washington's most colorful fall leaves and at the fall color of berries and beach plants. This year, Jamie Bails invites us to take another look at the value of fall leaves. A few years ago, after watching my neighbor rake and bag fallen cherry leaves, I asked him if I could save him a trip to the dump. He hesitatingly agreed, and I quickly loaded up eight lawn bags into my wheelbarrow before he changed his mind. I giddil...
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Gratitude and Giving

Gratitude and Giving
Everywhere I turn these days, people are promoting gratitude as being good for you.  Gratitude is good for you For example, the psychologist David DeSteno wrote an article in The New York Times about how gratitude can help you cope with impulse buying during the holidays. His studies have shown that willpower, or even feeling happy, won't help you curb your expenditures or increase your patience as much as feeling grateful. Similarly, over on the blog Brainpickings , Maria Popova discusses ...
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How About A Hedgerow?

How About A Hedgerow?
With fall planting season upon us, Jeanie Taylor encourages us to consider a hedgerow. Don't say you don't have room for a hedgerow! You can grow a hedgerow even on an urban lot—atop a rockery, along the fence line, or in your parking strip. What is a hedgerow? Hedgerows traditionally were used as fences between fields. A "laid hedge" in England contained thorny plants like hawthorn to act as a barrier. Each tree or shrub was cut through the lower trunk and laid over, each one crossing the next—...
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Mountain Beavers: An Important Prey Species for Larger Owls in Seattle’s Parks and Open Spaces

Mountain Beavers: An Important Prey Species for Larger Owls in Seattle’s Parks and Open Spaces
David Hutchinson, who many of us know from his bookselling and birding activities, contributes this closely observed piece about Mountain Beaver and owls in Seattle. Quite often, when one mentions "Mountain Beaver" in polite conversation, the response is: "What's that?" Or else: "Oh I've heard of them, but never seen one." Around Seattle's larger parks and forested places, two groups know the critter well: the larger owls and Green Seattle Partnership forest restoration stewards. The Mountain Be...
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At Midnight, Your Coach Will Turn in to… Marah

At Midnight, Your Coach Will Turn in to… Marah
If Cinderella lived in Washington State, her fairy godmother might have warned her that her coach would turn—not into an orange pumpkin—but to a green, spiny, bladdery-inflated, modified berry. And, in time, according to the Flora of the Pacific Northwest, it would dry, bust open at its tip, and reveal fibrous netting inside. Quite a tricked-out ride! That would be Cinderella's limo if her fairy godmother was determined to use the Washington native plant, coastal manroot ( M arah oreganus ) for ...
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How Much is that Tree Worth to You?

How Much is that Tree Worth to You?
It's fall, and perhaps your thoughts are turning to leaves. Leaves turning color, leaves falling to the ground, leaves covering the lawn, leaves clogging the storm drain, leaves piling up, leaves rotting. Even evergreen trees shed leaves and branches this time of year, whether part of their cycle of senescence or because a windy day scatters them about. Some days all these leaves can seem a nuisance, even to a plant-loving person such as myself. However, the good folks at the Washington State Ur...
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Pollination: A Sampler

Pollination: A Sampler
If it is axiomatic that nature will allow or support "whatever works," it is our observation that many, many different things "work" in nature. The wide diversity in floral structures and pollination strategies exemplify this propensity for variety.There are endless variations on the basic story of pollen grains making their way to the stigma of an appropriate pistil, and many are easy to see if you look. Variation one Go out in late winter and check out the elongating catkins of beaked hazel ( ...
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One Way to Share Your Enthusiasm for Plants with Kids

One Way to Share Your Enthusiasm for Plants with Kids
Imagine you are outside. The sun is shining, illuminating the new growth on the western red cedars. It's been a great growing season and the plants at Washington Park Arboretum are thriving. The backdrop of evergreen trees is a lovely frame to all of the native and non-native plants in the collection. Now, if those kids would just get here! Just when you thought you couldn't wait any longer, here comes the bus holding a bunch of school-aged children just bursting with energy and excitement to be...
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Visit Kruckeberg Botanic Garden This Summer

Visit Kruckeberg Botanic Garden This Summer
If you have not been to the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline lately, this summer is a great time to visit. Along with public tours and family events each weekend, the on-site MSK Nursery offers native plants propagated directly from the garden. Admission to the garden is free, but donations are accepted and memberships are encouraged. ​ The public botanic garden is now part of the city of Shoreline's park system, and it is managed by the non-profit Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Foundation. The...
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Birds, Bees, and the Alternation of Generations

Birds, Bees, and the Alternation of Generations
Before we get to the birds and the bees (and the flowers), I think it would be informative to first establish some botanical fundamentals. This may not be the most direct approach to examining pollination, which is where we are heading, but you may learn aspects to this story that you never imagined. Every basic course in botany covers the topic of alternation of generations, one of the characteristics of plant life cycles, and the "reduction of the gametophyte" as the evolutionary trends culmin...
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Three Wild Strawberries of the Pacific Northwest

Three Wild Strawberries of the Pacific Northwest
The bloom of strawberries is a sure sign that summer is just around the corner. The Pacific Northwest is fortunate to have three delectable varieties of wild strawberry. Beach strawberry ( Fragaria chiloensis ) can be found along the upper edges of beaches on Washington and Oregon coasts. The leaves are thick and leathery compared to those of other wild strawberries of the Pacific Northwest. The other two strawberries in the region are usually found from the interior valleys west of the Cascades...
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