Botanical Rambles

Welcome to the Washington Native Plant Society Blog
Nov
22

Gratitude and Giving

Pinesap (Monotropa hypopitys)Photo by Ben Legler, all rights reserved. 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 gratef...
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Nov
11

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. Hedgerow. Photo courtesy of geograph.org.uk 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 trun...
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Nov
03

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. Mountain Beaver...
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Oct
13

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. Fruit of Marah oreganus. Photo by Ben Legler. All rights reserved. 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 th...
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Oct
01

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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Sep
05

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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Aug
27

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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Jul
21

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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Jul
08

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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Jun
10

Three Wild Strawberries of the Pacific Northwest

Fragaria chiloensis Photo by Ben Legler 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 t...
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May
28

Watch Out for Weeds this Summer!

Impatiens sp. Touch-me-not Coming up in June are several free training opportunities to learn how to identify invasive plants that threaten our national forests and wilderness areas. First up is a June 1 st Weed Watcher training in North Bend, and attendees will learn to identify and map priority invasive plants along trails in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This training is co-hosted by the King County Noxious Weed Control Program, The Mountaineers, and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Natio...
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May
20

Hitchcock Springs Eternal—Especially in the Spring

Flora of the Pacific Northwest, aka “Hitchcock” Perhaps you, like me, are panting a bit from all your spring-season activities. A plant sale here, a volunteer activity there, an evening walk in the Mima Mounds, a couple of marathon gardening sessions, and voila! I'm ready to lie down in the shade of a big tree and have a glass of lemonade. So, my hat is off to the stalwarts who participated in Botany Washington 2014 on May 17–18. A capacity crowd signed up to enjoy the floristic splendors of the...
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May
05

Beyond Grass

I had a grand time at the Native Plant Sale and Celebration on May 3 rd , sponsored by the Central Puget Sound Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. I got to wear a green vest and walk around providing color commentary for people who were shopping. People most often requested plants for these situations: Ground covers for a place where they were replacing the lawn or where they'd pulled out ivy Plants for dry shade under big trees or roof eaves. These conversations brought to mind an a...
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Apr
27

Appreciating Common Camas (Camassia quamash) during Native Plant Appreciation Week

Common camas, Umtanum Ridge. All rights reserved And we're off! Native Plant Appreciation Week began with a rousing start for me! While botanizing at 60 mph isn't ideal, I love to glimpse the blue of one of my favorite plants, common camas ( Camassia quamash ), along Interstate 5 between Tacoma and Olympia during my weekly trek. The week is full of field trips, programs, plant sales and a couple of garden tours. For more information, see the full Native Plant Appreciation Week listings. Opportun...
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Apr
20

April is the Cruellest Month…

With apologies to T.S. Eliot , does anyone else feel pulled in a thousand directions this month? So many things to do and see and learn. April is designated as National Poetry Month and Earth Awareness Month . Consulting my WNPS wall calendar , I find that April includes Washington State Arbor Day (second Wednesday), Earth Day (April 22), and National Arbor Day (last Friday). Rounding out the month is Native Plant Appreciation Week (April 27-May 3, 2014). Western red cedar (Thuja plicata). Photo...
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