Botanical Rambles

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Winter 2014 News and Notes

Winter 2014 News and Notes
People are writing in and letting me know about all kinds of plants, plant sales, and other activities around the state. Lots of botanical fun to be had! News from the Suksdorfia Chapter: Susan Saul writes that the Suksdorfia Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society now has a Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/suksdorfia . With wildflower season getting underway in the Columbia River Gorge, now is a good time for people to follow posts about what is blooming. On that page, I read tha...
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Watch Out—Don’t Miss these Opportunities

Watch Out—Don’t Miss these Opportunities
Ready or not, the new year is off to a roaring start. Here are a couple of opportunities with deadlines coming up… 2014 WNPS Photo Contest Photo contest deadline is January 15, 2014. Send in your favorite photos! The Washington Native Plant Society is looking for your great photos of Washington wildflowers and native plant landscapes. Help us show off the beauty of native plants and share information about their ecology and value in our WNPS Photo Calendar . Each year the calendar displays our f...
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Revisiting Resolutions, 2014 edition

Revisiting Resolutions, 2014 edition
Well, 2014 has launched. How about those resolutions I made so publicly last year? Last January I noted some blooming resolutions for 2013. I had typical results on my general resolutions. Eat fewer sweets (Fail! If anything, I ate more sweets in 2013, since I discovered dark chocolate M&Ms.) Get more exercise (Actually, I did pretty well on this one.) Be an all-round better person (Probably not for me to say. I don't think I became a worse person. Let's call this one a draw.) I definitely d...
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The Holly and the Ivy and New Year’s Resolutions

The Holly and the Ivy and New Year’s Resolutions
Among the Christmas carols I grew up singing was the English song "The Holly and the Ivy," which begins The holly and the ivy When they are both full grown Of all the trees that are in the wood The holly bears the crown. Anyone who has worked at removing invasive non-native species in western Washington is likely to disagree with that sentiment—unless holly wears the "crown" of most prickly and most leathery. But then that carol dates to no later than 1823 according to Wikipedia. That was a time...
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Something Slimy Slithering to a Garden Near You

Something Slimy Slithering to a Garden Near You
A new guide, Land Snails and Slugs of the Pacific Northwest , helps identify 245 terrestrial slugs and snails in and around Oregon, Washington, Idaho and western Montana. Described as an essential resource for biologists, horticulturalists, gardeners and naturalists, the book is rich in color photographs, range maps and complete mollusk characteristics. The author, Thomas E. Burke, a retired U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist, presented recently to the South Sound Chapter of the Washington N...
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Snail Mail: Still Thriving

Snail Mail: Still Thriving
My name is Sarah, and I am a snail mail addict. I love to get paper mail. Personal letters are the best, of course, followed by magazines (especially our Washington Native Plant Society journal, Douglasia ). But as my family will attest, I'm not immune to the charms of catalogs, fundraising appeals, and even the well-crafted credit card offer. Say what you will about the commercial and material excesses of December, it is also a time when snail mail can get really interesting. News and photos fr...
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Enjoy Wildflowers Year Round: Order the 2014 Calendar Now

Enjoy Wildflowers Year Round: Order the 2014 Calendar Now
While Hanukkah is in the rear-view mirror—and its coincidence with Thanksgiving some 70,000 years in the future—the year-end gift-giving season of 2013 is fully upon us. You might be making some late Hanukkah gifts, giving presents for the the Winter Solstice, Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or making your tax-deductible donations. Or all of the above! Last year we took a look at twenty gifts related to the Washington Native Plant Society. If I do say so myself, those are some great ideas, with perennial...
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Plant Profile: Piggyback Plant (Tolmiea menziesii)

Plant Profile: Piggyback Plant (Tolmiea menziesii)
As the days draw in, and we spend more time indoors, there's at least one Washington native plant that can join us there. The Piggyback Plant is a well-known and popular native that survives as a houseplant. Are there others that have worked for you? Why it's choice: Bring a spot of woodland into the house with Piggyback Plant. This herbaceous perennial can thrive in a shady garden dell or in an indoor hanging basket. Look for small new plantlets "piggy-backing" at the base of each leaf. What it...
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Another Take on Fall Color

Another Take on Fall Color
I don't know about you, but I am shocked to find that it is November again. Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that we began Botanical Rambles with a post about fall color ? This year I had a chance to roam around Fort Worden State Park for an afternoon, and here is some of what I saw. On the beach: Large-headed sedge ( Carex macrocephala ). The leaves of this distinctive sedge become a lovely golden in the fall, enlivening the tan and gray-green of the dunes. The dark-brown flower stalks—the large ...
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Change is in the Air: A Musical Interlude

Change is in the Air:  A Musical Interlude
In this season of change, I find myself humming certain tunes to help ease various transitions. So the subtitles in this post link you to music videos. To everything there is a season… ("Turn, Turn, Turn" The Byrds, 1966) I visited the east coast for three weeks in September-October and saw splendid fall color in the deciduous forests of Connecticut and western Massachusetts. We had excellent weather—classic crisp clear days—while western Washington soaked in the wettest September on record. We ...
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Who Was Wilhelm Suksdorf?

Who Was Wilhelm Suksdorf?
It was not a particularly remarkable birth in the village of Dransau, Germany on September 15, 1850. No bands played; there were no parties. And much of life of Wilhelm Nikolaus Suksdorf would be equally unremarkable. Who could know that the new baby would become one of the three leading pioneer botanists of the Pacific Northwest and perhaps its greatest botanical collector? Beginnings There is no clear beginning to Suksdorf as a botanist. He was shy, with delicate health, and he enjoyed wanderi...
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Eating Native: Recipes from the Field—Oregon Grape Jelly

Eating Native: Recipes from the Field—Oregon Grape Jelly
We are rapidly approaching the end of berry season for the year, although I'm still looking forward to my evergreen huckleberries ( Vaccinium ovatum ). Did anyone else see Roger Downey's fine Ode to the Mountain Blackberry ( Rubus ursinus ) recently in Crosscut ? This week, Amy Dearborn, who propagates perennials for Fourth Corner Nurseries in Bellingham, provides a way to enjoy Oregon grapes into the fall and winter. Thanks to Amy and to Fourth Corner Nurseries for permission to reprint this pi...
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Natural Dyes from Native Plants

Natural Dyes from Native Plants
Many people who own forestland are looking for new ways to use the native plants that grow there. One project would be to learn which plants will produce natural dyes and how to use them to produce finished items. Native plants have provided colors for paintings, craft decorations, foods and body art for thousands of years. Much of the knowledge about which plants to use, how to collect the right plant parts, how to extract the dyes and how to use the dyes has been lost. This resource from the U...
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Weighing in on Northwest Plant Books

Weighing in on Northwest Plant Books
In early July I was hiking on Sauk Mountain near Rockport in a meadow full of wildflowers and was dismayed to find that I couldn't remember the names of some common plants. I wasn't carrying a plant list or a book. Once home I rummaged through my book collection trying to figure out which I should put on the top of my "must take" hiking pile. My bookcase yielded roughly 14 "general" Pacific Northwest plant books, excluding ethnobotany books and hiking guides that comment on wildflowers but aren'...
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Misadventures at the Seed Bank

Misadventures at the Seed Bank
I spent much of this spring and summer on my hands and knees pulling weeds. Not by choice, mind you, but because four years ago I did not understand the concept of the seed bank. Let me explain. In 2008 my wife and I bought an acre in Leavenworth; the site of an old pasture and orchard that bordered the forest. We finished building a house in 2010 and during the previous fall I began work to restore the old pasture to what it might have looked like before cultivation. If I were a purist I would ...
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