We’re just a few days away from the summer solstice, but up on the high ridges of the North Cascades it’s still early spring with the snow just now melting away. Continue reading
Spring has to be my favorite time of the year. We put the cold, snow, wind, and heavy rains behind us and welcome the return of green plants all around us.
Here in our little corner of paradise we’re blessed with a massive carpet of our native bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa) on large expanses of our woodland floor. I’ve been checking on the emergence of the foliage and flower buds for a couple of weeks now. Yesterday I found the first almost-open flowers, which means than within a week or so we’ll have a glorious flower show. Continue reading
We’re in that glorious transition time, the period between summer’s greens and winter’s soft palette of browns and grays. As the days grow shorter and fog blankets the ground on many mornings, a lot of us like to get out and celebrate the turning of the leaves. Fall color is all around us now in varying degrees. Where do you like to go to enjoy the show?
While New England and Appalachia can rightly claim the best fall color on the continent, we Pacific Northwesterners can enjoy brilliant autumn hues without making the long journey across the continent. Continue reading
This past weekend, July 20-22, 2018, I hiked up to Sheep Lake and Sourdough Gap with a bunch of friends on the Washington Native Plant Society annual backpack. It’s a short hike to the lake, just an easy 1.8 miles from the trailhead at Chinook Pass. Go for the flowers, not solitude, as it’s a popular place. My impression was that the flowers were a bit pre-peak, but still lots of things in full bloom. We checked plants off a list of some 170 species, although we didn’t find all of them.
This video slideshow features some of my favorite images from the trip. These were photographed with my Canon 5D Mark III, a Canon 100mm macro lens, a 16-35mm wide-angle lens, and a 24-105mm lens. It’s a short hike, so I carried a lot of gear.
When we moved to our studio property in 2014, we decided we wanted to incorporate many of our wonderful native plants into the garden. Natives are drought-adapted, hosts to native insects that provide food for birds and other animals, relatively low maintenance, and best of all, they’re pretty to look at. When we walk in the woods and see an environment full of plants we’re seeing many years of growth. In a garden setting, starting from scratch, it takes a few years to go from bare soil to lush growth.
Three years in, we’re making slow progress. In some places our new beds are starting to mature and look good. But garden ideas don’t always work as anticipated the first time around. Continue reading
I’m sure you’ve seen the bumper sticker, “I Brake For Flowers.” Well, I don’t just brake for them — when conditions are right I’ll drive thousands of miles for wildflowers. That’s just what I did in mid-March when I confirmed that the predicted “superbloom” at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California was actually happening.
A little back story: most of the wildflowers in the desert are annuals. Their seeds remain dormant until conditions are just right. When there’s enough rain at the right time during the winter and temperatures warm up not too fast then the desert can burst into spectacular masses of flowers. Most years only a few flowers bloom, but in 2017 conditions were just right for a massive bloom, which lasts for only a couple of weeks at peak. I couldn’t stay home. Continue reading
Every now and then when I’m hiking in the mountains I run across a really cool plant. Over Memorial Day weekend I was out with a group of friends on the trail to Lookout Mountain and Monogram Lake, off the Cascade River Road east of Marblemount in the North Cascades. We came across more candystick (aka sugarstick), Allotropa virgata, than I’ve seen in one place in the 25 years I’ve been hiking in the northwest. Continue reading
Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) is keeping me very busy weeding our garden this spring. A pretty little perennial, native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa, creeping buttercup has been introduced and become naturalized in nearly every state in the United States. Left to its own devices, creeping buttercup sends out creeping stems that take root at the nodes when they touch the ground, forming a dense carpet that shades and crowds out more desirable plants. Continue reading
With the arrival of spring later this month come all sorts of early-blooming wildflowers. Candyflower is tasty as well as pretty. It’s also known as Siberian springbeauty and its scientific name is Claytonia sibirica. You’ll find it growing throughout the Pacific Northwest, except for the driest counties east of the Cascades. Look for it in damp deciduous woods or at the edge of conifer forests. It likes a little shade, but not too much.
Candyflower is closely related to miner’s lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, which can also be found throughout most of the northwest. Both of these species are delicious spring greens. I like them raw, straight from the plant, and they’re a tasty addition to an early spring salad. Miner’s lettuce got its name because it was one of the few fresh spring greens in miner’s diets during the gold rush era. Continue reading
I ran across a near-perfect specimen of another one of our mycoheterotrophic plants on a hike up to Excelsior Ridge in mid-June. This one is pinesap, Monotropa hypopitys. It’s fairly common in our dry forests, growing under Douglas-firs or hemlocks. If you’re following along each month, you’ll recall that I introduced you to a rather uncommon mycoheterotroph last month, California broomrape.
Pinesap is in the same family as heather, rhododendron, and huckleberries. But unlike those big and showy plants, pinesap doesn’t have any chlorophyll and can’t make its own food. It depends on a complex relationship with fungi in the soil to connect its roots to those of a host plant from which it derives its nutrients. Continue reading