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 →
In mid-summer you’d be forgiven for walking right past a wavyweaf silktassel (Garrya elliptica), thinking it’s just another large broadleaf evergreen shrub. In the middle of winter, when practically nothing else is blooming, you’d have trouble missing this west coast native with its long tassels of flowers waving gently in the breeze. Continue reading →
When you think “Christmas tree” you’re probably conjuring up a conifer. They’re those trees with (generally) evergreen needle-like leaves that bear their seeds in woody cones. Those cones are where the name conifer comes from.
Here in the Pacific Northwest conifers are the backdrop for most of our landscape, whether in the wild or the garden. In fact, if you throw a rock anywhere on the west side of the Cascades and hit a tree you’ve probably found a Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii. It’s our most common conifer and is native from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. There are three varieties, but we’ll not bother with that detail today. Continue reading →
Now that our autumn rain has arrived, the forest floor in our woodland has sprung back to life. It’s almost like a second spring even though the trees are beginning to shed their leaves. Underfoot, piggyback plant (Tolmiea menziesii) has greened back up and is busy producing little plantlets atop nearly every leaf. Continue reading →
Every year we northwest lowlanders make pilgrimages to the mountains to savor Vaccinium deliciosum, Cascade blueberries (aka blueleaf huckleberry, Cascade bilberry, or Rainier blueberry). This low-growing and widespread blueberry lives up to its Latin name, for the fruit is truly delicious. When you find a patch loaded with fruit you can feast for a long time on sweet tastiness.
In this low-snow, warm-summer year the blueberries have ripened earlier than usual. Last weekend Natalie and I hiked out to Low Pass and High Pass, above Twin Lakes and just south of Mount Larrabee. In many places the trail is cut into a steep slope and we could graze on blueberries at waist level without even having to bend over. It can’t get much better than that! Continue reading →
I spent a lot of time with our native willows while photographing for Trees & Shrubs of the Pacific Northwest, but never really thought about them as a spectacular part of our fall color palette. Maybe that’s because I was looking for them in flower and with fresh summer green leaves.
That changed when I drove across a Forest Service road on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest west of Lake Chelan, Washington last fall on the recommendation of a fellow nature photographer. Road 5090, the Shady Pass Road, connects Lake Chelan with the Entiat valley. It climbs to around 6,000 feet and we weren’t able to make it all the way across the pass because we ran into some early season snow compacted into ice on the road. Continue reading →
Even in the depth of winter there are dollops of green on the Northwest forest floor. Deer fern (Blechnum spicant) is one of those hardy evergreens. It’s smaller and less common than the ubiquitous sword fern (Polystichum munitum), which to my mind makes it more interesting and desirable for our garden. The photo above shows Deer Ferns in the moss garden at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. Continue reading →
Pacific Dogwood is a showy northwest native tree that blooms from late April to late May. It’s just one of the dogwoods native to North America. The grove of dogwoods above was photographed last May along California Route 32 near Forest Ranch.
One of my memories of spring in West Virginia, where I grew up, is hillsides dotted with dogwood trees in bloom. Their showy white bracts, which look like giant petals, appear about the time the leaves are starting to unfold. The eastern species, Cornus florida, is commonly planted in home landscapes across North America. Continue reading →
Sunday morning Natalie said, “let’s go for a walk in the woods” and I suggested we hike the loop trail at the Stimpson Family Nature Reserve near Lake Whatcom. It’s an easy 3-mile loop through nice old- and second-growth forest, perfect for a quick getaway on a morning when light rain threatened.
Just a tenth of a mile up the trail there’s a viewpoint to a large beaver-built wetland. This is the view from the trail, with the wetland framed by western redcedars, Douglas-firs, and red huckleberries. The wetland plants are still brown, not yet having started their spring growth in the cold water.
This is a birth announcement of sorts. My close friends know I’ve been working with a small team for the last several months to create a new smartphone field guide to Washington state wildflowers. Washington Wildflowers went on sale April 8. It’s been a long journey, but we think it’s worth the wait. Keep reading for links to where to purchase it.
University of Washington Herbarium at the Burke Museum, the authors of Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, and High Country Apps have partnered to produce the new Washington Wildflowers plant identification app for iOS and Android devices. The app provides images, species descriptions, range maps, bloom period, and technical descriptions for more than 850 common wildflowers, shrubs, and vines that occur in Washington and adjacent areas of British Columbia, Idaho, and Oregon. The majority of species included are native, but introduced species common to the region are covered as well in order to expand the usefulness of this resource. Most of the 850 species are illustrated with three photographs, usually a blossom detail, the entire plant, and often a habitat view. I made almost all of the photographs, the exceptions being a few plants I have yet to find. Continue reading →