Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Native plants’

Part one:  Conifers

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. –  John Muir

As a young person I developed a deep love and bond with trees.  I spent hours climbing trees, swinging in the boughs of a large fir or sitting high in an oak tree.  I loved the ability to see long distances across the landscape.  I found many interesting things in trees.  Bird nests, ferns, nuts, acorns, mistletoe and insects all fed my imagination. I found incredible peace in the treetops.  I would have been very happy to have lived in a tree house.

So now I teach you what I know about trees.

I have spent months now teaching you basic botany.  I have focused on the parts of the plant.  I want to begin to teach you how to go into the forest and find plants. I will teach you about the trees first.  I will be focusing primarily on the trees found in the Cascadian bio-region-that area found from Northern California, through Oregon and Washington state and up through British Columbia.  The Cascade mountain range separates the Western regions from the Eastern Regions but mant of the areas share similar tree and plant communities.

There are of course some amazing micro-ecosystems found in Cascadia.  For instance the eco-system of Northern California and Southwestern Oregon are very different from the eco-system of Western British Columbia and Western Washington.  More on that later.

Trees have always been the marker that I use to find the plants I am seeking. Why?

Because I can look out across the horizon and see the tall trees, the old ones that will have the most to share as far as a finding plant communities.  For instance, when I am looking for wild orchids or lilies, I will look to the horizon to find a large Douglas fir old growth or a very tall Western Red cedar.

Trees are the anchor for plant communities.  They create habitat, keep plants fed and watered, provide shelter for pollinators and animals that carry the seeds throught the forest.  Large Douglas fir and Western Redcedar have an outreach affect that can cover miles of terrain.  The mycelium connected through the roots of big trees support thousands and thousands of varieties of plants. Communication between the species found under big trees has been studied and now documented.

University of British Columbia professor Suzanne Simard, has discovered through her research that “trees in a forest ecosystem are interconnected with the largest, oldest ‘mother trees’ serving as hubs”.  This research has found that all trees in dry interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca) forests are interconnected, with the largest, oldest trees serving as hubs, much like the hub of a spoked wheel, where younger trees establish within the mycorrhizal network of the old trees.

The research also found that all the forest plants had a much better chance of survival if they were linked into the network of old trees.  It was found that increased survival was associated with below-ground transfer of carbon, nitrogen and water from the old trees. This research provides strong evidence that maintaining forest resilience is dependent on conserving mycorrhizal links, and that removal of hub trees could unravel the network and compromise regenerative capacity of the forests. (Simard 2013)

There are two different groups of trees – conifers and deciduous.  Conifers are the evergreens.  And, deciduous are the trees that drop their leaves in the fall and re-grow green leaves in the spring.

THE 12 MOST IMPORTANT CONIFERS IN THE WESTERN CASCADIAN BIO-REGION – and how to identify them.

The trees I will be teaching you about are all found west of the Cascades.  Later I will make some charts of important trees found east of the Cascades but still in the Cascadian bio-region. The charts below include information about what the tree needle, cone and general shape look like. This information should help you identify them.  I have included information about wildlife that use the tree for survival and I have included ethno-botanical information about the tree.  I have created some graphs that you can print out and make as large as you like. They are stored as graphics on this web page.   I hope that you will print them out, take them into the forest and try to identify the trees as you walk. I hope that you will fall in love with the trees as I have.

REFERENCES

  • Coastal Douglas-Fir Forests and Wildlife – Woodland Fish and Wildlife December 1992 viewed online July 20, 2012 – http://www.woodlandfishandwildlife.org/pubs/coastal-df.pdf
  • Gilkey, Helen M. & Dennis, L. J. (2001) Handbook of Northwestern Plants. Corvallis, OR: OSU Press
  •  Gunther, Erna. (1945) (Revised 1973) Ethnobotany of Western Washington. Knowledge and use of Indigenous plants by Native Americans, University of Washinton Press.
  • Moerman, Daniel E. (2004) Native American Ethnobotany. Portland: Timber Press.
  • Old Growth Forest Wiki- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old-growth_forest
  • Pojar & McKinnon, (1994) Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska, Lone Pine Publishing, Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Simard, S.W., Martin, K., Vyse, A., and Larson, B. (2013) Meta-networks of fungi, fauna and flora as agents of complex adaptive systems Managing World Forests as Complex Adaptive Systems in the Face of Global Change. Edited by Puettmann, K, Messier, C, and Coates, KD, Earthscan, Taylor & Francis Group, London. In press.
  • Simard, Suzanne – Trees Communicate With One Another, Connected by Fungi (Video)  http://www.treehugger.com/natural-sciences/trees-communicate-one-another-connected-fungi-video.html

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

When I was a child growing up on the edge of a white (Quercus garryanna) oak forest in Oregon I loved to collect the wild seeds of native plants. I was attracted to their great beauty, unusual design, and uniqueness. I was fascinated by their shapes, sizes, colors and even smells. They were my special treasures.  I kept a collection of wild seeds in a tin box under my bed away from the prying eyes of my many siblings.  I would often take the box out and pour over my many wild seed “treasures”.

I spent hours collecting, observing, and drawing pictures of the seeds. I had special names for the seeds: “whirligigs” (the samara or winged seed pod of the Acer or Maple tree family),” wishes” (the multi-seed pod of the dandelion),” hooksters” (the hooked seed of the Cleavers), and “boings” (the seed pod of the wild pea or Vetch).

I asked my father, who was a very amazing gardener, why my seeds looked so much different than the seeds we planted in our garden.  He told me that the seeds planted in the garden had been changed by man over many years.  They were hybrids of once wild plants.  He told me that the seed I collected was wild seed. Seed that only nature had touched.

I scanned the Book of Knowledge book set that was in our family’s library looking for information about wild plants and seeds.  I had many questions.  I wanted to know why some seed had tails and seemed to fly through the air; some oozed fluids and were sheathed in pockets of paper-like plant material. Still others were very hard to touch because they were sheathed in very hard outer shells.  I found seed that dropped to the ground and burrowed itself into the earth. Other seed attached itself to animals or my pant leg and later dropped far away from the mother plant. Some seeds used streams and rivers to move through the forest and still others catapulted themselves through the air.

The shapes of the seeds fascinated me. They were not only small, oval or round like the garden seeds, they took many shapes and sizes.  Some seeds were encased in berries; others were encased in cones or grew in long clusters. Some were round, some were square and a large number were geometrically shaped like small geodesic domes.  Every seed was unique and held a mystery within it. Every seed had adapted so it could survive a more or less competitive environment. I learned that plants disperse their seeds because they do not want new plants nearby competing for water, light and nutrients.  The fruits or pods that contain the seeds have adapted to different dispersal methods.  For instance, the acorn of the White Oak has a fruit that looks like a seed, but the outside of the acorn has a tough wall to protect the seed within. When the acorn falls to the ground it rolls away from the parent plant.  The acorn is very attractive to animals.  The squirrel will carry the acorn away and bury it. How convenient that the squirrel “plants” the acorn in the ground.

Some seeds develop coats of paper thin material – capsules and pods. As the pod membrane dries it creates tension and finally the pod will pop open- throwing the seed in all directions (Sweet Vetch and other pea family plants). The paper-like pod is also easily dispersed in the wind.  Some seeds have hooks – much like Velcro that allows the seeds to attach themselves to animals and people to be carried away.

In fact the inventor of Velcro Swiss engineer, Georges de Mestra was said to have studied the mechanism of a common burr to come up with the idea for his amazing invention.

One year I took half my collection and planted the seeds in a small bed of loose soil.  Very little of it germinated. Only some wild grasses came up. None of the wildflowers grew. I was so disappointed.

As always my dad patiently answered my many questions. He told me that wild things are special and unique and cannot easily be captured. He said most die in captivity and cautioned me not to catch the wild frogs or salamanders or try and hatch the pheasant eggs I found in the orchard. My father told me that wild plants also needed special care and in order to germinate the seeds I would have to learn everything I could about the plant first.  He said some seeds have special needs like a long cold spell, or fire or being eaten by a bird.  My father told me that unless we protect the wild plants we may lose our food plants, our forests, our water and our air. He said that all our food and flower plants were hybrids of wild plants. He said that hybrids become harder to grow over time and have to be grown again from wild stock at some time. If the wild stock disappears, so will our easy to grow food sources.  My father had great respect for wild plants. He taught me how to forage for berries and other food.  And he told me the names of the native and wild plants.  It was my father who told me that in the past First Peoples everywhere used wild native plants for everything in their lives.

Because of the general lack of training in biological/botanical training in the schools at that time I decided to learn everything I could on my own through books.  I spent hours in the library reading about plants and learning their mysteries.

I spent a good portion of my life trying to learn about native plants and how to propagate them through direct observation.  Some native plants must be grown from seed and have very peculiar growing habits. In nature only a small fraction of the seeds of plants succeed in germinating and growing to maturity because of the many hazards encountered. Each plant has a peculiar way of making sure it’s seeds will be distributed to safe environments. My own observations from gardening and also working with native plants have taught me that wild seeds flourish in their wild habitat and contribute to a plant community that is exquisite and dynamic. One has only to visit an old growth forest and experience the diversity of life, the mycelium and the healthy web of life to know that wild plants know something we do not yet understand. This is why so many fragile native plants do not do well in people’s yards. To successfully propagate native plants one must understand and create a replica of the environment that the plant came from.

As we move native plants back into our yards, cities and towns we will need to make sure there is enough diversity of plants and we need to keep protecting the wild areas where the plants flourish.

In his essay on the need for diversity in plant and seed life, D.A Albert proposes that creating small areas of plant repositories (plant zoo) can create fragmentation leading to the destruction of whole plant species.

“Habitat destruction and fragmentation by development interrupts normal plant dispersal and gene exchange. In extreme cases, isolation creates highly inbred populations which can have a number of deleterious effects. Highly inbred populations may not have the genetic variability “on the warehouse shelves” to adapt to change. Inbreeding poses additional problems for self-incompatible species. These species can become so inbred that cross pollination between “different” individuals is no longer possible, rendering the population unable to produce viable seed.” (Albert)

THE SPARK OF LIFE

One of the greatest biological mysteries for me when studying seed is how is it that life is generated from a seed?  At what point in its growth do seed grow or die. Where does that spark of life come from?  I was told in my biology classes that that the spark of life starts in the DNA and biochemical material of a plant.  But I also know that scientists do not know where the spark of life comes from. Scientists only have theories and hypothesis to work with and cannot fully prove where the spark begins.

In just the right conditions, the seed will germinate.  Growth occurring as a result sees new life in no obvious way resembling the origin from which it springs. Biochemical reactions cannot explain where the spark comes from. It is truly a great mystery. We are just now beginning to understand that toxins and radiation can destroy that spark or mutate it into a plant that has no chance of survival. We must learn to protect the “spark” of life.

EACH PLANT HAS ITS OWN ENVIRONMENTAL NEEDS

You cannot generalize about any wild plant-or seed for that matter. Each has its own environmental needs. Study, observation and trial and error are the tools of a good naturalist.

For instance many wild plants do not produce seed until fall and few can be expected to germinate within a few days like garden seeds. Some seeds may not germinate for years and many need cold to prepare them for germination.

Seeds from many wild flowers have embryos that are immature when they are shed from the parent plant. An after-ripening period is necessary to overcome the dormancy of such seeds before germination can take place. (Taylor and Hamblin)

Wild seeds may need a cold moist repository for periods from one month to a year according to species (cold stratification). Some seeds have very hard outer coats that require almost two years of stratification. Plants that need this cold stratification include Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesil).

Some seeds must pass through the gut of animal in order to germinate.  Placing the seeds in a container of hot water can mimic this process.  Here are some directions for this process presented by Washington State University extension service.

“HOT WATER (mimics passage through a stomach or heat from a fire): Boil 3-6 cups of water for every cup of seeds. Don’t use an aluminum pan or softened water, as either might introduce chemicals toxic to seeds. Turn off the heat when it reaches boiling, and let the water cool for a minute or two. Pour the seeds into the water and let them sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Seeds may still need to overwinter or be cold-stratified before they will sprout. Try this technique with Hairy Manzanita (Arctostaphylos Columbian), Kinnikinnick or Common Bearberry, (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), or Snow Brush (Ceanothus velutinus).”

For more tips on how to germinate native plant seeds check out this website put together by the Washington State University extension service.

http://gardening.wsu.edu/text/nvgrowng.htm

THE STRUCTURE OF SEEDS

Fully developed seeds usually consist of an embryo – a tiny plant with a shoot (plumule) and a root (radicle) together with seed leaves (cotyledons) – that is surrounded by a mass of food (endosperm).

Angiosperms

Flowering plants (angiosperms) are divided into two groups.

Monocotyledons have one seed leaf usually parallel veins on leaves, indistinguishable petals and sepals in multiples of three and non woody stems.

The dicotyledons, also known as dicots, have two seed leaves, net-like veins on the leaves, often small green sepals, petals usually in multiples of four or five and thicker stems that may have woody tissue, formed by the (cambium).

Gymnosperms

The seeds of gymnosperms are “naked” or only partly enclosed by tissues of the parent plant. An example would be a conifer cone.  Conifer cone seeds are wind pollinated and seeds form on the scales of the female cones.

Spores are not seeds. Plants such as mosses, liver worts, ferns, club mosses and horse tails reproduce by spores. A spore may look like a seed but is asexual and develops male and female sex organs independently from the plant that bore it.

REFERENCES

*Albert, D.A., 1995. Regional Landscape Ecosystems of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin: A Working Map and Classification. USDA Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. General Technical Report NC-178.Viewed on the web on December 1, 2011 http://www.wildtypeplants.com/gentalk.html

Phillips, Harry R., Growing and Propagating Wild Flowers, An easy-to-use guide for all gardeners, The University of North Carolina Press. Available from NJ Audubon stores and many other retailers.

Taylor, Kathryn S. and Hamblin, Stephen, (1963) Handbook of Wild Flower Cultivation: a guide to wild flower cultivation in the home garden, p.14 The Macmillan Company, NY

VOCABULARY

hybrid n. Genetics . The offspring of genetically dissimilar parents or stock, especially the offspring produced by breeding plants or animals of.

rad·i·cle/ˈradikəl/ – The part of a plant embryo that develops into the primary root.  A root like subdivision of a nerve or vein.

A samara is a type of fruit in which a flattened wing of fibrous, papery tissue develops from the ovary wall. A samara is a simple dry fruit and indehiscent (not opening along a seam). It is a winged achene. The shape of a samara enables the wind to carry the seed farther away than regular seeds from the parent tree as in the maples (genus Acer) and ashes (genus Fraxinus).

Scarify– Scarification means scratching or cracking the hard outer coat of a seed to help it germinate. Some seeds  have outer shells that are extremely hard and don’t allow water through. This is one way a seed stays dormant in the fall and winter, until growing conditions improve.

WEB RESOURCES

Here is a link to a wonderful website put together by Washington State University extension service on propagating native plants from seed. http://gardening.wsu.edu/text/nvgrowng.htm

Read Full Post »

Fenders Blue Butterfly and the Kincaid Lupine

I attended a wonderful talk at the Straub Environmental Center is Salem, Oregon last night.  The speaker Gail Gredler an instructor at our local community college spoke about creating native plant gardens. She answered a lot of questions I had about what is a native plant and why are they important to humans and to the planet.

What is a native plant?

First, according to Gail a native plant can be described as plants growing before European settlements started about 200 years ago. Other sources I found also describe them this way: “A native (indigenous) species is one that occurs in a particular region, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions” (Kartesz and  Morse 1997; Richards 1998

Gredler explained that trying to say what is native and what is not is getting harder because some plant specialists are cloning and messing with the DNA of native plants to create “nativars”.  These mad scientists (my judgment) are creating these bio-modified cloned plants so they can patent the plant and make money on each sale of the plant or its seeds.  Bio-modification is not made with ecosystem health in mind so we don’t know if there will be detrimental effects.  People are beginning to sell the look-alikes as natives and so it is important to find a native plant nursery that is registered.  (See resource list at end of this article).  Insects may or may not recognize the plant chemicals of these “nativars”.  Some research on bio-modified corn and other grain crops are showing that insects will not pollinate the crops because the plant chemicals are toxic to the pollinator. The bio-modified grains are causing issues with human and animal health also.

Insects need native plants to survive.  We need insects alive so that our food and medicine and utility plants can be pollinated and fertilized. Without insects and native plants our biome will experience an ecological collapse.

 Ke Chung Kim an entomologist with Penn State University writes in his book “Biodiversity, conservation and inventory: why insects matter”, that insects and anthropods have existed for more than 400 million years and after surviving the Permian and Cretaceous mass extinctions, arthropods have been the most successful of all living things and along with other invertebrates constitute more than three-quarters essential for human food production, and maintaining rain forests, savannahs and other important components of global water storage in ecosystems.

 Without insects we would experience complete eco-system collapse. Native plants are the only food that many pollinator insects will consume. Without native plants, many insects such as the Fender Blue butterfly, the Franklin’s Bumble Bee (Bombus franklini) and Mason bees (Osmia cascadica) will become extinct.  Bringing native plants back into our environment is essential to the survival of humans, fauna and flora. Once the insects are gone, then will fall the birds, squirrels, foxes, rabbits, deer, and other fauna. The food chain will collapse.

According to Gredler 90% of insects depend on native plants for food. Local insects evolved with native plants and are attracted to particular leaf chemicals.  The leaf chemical allows the insect such as the Fender Blue butterfly and pollinators to find food. Only 10% of insects are generalist feeders.

Here are 7 reasons on why native plants are important according to Gredler.

  1. Resource conservation:  Native plants do not need a lot of extra water. They are drought resistant. Most native plants that would grow in Oregon and (Washington, British Columbia) valleys do not need extra water in the summer time. They need well adapted to our dry summers.
  2. Save on the use of fertilizers and pesticides:  Native plants do not need pesticides. They are already acclimated to insect populations and can take care of themselves, thank you.  Fertilizers are applied sparingly.  Having plants grow in correct soil types is more helpful.
  3. Insects need them to survive. As already mentioned: 90% of insects depend on native plants for their survival. 37% of animal species eat herbivorous insects.
  4. Native plants in landscapes will stop the desertification of Cascadia.
  5. Habitat fragmentation is a hazard to wildlife.  Bringing natives back will stop the ecosystem collapse. Native plants provide food, water, and habitat for wildlife.
  6. Plants are the only thing on the planet that can harvest the sun’s energy and create their own food.
  7. Native plants are not necessarily aggressive and can be out done by non-natives. They will need our help to come back.  We need to stop planting aggressive non-natives like the Butterfly plant.

Here are few more from other sources:

8.  Native plants are important to human health. The vast array of natural chemicals is already the basis for ~25% of all U.S. prescriptions, ranging from aspirin (bark of willow tree) to taxol (bark of pacific yew tree).  These plant based medications easily break down in our ecosystems unlike pharmaceutical synthetic hormones and drugs. Use native plants for healing and stop the chemical soup poisoning of our world.

9. Native plant heritage: plants were used for almost everything that humans needed to survive. Think what the world would be like if we stopped producing toxic plastic “stuff” and went back to living simply with few things, essentials made from plants: clothes, homes (not from trees but from fast growing plant fiber and earth such as in Cob buildings).  Paper not made from our forests but from fast growing plant fibers. Humans lived with this technology for hundreds of thousands of years.  We may have to adjust to new ways of living to survive.

10. Native plants can be used to restore our land.  They easily adapt to harsh conditions and have been used in the repair of streams, meadows, savannahs, forests, and other fragile landscapes.

According to Gredler since the 1840’s over 80 million acres have been taken out of native landscapes.  Landscapes have been paved over, planted in non native turf grass and tilled for non native crops.  Gredler called this process the “desertification of Oregon”.  I call this process the desertification of Cascadia because this destruction of the bio-region is happening everywhere.

According to my other source Kartz and Morse, although only about 737 native plant species are protected by the Endangered Species Act, it is estimated that nearly 25 percent of the 20,000 native plant species in North America are at risk of extinction. It is becoming generally recognized that in order to preserve individual species, their plant communities must be preserved. This includes the preservation of native plants that are not yet in danger of extinction, but still play an important role in native ecosystems.

Native plant species provide the keystone elements for ecosystem restoration. Native plants help to increase the local population of native plant species, providing numerous benefits. There are specific associations of mycorrhizae with plants, invertebrates with woody debris, pollinators with flowers, and birds with structural habitat that can only be rebuilt by planting native plants.

 We need your help.  Begin today to tear out the turf and aggressive non-natives and plant your yards to become a native plant repository and sanctuary.

Resources:

Where to find a list of reputable native plant nurseries in cascadia

1. Online PDF booklet of native plant nurseries in Oregon and Washington

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/yamhill/sites/default/files/wholesale_np_nurseries.pdf

2. Sources of Pacific Northwest native plants – a online Pdf booklet

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/yamhill/sites/default/files/sources_for_native_plants.pdf

3. The plight of the Fenders Blue Butterfly and its relationship to Kincaid’s Lupine

http://www.xerces.org/2010/12/10/saving-the-fenders-blue-butterfly/

If you would like to learn more about the relationship between insects and humans, animals and plants, check out the Xerces Society website at:    http://www.xerces.org

References

Kartesz, John, North Carolina Botanical Garden, and Larry Morse, The Nature Conservancy. 1997. Personal communication

Kim, Ke Chung (1994) Biodiversity and Conservation, Volume 2, Number 3, 191-214, DOI: 10.1007/BF00056668, Center for Biodiversity Research, The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.springerlink.com/content/q465056vr1t45u67/

Read Full Post »

 

Artic Lupine

Salem, Oregon

Amateur Naturalist Series -Landscaping with Natives, Gail Gredler

January 13, Thursday, 7-8:30 pm Program: Creating Native Plant Gardens. Gail Gredler, Instructor of Horticulture at Chemeketa Community College, will explain how to create native plant gardens and landscapes. She will highlight the benefits of gardening with native plants and discuss which plants to use to create a haven for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife. The class costs $5 and is open to the public and is co-sponsored by Willamette Valley Chapter of the Native Plant Societyand the Straub Environmental Learning Center. Location: 1320 A St. NE, next to Olinger Pool, near North Salem High. Registration is required. To register, call John Savage at 503-391-4145. All classes are held at the Straub Environmental Learning Center at 7:00 p.m.  Call or email Alexandra at 503-391-4145 or fselc@fselc.org to register.   Website:  http://www.fselc.org/programs.html

Eugene, Oregon             January 10, Monday, 7:30 pm

Meeting: Bruce Newhouse presents “Delights, Myths and Legends of Native Plant Gardening.” Can midwinter exploration of gardening delights, myths and legends bring spring here sooner? Let’s try it and see! Join us for this presentation on creating “deep gardening” goals that can make a garden both good looking and purposeful. Is there really a difference between planting native or non-native plants in a home garden? Do native Plants have special care needs? Native plants are not easy to find for sale, so where can I get them? These and other questions will be addressed in this show. You can create a small ark of native biodiversity in your yard if you are willing to include native bees, butterflies and birds as part of your inner circle of friends. Sharing between like-minded gardeners will be encouraged during this event. If you would like to read a good primer, try “Bringing Nature Home,” by Douglas Tallamy. Can spring be far behind?

Location: EWEB Training Rm., 500 E. 4th Ave., Eugene. For more info call 541-343-2364.

 Ashland, Oregon

Wildflowers (many of which are endemic and very rare) begin to bloom in the lower altitudes in February and March. The Native Plant Society leads walks throughout the Rogue Valley on Saturday mornings (See www.npsoregon.org)

Tundra Swans

RIDGEFIELD, WASHINGTON

Ridgefield National Wildlife refuge – Annual return of the trumpeter and Tundra Swans also large repository of Wapato and other native water plants.  http://ridgefieldbirds.com/TheRefuge/Birds/ridgefield_NWR_tundra_swan.html

Seattle, Washington – Native Plant Society of Washington

Seattle Chapter     –    Saturday, January 8th

Tradition Lake Plateau, led by Nelson Salisbury and Louise Kulzer
Come join our Chapter Botanist, Nelson Salisbury, and Field Trip Chair, Louise Kulzer, for a bit tamer New Year romp on the Tradition Lake Plateau. It’s not New Year’s Day, but it’ll still get the year off to a great plant start. We’ll peruse the extensive plant list created by Fred and Ann Weinmann and see how many of the choicest mid-elevation plants we can find. Pacific willow, the most upland of the willows, mature ninebark, cherry and a conifer of great girth (was it a hemlock?) are some of the highlights I remember from a past field trip. Wintering waterfowl should be on the lake, Douglas squirrel and woodpeckers are also to be expected. Trip length can range from 3-5 miles, depending on the group’s desires, with moderate elevation gain.Note:  The gate to the parking area is closed, so we’ll meet at the gate and hike the .4 miles in.  Dress warmly! 
Date & Time Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011; 9 AM
Location Meet at the parking area by the trailhead at 9:00 AM. Take I-90 past Issaquah to Exit 20, then turn right on the frontage road to the gate. Note:  The gate to the parking area is closed, so we’ll meet at the gate and hike the .4 miles in. 
Contact Contact Nelson at 206-372-4255 or nelson@earthcorps.org to sign up.
Bring Bring water and a lunch and dress for the weather.

 

Native Plant Identification Workshop

Join Nelson Salisbury, Chapter Botanist, in a free plant identification workshop that is offered before each Chapter meeting at 5:30 PM in CUH, Main Hall.  While the workshop is oriented primarily toward beginners, anyone who wants to work on improving keying skills or their familiarity with the northwest flora is welcome.  Feel free to bring samples of unknown plants in for identification.  We will have plenty of material and tools if you come empty-handed.

Tri-cities – Washington

Koma Kulshan

Winter Twigs and BudsMeet at 9 AM at North Chuckanut Trailhead. We will decide then and there on route, depending on weather and interest.  We might hike four or five miles, but should be back by 3:00.  This winter walk will emphasize identification of deciduous trees and shrubs based on their twigs and buds (copies of a key will be provided).  There is a diverse assortment of native and non-native plants along the upland trails and along the Chuckanut beachfront. Bring lunch, and dress for the weather, including boots for muddy trails. 
Date & Time Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011; 9 AM
Location Meet at 9:00 AM at North Chuckanut Trailhead (the parking lot on Chuckanut Drive south of Old Samish Road and before California Street).
Contact Contact Allan Richardson at 733-5477 or boghill@earthlink.net to confirm. 

http://www.wnps.org/chapter_info/chapter_trips.html

British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia

Thursday January 6, 2011

Presentation: Fabulous fungi of Haida Gwaii
Paul Kroeger 
Until recently, very little was known about the kinds of fungi found on Haida Gwaii. Why should we care? Because fungi play incredibly important roles in ecosystems. Without fungi, we wouldn’t have the rich native plant communities that we have in BC.
Paul Kroeger is one of a team of mycological specialists who has been studying fungi in Haida Gwaii since 2003. He’ll talk about some of the species found there – including some rare species – and about the role of fungi in maintaining the health of our forests and other plant communities.It all happens at 7 p.m in the Cedar Room at VanDusen Botanical Garden, at 37th and Oak in Vancouver.Coming soon:
February 3: Edible plants of Coastal BC with Andy McKinnon
March 3: Flora of White Lake with Terry McIntosh
April 7: Pink Mountain Revisited with Ron Long 

 http://www.npsbc.org/Education/education.htm

Read Full Post »

In 2011 I will be sharing with you why you need to respect and bring native plants into your life.  I will be doing this in a pragmatic way. First I am going to take up the post-a-week challenge made by WordPress and will be updating my blog weekly. 

 I will share with you why it is so imperative that humans stop destroying their natural environment.  I will share with you the science behind why native plants are so important.  I will teach you to identify native plants so that you can start visiting them in the wild places and start bringing them back into your health and wellness regimes, your yards, your cities and biomes.

I will be listing more activities found in Cascadia (the area from British Columbia to Northern California) that will help you connect with the both native plants and those who can teach you what you need to know.

You can help me.

Tell me what is going on in your area of the world that inspires others to protect native plants.  Share inspired comments to this website (skillshare).  Tell others about this website and this project.

I will be learning more about the technology offered by WordPress and available on this website.  I promise to learn how to tweet, digg, RSS, etc. I know I can do it, I know I can do it…

I will be publishing my book as an e-book during 2011.  It will include illustrations and watercolors that I have completed of native plants, plant identification charts, maps, and other useful information.  This book has 18 chapters.  Here is preview of the chapters.

Table of Contents

Introduction: finding our way back, reconnecting with the plant world. 1

Chapter 1. Plant Community, human community (White Oak) 5

Chapter 2. Learning the lay of the land (Oregon Grape) 11

Chapter 3. How to identify and “key” native plants (Miner’s lettuce) 19

Chapter 4. Building shelters from plants (Willow) 27

Chapter 5. Growing your own fibers: Grasses, sedges, tules and fiber plants (Cat-tail) 29

Chapter 6. Seeds and wild plants. What is valuable?. 31

Chapter 7. The great harvest (Wapato) 33

Chapter 8. Digging in the dirt- exploring earthworms and mycelium.. 35

Chapter 9. Using native plants as medicine (Pacific Ninebarks) 37

Chapter 10. Spring plants in Cascadia (Nettles and the potherb) 39

Chapter 11. Stalking the wild plant – Tools, geography, maps (Horsetail) 41

Chapter 12. Fermenting the bounty (Red and Blue Elderberry) 43

Chapter 13. Bringing the native plant and pollinators home. 45

Chapter 14. Twenty important native plants you need to know.. 46

Chapter 15.Place where the spirit dwells- First Nations- the ethnobotany of native plants  47

Chapter 16. Generational Injustice (St. John’s Wort) 49

Chapter 17. Bringing Native plants back into our mechanized world (Cats Claw) 53

Chapter 18.  Resources and Tools: books, gear, online resources. 57

WordPress will not allow me to publish the ebook or link to the ebook on this website so I am looking for other avenues to let you know how to support the Radical Botany project.  I will find a way to let others purchase the book and support this project to educate others about native plants .  I will continue to update this blog weekly and continue to teach what I know and what I am learning. 

  I am looking into starting a non-profit education project.  I hope to locate to a more rural area in Cascadia where I can have a greenhouse and native plant nursery and school.  I want to live next to the forest.

So those are my resolutions for 2011.  I hope that you will contribute in a positive way.

See you in the deep woods – Let us begin…

Happy New Year! 

Read Full Post »

Mistletoe and the Garry Oak Tree

At this time of the year in many western and European countries you will see mistletoe put up as a holiday decoration.  Is it a native plant in the Cascadian bioregion?  Yes.  It is called a hemi-parasitic plant.  That is it lives in a symbiotic relationship with other plants and is also considered a parasite to trees.

There are many myths about the power of mistletoe to bring humans together.  Thus it is the custom of many to place mistletoe above a door and encouraging people to kiss.  In one custom men have the privilege of kissing a woman under it- plucking each time a berry from the stem.  When all the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.

But mistletoe has other important uses to the forest ecosystem.

There are actually three types of mistletoe located in our bioregion. Two live in conifers.  The Douglas dwarf mistletoe (Arceuthobium douglasii) lives in the Douglas fir.  And the Western dwarf mistletoe (arceuthobium campylopodum) is most often found in the Western Hemlock but can also be found on pine, juniper, and other conifer trees.  And last, the most popular type of mistletoe is found in the Garry or White Oak located in oak savannahs throughout the region.

Garry Oak mistletoe (Phoradendro flavescens) is the type popular during our Solstice/Christmas season.  It was long thought to be purely parasitic and might even kill the host tree.  Now, after years of study the plant is actually known to be part of a unique ecosystem that encouraged oak tree propagation.

For instance the name Mistletoe is attributed to old German and old English language and means twig dung.  Because birds eat the seeds and the seeds are deposited in their dung and fertilized. The same birds eat other cone seeds, and acorn’s and carries them to other sites to be planted and fertilized.   The acorn of the Oak is picked up by squirrels that also come to the oak for the berries of the mistletoe.

The mistletoe found in conifers is very unique.  It causes the tree to produced odd shaped branches that grow closely together in a thatch.  This is called a “witches broom”. This type of mistletoe is often overlooked because it occurs high up in the conifer.  This thatch makes a wonderful nesting site for some very vulnerable birds in our region such as the Northern Spotted Owl and the Marbled Murrelet.  A wide range of animals depend on mistletoe for food, consuming leaves, young shoots, transferring pollen between plants and dispersing it’s seeds.

Medicinal aspects of Mistletoe

First peoples and people who live in Western and Northern Europe used Mistletoe to cure aliments of the circulatory and respiratory system.  A tincture or infusion was prepared and the solution was used sparingly.  The overuse of the plant parts can cause gastric problems that can lead to diarrhea or worse. It is not uncommon for a teacher to tell children that the berries are poisonous.

According to the book “A Modern Herbal” by Mrs. M Grieve, mistletoe was traditionally used as an effective treatment for convulsive disorders such as epilepsy. Mistletoe has also been used as an experimental treatment for cancer, though scientific evidence of its effectiveness as a cancer cure is limited. Medicinal forms of mistletoe include teas, tinctures and injections. Mistletoe extracts that are depleted of lectins, one of the toxins in mistletoe, are less likely to produce adverse reactions.

IS Mistletoe poisonous?

Mistletoe can make cats and dogs and children quite ill if ingested in high enough doses. It is best to keep mistletoe up high while decorating.  Young children may think the berries are eatable.  But it is like most powerful healing plants, a very useful plant if used correctly.

In modern times mistletoe has been studied to see if it can treat cancer. It was found to stimulate the immune system increasing the amount of white cells that attack the malignant cells. Much more investigation needs to be done to understand how this happens.  And a homeopathic does of mistletoe was formulated by Rudolph Steiner as he believed that mistletoe diluted (homeopathic) could treat a faltering of the body’s spiritual defenses.    Again it is best to contact a qualified herbalist, naturopath or physician. 

For more about native plants used in celebrations check out this excellent article on Wikipedia called “Festive Ecology

Read Full Post »

Oregon Grape

Oregon grape is one of my favorite plants. It is known by many healers as the goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) of the West Coast. I have used it to heal many ailments, including those of my cat and other animals. I’ve also used it to make dye for wool and basketry and to eat the berries for nutrition. All parts of the plant are valuable and powerful healers.  It is a plant to be respected!

Oregon grape lives in a tight, healthy tribal community, a perfect mirror of how a healthy human community once lived. It is very important to honor that community when harvesting this plant. 

Go to the Oregon grape community with right intent.  If you are a commercial “wild crafter” trying to make your quota, stay away!  Oregon grape is a powerful plant.

Harvesting the Oregon grape

Habitat: The Oregon grape lives throughout the western part of North America, in mountainous areas on wooded slopes that are below 7000 feet. Oregon grape plants exist in a specialized ecological community. Oregon grape roots and thrives under especially powerful healing trees like red cedar, sequoia, and Sitka spruce. 

Intention: Your intention should be first to learn the lesson the plant wants to teach you. Second, you should intend to use this medicinal plant wisely. Third, you should be respectful in harvesting, and fourth, you should always leave thankful for the medicine.

I guess I could also say that what I just shared with you should be the way to harvest all plants.

Selection: Never harvest the largest central plant.  This is the mother plant, a vigorous plant whose roots reach out to the whole community. Sometimes if the community is quite large, there will be more than one mother plant.  Think of these plants as tribal leaders. The largest plants in the community attract certain bacteria to the community soil, and they draw insects, other plant chemicals, and earth worms and other tunneling creatures that feed the community.

The largest plants are not always the ones that have the most color or the strongest medicine.  Be respectful–the plants to harvest are the smaller ones. Oregon grape is best harvested in August or September when it is full of berries.  It is OK if there are a few flowers on the plant.

Find the Oregon grape community. Look out in front of you, and you will see a plant whose leaves are especially green. The berries on the plant will be full and deep blue; the flowers, if still blooming, will be brighter than the others in the community. This plant will be in the outer circle of the community, not too near an animal or human path.

Root Harvest: When harvesting the root, slightly uncover the soil around the plant root. Do not pull up the plant!  Find a side root, not the tap root.  (The tap root is central to keeping the plant alive.  It is the largest central root that provides nourishment for the plant.) Use a sharp knife that has been cleaned with an organic seed oil like olive oil or sunflower seed oil.  Keep this knife clean between harvests.   Always place an offering to the Oregon grape next to the plant.  I carry tobacco, Mayan corn, or sunflower seeds that I grow especially for offerings.  Be thankful.  A root harvest is a wonderful gift from the Earth. I talk to the plant when I am harvesting.  I tell the plant that I will use its root wisely.  I talk about the healing that I need to do and ask for wisdom about the best way to proceed.  I sit with my journal and write down what comes to me about the plant.

Using the Roots

The root of the Oregon grape contains strong medicine. The bright yellow root, a color caused by an alkaloid called berberine, can also be used for dye. Berberine, the most studied of the alkaloids, has been shown to possess fungicidal and antibacterial activities as well as resistance against protozoa such as Giardia lamblia, Trichomonas vaginalis, and Entamoeba histolytica. This is a very powerful healing plant and practitioners should consult a plant healer to learn to make the tinctures and infusions.

The Oregon grape root is the most commonly used part of the plant. Recent studies indicate that M. aquifolium contains a specific multidrug resistance pump inhibitor (MDR Inhibitor) named 5’methoxyhydnocarpin (5’MHC) which works to decrease bacterial resistance to antibiotics and antibacterial agents.1

Oregon grape root is used almost exactly like other Berberis and goldenseal species, as an alterative (an agent that gradually changes a condition), antibiotic, diuretic, laxative, and tonic. It is commonly used internally to detoxify the blood in an effort to cure skin problems, and occasionally it is used as a treatment for rheumatism. In homeopathy, Oregon grape is used as a tincture for skin diseases, like acne, eczema, herpes, and psoriasis.

Using the Berries

Many of the First Peoples of Western Cascadia used the berries for food.  There was no difference between food and medicine for these indigenous peoples.  They recognized that whatever you put into your body caused healing or disease. There was no such thing as recreational food.  Native peoples used a few berries mixed with Salal or some other sweet berries as a staple dried food in the winter months.  Today the berries are made into jelly (mixed with other sweet berries or fruit). The berries are also used medicinally to cleanse the liver and gall bladder and to treat eye problems.  Don’t take all the berries on a plant; leave some for the birds and wildlife.

Using the Stems

The stems of Oregon grape were used by native peoples as a dye.  Stems were shredded with Oregon grape root and soaked, and a bright yellow dye could be extracted from the mixture.  I use sharp clippers to cut branches from a plant. When harvesting the berries and the stems, take a small amount from each plant.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: