Plants in the Wild

I Sing the Wildflower Blue

tip of camassia

hide captionThe aqua-tinged, smoky-blue bud tip of native camassia.

photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

Never mind the body electric, mine doesn't seem to much sizzle and sing anymore, but it's no small compensation to have the time, patience and appetite for hanging out with wildflowers which, this very week along the Columbia Gorge, have burst into audacious blues. We're talking a color wave of genera that includes nothing less than lupine (a dozen different species!), forget-me-not, larkspur (a half dozen!) and pools of multi-hued camassia which I most enjoy in bud.

camassia opening from bottom up

hide captionDoing its very best to impersonate a delphinium, behold the Northwest native Camassia. We gotta million of them. Question: is this simply C. quamash or subsp. breviflora? The pictures/descriptions in my wildflower guide don't quite settle the dispute.

photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

Camas is the Pacific Northwest for many people, certainly for my neighbor's mother who saw fields of them when she arrived in Oregon (a young woman traveling alone from Arkansas) and decided this was where she belonged. And camas has kept untold thousands of indigenous people alive over the millennia, even the not-so-indigenous as described in this excerpt from the Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes:

On their trek to the west coast, Lewis and Clark saw vast meadows filled with the blue flowers of camas, noting that they looked like lakes in the distance. The hospitable indigenous people rescued the expedition from starvation offering them, among other foods, baked camas bulbs...Humans cannot easily digest raw camas blubs, so they were always cooked first...No matter how they were prepared, poor Meriwether Lewis found the bulbs indigestible, but they helped keep the Corps of Discovery alive...

...unlike the meadow death camas, Zigadenus venenosus, which is also blooming this week. One of my field guides, Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest notes that much to their later upset, members of the L&C expedition ate this bulb as well.

So, I showed you, now you show me. Natives in the woods, on the roads, by the stream? Post those pix at the Talking Plant Flickr Group and I'll share the best on the blog. If you're not flickr friendly yet, here's how.



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Now you've gone and made this Idaho girl (living elsewhere a quarter of a century now) hopelessly homesick! We lived in Boise, but my grandparents lived in the central Idaho mountains, and the valley was a blanket of blue in the spring. Thanks for the memory . . .
Of course, the dogwoods and azaleas were especially beautiful here in metro Atlanta today, so there's always some consolation to be found!
Would you be interested in a peek at some of the natives here in Georgia?

Sent by Julie | 8:19 PM | 4-15-2008

Love you on the radio my only complaint about your blog is that it is way too easy to spend way too much time here. On hummers ??? I had a female black-chinned nest in the apricot tree behind my house for two years in a row (and the second year she followed her first nest in back with a second on my front porch, incubating again as soon as the first batch flew). You can see pictures of the babies growing up on my website:

I was as respectful as possible, going out only once a day (at most), and I think that her return suggests that she was not too terribly bothered by this. Alas, I have now moved from that house, so I won???t know if she returns again, but now

From what I have read, all species of hummers always lay two eggs my hummer did so in all three cases I saw, but in the one (the first I saw, which I assumed to be her first) it was proven that a single baby can survive. And the next two showed that three fledglings might be a bit much for that tiny nest. See what you think.

Again, according to books whose names I cannot name because I don???t remember them, the babies eat mostly gnats and tiny spiders ??? in fact, I have read that for one period in their growth, the mama collects only spiders for them. I watched the mama collecting from the webby corners of the porch, but neglected to take note of exactly when this was. (Alas, I???m a somewhat random scientist.)

Anyway, this is what I have to offer. Hope you enjoy the show!

Sent by Cedar Smith | 12:19 PM | 4-16-2008

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