Plants in the Wild

Too Hot to Hike

A heatwave descended on the Pacific Northwest this past wkend and it has not been kind to people, pets and plants. Fortunately, a friend and I got out to sunny Catherine Creek on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge before the wildflowers fried and the heat nailed us to the wall.

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I often blog about botanizing in the Columbia Gorge but I'm not sure I ever showed you an overview of the place. Looking west along the Columbia River from the Washington side, sitting daintily amidst blue lupine, meet my piano teacher/plant buddy Megan Hughes. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

Although the weather's been a crap shoot here and everywhere these last eight weeks, it's been very kind to native plants. I've been lucky enough to follow the entire wildflower progression in both the pouring rain and the odd moment of shine. The shine, of course, is hell for photographs (most of you are way ahead of me, based on your Flickr pix), but I now have a camera that can take it...as soon as I figure out how to point it.

One of the last gasps of tall, starry camassia in this wildflower reserve: a wet shaded depression w

One of the last gasps of tall, starry camassia in this wildflower reserve: a wet shaded depression with filtered light and your basic, moss-crusted, picturesque stump. You know the moment, just your basic reason to live. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

This documents my last '08 trip to Catherine's Creek. It's time to move back into the forest and get ready for the next wave of bloom. On lower elevations we'll soon be seeing Lilium columbianum, our wild orange lily. On higher elevations I'll get to relive what I've already seen.

But I count on Catherine Creek for two serious sun-lovers: purple penstemon on west-facing cliffs, and bitterroot, which turns hot rock into moonscapes of bloom.

bitterroot

Bitterroot was collected by Meriwether Lewis (get it, Lewisia?), who shipped home dried roots of the plant. This sweet thing's ability to come back from what appears to be a dessicated death explains its second name, R. rediviva, (Latin, revived), though feel free to argue it was also named in honor of the the Columbia Rediviva. photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption photo credit: Ketzel Levine, NPR

I wish I could put into words for those of you who don't or can't hike in wild places what it means to revisit the same wild populations year after year. Even the Obama campaign can't deliver this kind of hope.

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Native plants are the wave of the future, the sustainable future. They make sense, they save $, they are good for the environment, and they are beautiful. The right plant for the right spot, selected by nature over millenia of evolution.

Sent by Arvind Kumar | 10:33 PM | 5-21-2008

What a sweet column this week. Thank you. There is nothing like the "natural" and being amongst it is the best. I'm fortunate to be close to this all the time.

Sent by Sondra | 12:27 PM | 5-22-2008