Gleanings 2017

As we say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018, I’m cleaning up, cleaning out, and looking ahead! Flipping through my electronic and paper files, I found a number of items that didn’t make it into Botanical Rambles in 2017 that I still wanted to share with you.

I grew up reading the columnist Herb Caen in the San Francisco Chronicle. He practiced what he called “three dot journalism,” in which he connected short news pieces…or anecdotes…or tasty gossip…with ellipses. Though I can’t hope to emulate the expertise of the late, great, Caen…here are a few gleanings I hope you enjoy.

Paul Auster on Weeds…

Every week, The New York Times Book Review includes an author’s responses to a set of questions. In the January 15, 2017 edition, Paul Auster answered the question,

What’s your favorite book that no one else has heard of?

“Weeds of the West,” a 628-page, profusely illustrated handbook written by a team of 40 weed specialists and published by the Western Society of Weed Science. The color photographs are splendid to look at, but what I love most about the book are the names of the wildflowers themselves. Bur chervil. Spreading dogbane. Skeletonleaf bursage. Nodding beggarticks. Bristly hawksbeard. Tansy ragwort. Blessed milkthistle. Poverty sumpweed. Prostrate spurge. Everlasting peavine. Panicle willowweed. Ripgut brome. There are hundreds of them, and the pure pleasure of reading those words out loud to myself never fails to lift my mood. The poetry of the American earth.

Weeds of the West (which many readers of Botanical Rambles know well!) is now available as a free download from the University of Wyoming.

The Royal Horticultural Society on Two Washington Native Plants…

In a “Pollution Special” section of the December 2017 issue of The Garden, Western red cedar (Thuja plicata) is on a list of trees and shrubs that can trap and remove particulate air pollution in urban settings. They write that it is an “evergreen conifer that forms an excellent, dense hedge, and provides shelter for birds and other wildlife.”

In the same issue, the horticulture luminary Roy Lancaster celebrates his 80th birthday by discussing several plants that are favorites in his own garden. Here is what he has to say about a fern that’s ubiquitous in western Washington forests:

“Finally—one for the Christmas party, adults as well as children, Polystichum munitum (sword fern) from western North America is a hardy wintergreen species forming bold clumps, especially in moist shade. Its laddered fronds provide a game based on lung capacity. The idea is to take a deep breath before counting out loud individual frond segments from the base. Whosoever gets nearer to the frond tip without a second breath wins.”

That’s a new game for me! Perhaps we can play it on some field trips this year.

Speaking of Field Trips…

Lots of good times ahead, and it’s not too soon to sign up.

The 2018 Study Weekend, Rainbows of Wildflowers: Celebrating the Botanical Diversity of the Columbia Gorge will be May 4–6, sponsored by the Suksdorfia and South Sound Chapters of the Washington Native Plant Society.

Botany Washington 2018, featuring the late spring flora of the Washington Coast and Willapa Bay, will be June 8–10.

Each Washington Native Plant Society chapter offers field trips through the year and programs fall through spring.

Let’s Not Take It For Granted…

Linda Irrgang wrote recently:

I often remember one spring, I was hiking with my husband and grandkids high in the upper reaches of Yellowstone National Park. The landscape was steep and rocky but so beautiful, like so many places here in Washington State. We encountered a man kneeling on the ground, and wondered what he was doing.

As we approached, he looked up and said hello in a heavy French accent, introducing himself as a professor of botany from Grenoble. When he realized that I spoke French, the floodgates just opened!

“Do you realize the treasure what you have here? We have nothing left of our precious wildflowers in all of the Alps. Even at the highest and most remote areas, all is gone.” He was so emotional that he was almost crying.

My 13-year-old grandson was rather taken aback, but also impressed. During our brief conversation, the professor couldn’t be emphatic enough about how this floral richness needed desperately to be protected.

We parted, but our family continued to discuss the incident as we hiked on, and later in the car. Even now, we remember his plea to us to be stewards of nature’s gifts, her priceless treasures.

It’s Always the Right Time …

Thank you for reading Botanical Rambles and supporting the work of the Washington Native Plant Society. I’m wishing you all the best for the months to come, and I hope you enjoy many opportunities to learn more, share more, and empower more care for Washington’s heritage of plant diversity.

It’s always the right time to donate to the Washington Native Plant Society and continue this important work.

And Let’s Give Georgia O’Keefe a Final Word…

“Still, in a way, nobody sees a flower, really. It is so small. We haven’t the time and to see takes time, like to have friends takes time…”