Susan Alaynick, chairperson of the Salal Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society, offers this personal look at spring flowers in Washington Park, Anacortes. The Salal Chapter serves Skagit, Island, and Northern Snohomish counties.
Washington Park is an Anacortes city park lying on the west edge of Fidalgo Island. If you keep heading west past the San Juan Islands ferry terminal, you’ll get there. And here’s a trail map for when you do.
This walk was my first exposure to the Native Plant Society – and I was hooked. Washington Park is a remarkably well preserved natural area with many spring flowers that are not common elsewhere in western Washington.
This walk is along the paved Loop Road through the park in a counterclockwise direction. It begins near the main parking lot and restroom. The auto road opens to cars at 10 AM. The total length of the walk is about 2.2 miles.
Only a few of the more recognizable or colorful plants are on this list. The WNPS web site has a more complete plant list for Washington Park.
|First straight road section:|
|Red flowering currant||Ribes sanguineum||Early spring|
|Siberian miner’s lettuce||Claytonia sibirica||Early spring|
|Large-leaved avens||Geum macrophyllum||Mid-spring|
|Pacific water parsley||Oenanthe sarmentosa||Late spring|
|Mountain sweet cicely||Osmorhiza chilensis||Late spring|
|Pacific sanicle||Sanicula crassicaulis||Late spring|
|Rattlesnake plantain||Goodyera oblongifolia||Summer|
|Past big fir hanging over water to large meadow on right with sign board and tables (Green Point). Check the furthest portion near the woods.|
|Western buttercup||Ranunculus occidentale||Early spring|
|Few-flowered shooting star||Dodecatheon pulchella||Mid-spring|
|Bare stem lomatium||Lomatium nudicaule||Mid-spring|
|Chocolate lily||Fritillaria lanceolata||Mid-spring|
|Nodding onion||Allium cernuum||Late spring|
|Road then turns left at area with concrete stairs down to the beach and after awhile turns right and goes up to an area with a concrete bench on the right.|
|Spring gold||Lomatium utriculatum||Early spring|
|Fairy slipper orchid||Calypso bulbosa||Early spring|
|Small blue-eyed Mary||Collinsia parviflora||Early spring|
|White fawn lily||Erythronium oreganum||Mid-spring|
|Tiger lily||Lilium columbianum||Late spring|
|Common blue camas||Camassia quamash||Late spring|
|Road makes a U-turn to the left then curves right and continues for about 1 mile to a parking area on the other side of the park where there is a large old juniper overlooking Burrows channel.|
|Sea blush||Plectritis congesta||Early spring|
|Meadow death camas||Zygadenus venenosus||Late spring|
|Continue along road to the Havekost Memorial on the right side of the road.|
|Yellow monkey flower||Mimulus guttatus||Mid-spring|
|Small flowered woodland star||Lithophragma parviflora||Mid-spring|
|Grassland saxifrage||Saxifraga integrifolia||Mid-spring|
|Sea thrift||Armeria maritima||Late spring|
The Salal Chapter sponsors plant walks in the spring on Tuesday mornings at 10 AM at Washington Park, Deception Pass State Park and other nearby sites. Look for them in the spring Salal Chapter newsletter or the WNPS field trip listings.
The names of the plants are from Pojar and Mackinnon Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Times of blooming are early, mid, or late spring and depend upon the weather.
The park also has an interesting geology. You’ll notice sparsely-forested areas with reddish soil. Cathy McDonald noted in the Seattle Times that the park’s “peninsula is made of a rare wedge of Jurassic-age rocks (called the Fidalgo ophiolite) which ended up here after a lot of complicated tectonic-plate action.”
Many plant species can’t tolerate the type of soil here, filled with naturally-occurring nickel, cobalt, and chromium. But, as Cathy notes, pod fern (Aspidotis densa), thrives here.
Photo of camas and death camas at Washington Park was taken by former WNPS member, Dorothy Lechenby. The image was donated to the WNPS after Dorothy’s death. Dorothy photographed extensively throughout Whidbey Island and the adjacent mainland.