As the old year fades and the new one emerges, Botanical Rambles counts down 2016 with ten heartfelt shout outs to some of the people who work for the native plants of Washington State. And as the clock runs down, don’t forget to make that all-important year-end donation to the Washington Native Plant Society.
This highly idiosyncratic collection of praise is by no means all-inclusive. I’d love to hear from you: who, what, when, and where are your native plant heroes of the past year?
1. “We learned so much!”
By all reports, the Washington Native Plant Society Study Weekend was a rousing success, despite challenging weather. Held June 17–19, and sponsored by the Wenatchee Valley Chapter and the Central Washington Chapter, it was based at the Wenatchee River Institute in Leavenworth.
The most valuable lesson learned: “The value of a good golf umbrella in the rain, carried by the smartest (and driest) person on the hike”!
Here is an excerpt of one field trip report, by Laura Potash:
Tronsen Ridge, led by Keyna Bugner. Any adjectives for our team members (intrepid, hardy, foolhardy, etc.) already used for other WNPS trip reports on this wintery June day apply here, but in spite of the nasty weather we had fun.
All-wheel drive and high clearance is definitely recommended for the approach to the trailhead at the end of Five Mile Road, and our trip leader’s command of the vehicle was truly impressive.
The hike was a relatively gentle climb through meadows, forests, and eventually some nice rocky outcrops, with Lewisia tweedii (Tweedy’s lewisia), Lewisia columbiana (Columbia lewisia). Rumor has it there are great views…
We collected several plants to bring back to town for ID, and were warmly welcomed by the staff at O’Grady’s Pantry (just off Icicle Creek Road), where we hung out with hot drinks, Hitchcock, and merrily keyed plants for the remainder of the afternoon.
2. Celebrating Pam Camp and Gary Smith, New WNPS Fellows
The newest WNPS Fellows were announced at the Study Weekend. Being named a WNPS Fellow is the highest honor given by WNPS, and it recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to the understanding or preservation of Washington’s flora or to the success of WNPS.
Since 1981, Pam has contributed to WNPS in a variety of roles at the state and chapter levels, leading the formation of both the Northeast and Wenatchee chapters and serving as chair or co-chair of both chapters.
As the Wenatchee Valley board noted, “During her professional career as a botanist, she coordinated the Bureau of Land Management’s rare plant and restoration programs for Washington State, which included field studies on rare plant populations and restoration for sage grouse habitat … In Wenatchee, Pamela initiated and led annual wildflower walks for the public, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.
She has been a champion of developing plant species lists, motivated by her deep understanding that species lists are effective learning tools for others … Seeing a need for the public to value native plants and habitats in central Washington, Pamela produced Washington Watchable Wildflowers: A Columbia Basin Guide.”
More recently, she co-edited, provided leadership, and raised funds for the publication in 2011 of the Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Washington (University of Washington Press in collaboration with WNPS). She helped bring this 15-year project to completion.
Pam has served the WNPS State Board since 1981 and chaired the WNPS Plant Inventory and Research Committee since 2003
Gary joined the Washington Native Plant Society in 1999 and enrolled and successfully completed the Native Plant Stewardship Program in 2000.
As Catherine Hovanic wrote, “Gary took his volunteer commitment to the Society above and beyond what any of us could have envisioned at the time. He immersed himself in habitat restoration projects, public education activities, public outreach, WNPS administration, and the Native Plant Stewardship Program.”
Gary logged an incredible 10,804 stewardship volunteer hours from 2005 through 2015 and made 4,064 contacts for the program.
Rob Smith described Gary’s work on the Native Plant Stewards Program: “Through his dedication and the commitment of extraordinary time, effort and perseverance, Gary defined, developed, and executed (multiple times) a model program for the training of ordinary citizens into advocates and stewards of our native plants and lands… And largely because of these local efforts, the Society has been presented an opportunity to expand aspects of the program state-wide.”
Gary also served as WNPS State Treasurer for many years as well as on the Central Puget Sound Chapter board and continues to serve on the WNPS State Board of Directors.
3. Speaking of Native Plant Stewards…
The WNPS Stewardship Program celebrated its 20th year in 2016 by announcing the expansion of the program statewide—made possible by a generous gift from Jane and John Titland.
At the end of 2015, 24 training classes had been completed, with 562 steward graduates contributing more than 145,000 volunteer hours.
Expanding the program, with the critical staff support of Jim Evans, has meant adapting curricula to reflect each chapter’s unique circumstances.
The South Sound Chapter Stewardship Program, serving Tacoma and Olympia, delivered a training that was shorter and more accessible to working people than the 10-week, 100-hour model used by the Central Puget Sound Chapter. Twenty-seven people, including two auditors, started the program. Twenty-two completed the coursework in May 2016, and are now giving back to the community.
A Wenatchee Valley Native Plant Stewardship Program completed in October 2016. And applications are due for the WNPS Master Native Plant Stewardship Program on January 17, 2017.
4. Gardens and Plant Sales and Nurseries…
Native plant lovers recognize the power of public gardens to educate and delight. One new example is the Pollinator Garden at the Thurston Conservation District Headquarters, supported by the South Sound Chapter. It was planted as part of the district’s annual plant sale with help from the public. A grant from the chapter helped supply plants and signage.
Several chapters organize plant sales—and they are already recruiting volunteers for upcoming spring events. Enthusiastic gardeners and restoration practitioners are propagating and nurturing plants for future projects and tree-plantings.
5. Hurrah for the Chapters!
The smaller chapters of the Washington Native Plant Society deserve special recognition. Often kept going by just a few devoted volunteers, these chapters nonetheless put on tempting arrays of talks and field trips.
Hip Hip Hooray for Suksdorfia Chapter
Down along the mighty Columbia Gorge, this chapter hosted:
- James Cassidy on Soils and Native Plants
- Robert Michael Pyle on Native Plant Journaling
- Rick Shory on Grass Recognition
- Rachel Suits on Native Plant “Beesiness”
- And hikes to Catherine Creek, Dalles Mountain, Ekone Ranch, Conboy Lake, and Hood River Meadows, among others.
Bravo, San Juan Islands Chapter
I had to laugh when I read this chapter’s annual activities report:
“Best Accomplishment: Getting Andy MacKinnon over to San Juan Island for a weekend.” Last February, their annual meeting included this talk by Andy, “Cool Plants and Their Fungal Friends” along with a field trip to Mount Grant.
This chapter’s challenge “continues to be getting members involved and transportation between islands.”
Maybe we need a WNPS boat?
Well done, Salal Chapter
After suffering the deep loss of Susan Alaynick’s unexpected death last fall, I honor the Salal Chapter for soldiering on. Many thanks to Brenda Cunningham, Jean Birdsall, and Kathy Murray who continue the important work of administering the chapter.
The chapter invited Spokane author Jack Nisbet to speak in May on “Some Exceedingly Interesting Things: The Many Gardens of David Douglas.” Jim Clark, of the Pilchuck Audubon Society, spoke on attracting birds and wildlife to backyards using native plants.
Congratulations Koma Kulshan chapter
The chapter in Bellingham gets my vote for the some of the most intriguing program titles this year:
- Examining the Bee’s Knees: Hidden Gems in the Corbicula
- Flying Flowers of the Fourth Corner: The Butterflies of Whatcom County
- Boss Mosses: Reading Moss Landscapes in the Pacific Northwest
- A Seedy (Under)world: Commercial Nursery Propagation of Native Plants from Seed
6. Let’s hear it for Clay and the Board!
Clay Antieau, as WNPS President, and the WNPS State Board of Directors wrestle with knotty and decidedly non-botanical questions. Thank you for this—I appreciate that your passion for plants sees you through the meetings and documents and details for the benefit of us all.
As Clay has written:
“WNPS continues to be supported by a tireless body of volunteers that implement the WNPS mission day-to-day. WNPS continues to be importantly supported by the financial generosity of its members. And, of course, WNPS continues to be the state’s main advocate for protecting, understanding, and appreciating native plants and native plant ecosystems. But, there’s work to do.”
He’s laid out these priorities and challenges:
- Reduce the society’s operating costs
- Improve membership and customer service
- Become a more efficient, effective, and sustainable
- Increase membership and participation
- Ensure that WNPS communications provide high value and quality
7. Blessed are the grant makers…
- The Conservation Committee promotes the conservation of Washington’s native plants and addresses local and national issues affecting our flora.
- The Education Committee provides grants for education projects that further the goals of the WNPS.
- The Research and Inventory Committee helps fund floristic surveys and other research on the biology of native plants.
8. Hats off to the staff!
Denise Mahnke is the business manager.
Elizabeth Gage is the Office and Volunteer Coordinator (full disclosure: she’s my sister).
They do everything: staff the office, answer the phone, mail the calendars, wrangle the database, herd the cats.
We don’t pay them enough for herding us all!
Back in the day, WNPS had no staff. Volunteers did everything.
It was hard. I was there (except…there was no “there” because we had no office).
We are lucky to have them. And if you donate, we can keep this behind-the-scenes stuff where it belongs!
9. Publications—Ohh Yea!
2016 is the year that Douglasia came out in COLOR. It’s so great to see beautiful wildflowers and smiling faces in full color. I love it. Thank you Mary Johnson for your excellent work as managing editor.
2016 is the year that Kathy Murray retired from the Editorial Committee. We miss you Kathy! Thank you so much for all your years steering Douglasia and other WNPS publications.
2016 is the year the Editorial Committee and the WNPS Board began discussing the future of WNPS publications:
- How much to embrace electronic vs. print?
- How to control costs—and who knew that color could actually be cheaper than black and white?
- What kinds of content do we want online vs. in print?
In 2017, we’ll be asking you to weigh in about WNPS publications and communications.
- What do you like?
- What do you want more of or less of?
- How do you want to get your WNPS news?
10. Most important: YOU
As WNPS closes out 2016—and its 40th year—thank you for your interest in native plants and their habitats in Washington State (and, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading through this extra-long blog post!)
Let’s continue to share our common interest in Washington’s unique and diverse flora. We represent all levels of botanical knowledge, from professionals and experienced amateur botanists, to beginners just becoming curious about the beautiful plants and habitats of our state.
Conservation and advocacy make the Washington Native Plant Society the voice for native plants. Our greatest conservation work is on-the-ground and around the state where hundreds of Society members volunteer their time to restore habitats, strive for good conservation policies, conduct native plant inventories, and monitor rare plant populations.
And for the fun of it…
We’ll end (finally!) with another field trip report from the 2016 Study Weekend. This one is by Patricia Otto:
Leavenworth Ski Hill, led by Connie McCauley. We enjoyed comfortable temperatures, sunlight, beautiful views of the town, the valley, and the canyons that enter it, as we hiked the cross-country ski trails and bike trails on the hillside.
Connie McCauley provided an up-to-date plant list and a running commentary on the flora, which she had obviously studied and loved. Blooming Philadelphus lewisii (Lewis’s mock orange) perfumed the trail and Holodiscus discolor (ocean-spray) was also in bloom.
Plant highlights included a small group of Cephalanthera austiniae (phantom orchids) and another group of Cypripedium montanum (mountain lady’s slipper). The Eriogonum elatum (tall buckwheat) was huge and in full bloom with its large sprays of pink flowers and Paeonia brownii (Brown’s peony) was amazing as ever with its remarkable foliage and large, fat, sausage fruits…
All in all, a delightful day in good company—both people and flowers.
May your 2017 be full of them.