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Goose Rock and Pass Island — April 2008

It's Spring, and time to start looking at those vascular plants sometimes loosely referred to as "flowers". I'll make a futile attempt to describe the very early flowers that I'm seeing at Goose Rock and Pass Island. Currently, there's a lot of road construction near Deception Pass State Park, but accessing these two particular areas isn't so bad. All page references that follow are to Pojar and Mackinnon’s Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast.

To reach Goose Rock, park in the lot just south of the second bridge at Deception Pass. Walk down the steps at the north end of the lot which will take you below the bridge. At the bottom, follow the signs onto the Goose Rock summit trail. After about .4 miles, you will come out of the tree line near the top, and you can either move toward the high point at the left or the one to your right. In your flower search, try the rocky, grassy terraces just below the high points CAUTION, ROCKS CAN BE SLIPPERY.

Notice the flecks of blue which mark the presence of Collinsia parviflora (Small-Flowered Blue-Eyed Mary, p.263). The corollas are fairly tiny, about 4 – 7 mm long, and the plants really hug the ground.

More noticeable are the bright yellow patches often growing in the pale green, fuzzy cushion of the Nyphotrichum moss (formerly Racomitrium). These yellow patches are mounted on umbel-like branching and are known as Lomatium utriculatum (Spring Gold, p.222).

At the base of some of the rocks, you may see a very distinctive dark green bottle brush-like moss with bright reddish brown tops known as Polytrichum piliferum (Awned Haircap Moss, p. 452). These little red spots are the "perigoniums" or reproductive chambers of the male plants. This typically unbranched moss has silvery tips on the leaves that are about 2 millimeters long. No other Polytrichum in our area has leaves with such a long, clear awn.

After returning to your car, drive back north to the small parking lot between the two bridges. When you put your feet on the ground, you will be walking on Pass Island. For your safety, consider taking a pole along; the rocks are sometimes treacherous, especially if you go any distance along the informal path. There are steps leading down to the path along side the bridge and on the way you’ll pass some flowering Ribes sanguineum (Red Flowering Currant, p. 84). Along the path, watch for a good-sized six-petaled blue flower with golden anthers, called Sisyrinchium. I think it's Sisyrinchium douglasii (Satin Flower, p. 115) and it’s numerous here on Pass Island. Finally, you may spot Saxifraga integrifolia (Grassland Saxifrage). Look for a single succulent, extremely glandular stalk with pale yellow flowers containing 10 anthers, 5 petals. The basal leaves are spoon-shaped and fuzzy.

Updated: July 3, 2016
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