From the Archives

I was looking for something in the flatfile and came across this drawing. It was drawn from a plant I collected in 2003, while working on the Pacific Crest Trail. I was heading north from Tacoma Pass, which crosses the Cascades at about 3500 feet in elevation. Directly to the west is the Cedar River watershed, which serves the city of Seattle. The pass itself is a dark place of towering conifers, but the trail north leads through clearcuts of industrial magnitude. When my eyes are offended by the excess of logging, I have learned to look down. There, near my feet, are signs of persistent returning life. Butchered vine maple stobs sprout like many-headed hydras, and thousands of silver fir and hemlock seedlings spread like green fuzz. I noticed a clump of basal leaves with delicate white flowers. It’s not often that I see wildflowers that are new to me, so this was a special day. There were clumps all along the rocky exposed trail. I had no idea what it was, but it reminded me of the campanulas I grow in my garden. When I showed the district botanist, she identified it as Campanula scouleri, Scouler’s bluebell. By the next morning, the white flower had taken on a bluish tint. I pressed it and mounted it in my trail herbarium. The following winter I had time to examine it closely and make the drawing.

My all-time favorite field guide to wildflowers is Washington Wildflowers, published by the Seattle Audubon Society in 1974. It is now out of print. My copy is inscribed with my name and the date 1978. The photo on the cover is nearly worn off, and the pages are falling out. I have other field guides, but I return to this one because it is so complete and is arranged taxonomically. I can usually determine the family of a plant, so turning to that part of the book usually leads me to what I am looking for.

According to this book, there are six Campanulas found in Washington. The one I see most often is the Round-leaved bluebell. It grows in rocky meadows, and is a harbinger of September. Another grows only in the Olympics and still another is from the North Cascades, so I am unlikely to see those without traveling away from my home range. But that leaves two more for me to discover. May I be in the right place at the right time to see Parry’s bluebell and the Rough bluebell! Something to look forward to…