Native Plants

Found the first trilliums (Trillium ovatum) today on a west-facing slope at 4300 feet elevation. The snow has been gone for a week and a half, maybe. These tender green leaves poke up through the soft soil and unfold, to reveal the purest white petals. Like violets, I have known these flowers my whole life, and I never tire of finding them. Every spring is a joyous reunion.

This week, the Washington Native Plant Society celebrates native vegetation. Living here in the rain shadow of the Cascades, I enjoy a great abundance and variety of native vegetation. To the west are plant communities that thrive on moisture, cooler temperatures, and higher elevations. To the east, it’s a little drier and warmer. Turn the corner, cross a slope, head up a draw–you will find something different within a short distance. The area is a geological jumble, with volcanic, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks contributing to a variety of soil conditions. The plants depend on the terrain and climate. This is not a dull place to be a plant-lover.

As the snow melts, the trail crew will follow spring deeper into the mountains, and I will still be finding trilliums in early July. One week is not nearly long enough to celebrate native vegetation. Go out and discover for yourself how conifers are woven into our life here. Now is the moment for the soft green-bronze of emerging cottonwood leaves. The silvery leaves of sagebrush are plump with rain, and the balsamroots under the pines turn their yellow sunflower faces to the sky. Go out there and see for yourself what grows and blossoms after winter ends.

Emerging larch buds against the bark of the tree (Larix occidentalis)