Join me for a Spring woodland stroll, followed by a stop at an unusual market on the way home…
Trilliums are lighting up the woods. This elegant wildflower was rare where I grew up, in upstate New York. When I found one it would be a thrill, and I’d run home to tell my mother. Later, when I lived in and around New York City, I had to travel far afield to find any at all. Here in the Pacific Northwest, they are quite common in the woodlands. On a Sunday walk at a nearby preserve, we were struck by the way the trilliums were scattered through the forest – sometimes along the path, other times back behind the evergreens, always adding grace to the surroundings.
The Western white trillium, Trillium ovatum, is related to similar flowers in Japan, China and the Himalayas. The trillium I sought as a child is Trillium grandiflorum, an eastern North American species that’s a little bigger. It’s a desirable garden plant, providing a striking accent to woodland gardens in Spring. It is difficult to propagate though, with a low seed germination rate and years until its first flowering. Apparently, many trillium plants sold in nurseries are collected from the wild instead of grown from seed. Herbalists collect the plants too (it’s also called bethroot, or birthroot). There’s no clinical evidence as yet that it works, but indigenous peoples in this area also had uses for trilliums.
We were struck by the size of this tree in a stand of Western Hemlock. When I looked closer I realized it wasn’t one of the typical evergreens we see around here – the Douglas firs, the hemlocks, the cedars. With binoculars, we peered way, way up to the top to find a growing branch. I saw long needles and realized it was a pine. Pines are unusual in our area but plentiful just over the Cascade Mountains, on the drier side of Washington.
The ground was littered with pine cones and needles – I could have put two and two together, but the mind is stubborn, isn’t it? I just didn’t expect a pine in this forest.
It’s a Western White Pine. I found out later that there would be more of them if a fungus that arrived in Vancouver, Canada, a century ago hadn’t gotten loose and killed most of them. But this one survived, and it was impressive.
Across the path, two Vine maple leaves from last year adhered to a felled log. The land once belonged to a local family that homesteaded here in 1898. The family periodically logged the woods, and you see the evidence of their labors here and there. Luckily that giant pine went uncut.
The property was appraised at well over 4 million dollars a decade ago, when government and conservation groups joined to purchase and protect it. It includes important salmon streams. So much land is parceled out and sold in pieces over the years, but this area stayed in the family, and the family did the right thing by selling it for preservation. Their old log cabin may still be there, but we’ll have to go back another day to see.
Light streamed through a curtain of Western Hemlock branches –
The Red Huckleberry was budding. It has green stems and branches, and a delicate, slightly zigzag growth habit.
Punctuating the wild experience with a more domestic one, we stopped at a market which is attached to a nursery. The market sells locally grown veggies, and eggs from their own chickens. They also keep a few sheep, goats, ducks and peacocks, so families often stop by for a free mini zoo experience. It’s a lot of fun. The peacocks were in splendid form, doing their thing for the females, who of course ignored them. Their feathers vibrate as they display, making an interesting sound, and even from behind they are amazing. I was thinking how wonderful it is that this crazy, spectacular bird can live well in captivity, allowing so many people the pleasure of being moved by its beauty.
While we were admiring the peacocks an employee drove by in a beat up pick-up truck to gather the eggs. The truck bed was filled with wide bowls holding dozens of pastel colored eggs. I think this coop was his last stop – where could he fit any more? The truck bed was full and the passenger seat was, too.
And yes, the chickens were mad.
Flowers were set out in front of the market. I was struck by the similarities and differences between the white tulips and the trilliums I’d admired earlier.
Two Spring flowers – both elegant, white, in threes and sixes (leaves, petals, stamens) – one long domesticated, the other will probably never be tamed.
There is something comforting about a walk in a wild woodland, followed by another walk in a managed outdoor space. Both were vibrant with the colors, sounds and smells of nature in Spring.