LOCAL WALKS: (Wild)Flower Show, Part 1

Part 1 of a series celebrating Spring wildflowers on Fidalgo Island, Washington.

*

1. The Satin-flower (Olsynium douglasii).

*

The flower show that I look forward to every winter

isn’t at a convention center in a major city. It’s entirely local –

not quite in my backyard but close to it.

Our winter is chilly, damp, and rather dark. We don’t contend with deep freezes

like other regions – in fact, the winter landscape is almost verdant with evergreens –

trees, shrubs, even hardy ferns are green all year. But trust me,

dragging through week after week of gray, 40-degree days

wears people down.

One almost wishes for a blizzard to break the tedium.

A flower show would do…

But I console myself by bundling up and taking walks. I suss out interesting

compositions involving a slice or two of light amidst the prevailing dark.

I dig deep into it and begin to appreciate the Northwest gloom

even as I long for spring and wonder when

I’ll see the first subtle signs that say

the parade is just around the corner.

Then, late in January, signs begin to appear –

buds swell, licorice ferns spring to life, and

the earliest leaves surface amidst winter’s detritus.

*

*

I grow more impatient.

Two weeks later the miracle materializes:

on the tenth of February the first tender wildflowers

grace an island meadow.

A perfect raised cup of celebratory, satin-purple petals.

I feast.

Unarmored against frigid winds or late snowstorms,

the delicate Satinflower sparks cold meadows alive.

It almost breaks my heart –

such joy after the long, dark winter.

*

3. February 10th: the first Satinflowers.

*

My eyes light up

like the light gathering outside.

Days are lengthening, temperatures are rising, and soon, down at the beach

tough leaves are bursting through gray piles of winter’s storm-tossed driftwood.

In the forested wetland, Swamp lanterns poke their yellow dunce-capped heads through the fertile muck.

I know it in my bones now: life is moving inexorably forward.

The (Wild)flower show is getting underway.

*

4. March 2nd: the first Red-flowering currant bud debuts.

*

March began with a thrilling frisson of intense color: the Red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum).

Show me one bud on a currant bush

and I’m pumped! The same day I saw the first Red currant bud, there were

clusters of fat yellow Oregon grape buds (Berberis aquifolium)

and tiny Soopolallie (Shepherdia canadensis) flowers, a boon for early insects.

After a cool start to the year, the wildflower parade was slow to begin but

that suits me fine: more time to enjoy it!

On the 14th, just before the Ides of March, I saw a surprising observation on iNaturalist:

someone identified a patch of Satin-flowers in Washington Park. I know that park pretty well

and I never saw Satin-flowers there. I had to see them for myself!

The coordinates that were given weren’t very accurate. Plugging the latitude and longitude

into my phone, I found myself in the approximate location but the habitat was all wrong –

I was deep in a wooded ravine, not an agreeable spot for a grassy meadow denizen.

Looking around, I thought a patch of meadow should be just above me and to the east. After a little bushwacking

and a leg-stretching climb up a rock ledge, I emerged into the perfect environment

and there they were,

a little enclave of purple beauties, nodding their heads in the updraft

emanating from the tidal channel below. On that chilly spring afternoon

I was in heaven.

I sat in the grass and communed.

*

*

Toward the end of March, the pace picked up. Red currant bushes flowered exuberantly –

one twig snagged a tangle of Lace lichen and waved it around like ragged laundry.

Golden Swamp lanterns (Lysichiton americanus) lit up the forested wetland and in the rocky bluffs

overlooking the water, tiny, violet-blue flowers huddled together against the air’s chill.

The Small-flowered Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora), dwarfed by its own name,

has a sweet face almost no one sees – the flowers are only a few millimeters across.

A thousand feet above sea level, more Satin flowers dotted another meadow, this one featuring

views of distant mountain ranges. Sugarloaf’s vistas are exhilarating but

I was content to lie down on the earth and photograph flowers

inches away from my nose.

At about half that elevation, another meadow bore the red-orange revelation of a shaggy flower

called Harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida). Bitter cherry trees flowered gently, softening the roadsides.

Cheerful yellow Spring-gold (Lomatium utriculatum) hugged the ground

and willow trees went fuzzy-crazy. Up on Goose Rock, the dangling pink bells of Kinnickinnnick

glowed pink against the native ground cover’s glossy, deep green foliage.

The show was on but it required a little effort – a hike here,

a deep knee bend there, and always, open eyes.

*

*

All month, colors could be found in the details

but the landscape overall remained subdued. Low temperatures lingered,

clouds persisted, and it rained.

And rained again.

Weather forecasters bemoaned the cool, damp conditions

but I was happy. Cool and wet means

the (Wild)flower show lasts longer.

Below is a slideshow of my March Madness. Hover over the arrow and click to start.

*

*

If you’re curious about any of the flowers in the slideshow, just ask in the comments section.

Next up will be April, a (Wild)flower show to delight the senses.

***


57 comments

  1. Wow, so many beautiful flowers, and starting earlier in the year than ours it seems, although we get a few in March. I love the satin flowers, a new one to me. That first shot with the pollen spilling onto the petal below is exquisite but my absolute favourite shot is #12 in your slide show – just gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s the moderating effect of all the water around us that allows things to get started a little earlier, I think. And the unfolding is slow, which I also like – back east there were years when spring came and went far too quickly. Again, the moderating influence – we may get a little heat but it doesn’t last long. I love seeing pollen “spilling onto a petal” as you describe it. Have you ever noticed that Magnolia tree flowers hold little piles of stamens sometimes? Ain’t it all great? 😉
      Thanks for your comment, Sarah.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful shots, Lynn. I especially liked your shot on Feb. 10. And what a coincidence (for me, anyway): that’s my mom’s birthday. She’s been gone a long time now but I still miss her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m touched that you mentioned your mother’s birthday. Now that photo seems to evoke the kind of emotion you point to, a mixture of love and sadness and acceptance, perhaps. That’s a wonderful thing, thank you.

      Like

  3. I love the Red-flowering Currant, it is too cute! Yesterday, when I was out for a morning walk amidst our (waning) blooms, I was thinking of you and promptly had to look at your website to see when you last posted and today, here you are with an update! Good to see! (and not just because I’m glad I’m not the only one catching up;)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You had me worried for a minute, with harsh paintbrush and bitter cherry, but it’s a wonderful show. I like the swamp lanterns against the dark water, Those purple flowers, ninth from last, look like a whole flock of butterflies just landed, amazing! The red currant branches remind me of a tree in our yard when I was growing up, a Paul’s Scarlet Hawthorne, that was always one of my favorites. One of my aunts I know has cultivated black & red currant bushes, for jelly, but I’ve never seen them when they’re blooming, didn’t realize how pretty the blossoms are. And less showy but the shots full of catkins are irresistible, as is the miniature mossy scene just after them.
    What a great happy awakening after a long dark winter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Harsh paintbrush, Bitter cherry, and how about Naked broomrape? Ugh! Then there are all the “false” native flowers, like False lily-of-the-valley. Crazy. The little butterflies are the Small-flowered blue-eyed Marys that are so tiny but carry a long name. I love your vision of butterflies there. The hawthorn you mentioned is new to me – I googled it and I see the resemblance in the flowers. Now to keep you confused, Red currants came from a different plant – ours are called Red-flowering currants and they have dark purple berries that the birds always get first. Red currant bushes have little cream-colored flowers and apparently, Blackcurrant bushes also have inconspicuous flowers. A field guide says Red-flowering currants are “insipid” and local tribes did not regard them very highly. 🙂 I’m glad you mentioned the catkins and the moss – you always pick out things that other people might miss, which is nice for me. Thanks – may your Spring be long and luxurious.

      Like

  5. You bring out the feeling of spring with this post, Lynn. I love the way you walk us through the “hope” from those endless grey days the PNW is famous for, to those first buds… and then, as you say, the show begins 🙂 Incredible, both in viewing and also with your words describing the scene. We have Oregon Grape here in Czech, and I watched it develop over our cold weather and into something I recognize and love. Cheers to the beauty around you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting that you have Oregon grape – I assume as a garden plant? I remember my mother planting it by her house in western North Carolina many years ago. I lived in NYC then and wasn’t familiar with it. And I didn’t like it – I thought it was very spiky-looking. 🙂 That amuses me because I appreciate it more now, in its native habitat. Thank you for such a nice note, Randall. Happy Spring!

      Like

  6. Your slideshow slaked the thirst I built up reading your narrative and seeing your lovely but smaller photographs. I absolutely love #17 in the slideshow. And swamp lanterns (#2)! I’d never even heard of them. What a beautiful introduction you give. I love the dark background, making the flowers live up to their name. Thank you, Lynn, for taking us on another trip in your world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Actually, Swamp lanterns are cousins of Skunk cabbage. They can smell “interesting” too, and are called Skunk cabbage by some people here. I think Swamp lantern fits better because they do light up dark places. Especially if you use spot metering. 😉
      #17 almost didn’t make it in. I hadn’t thought to include tree flowers at first but I noticed them when I was going through March photos for the umpteenth time to be sure I chose the best ones. So it’s nice that you picked out that photo. Yea, lichens! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh Lynn, what a feast your photos are. And what a feast this spring has been! Like you I’ve been watching and watching and watching – the crocuses, and oregon grape, and finally one day the periwinkle. And now it’s a riot of flowers on my walks in the forest unlike I’ve ever seen before. That wet spring was a blessing even though I moaned my way through it wishing for warmer weather. Best surprise – where the orange wild honeysuckle was only in a couple of places before, this year it seems to be everywhere!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really has been a good spring, hasn’t it? It’s good to hear that you’ve been as thrilled as I have been. The warm weather will come, soon enough – but I know you love it and we did have an awfully long string of cool weeks – months? The Orange honeysuckle you mentioned isn’t already blooming in Vancouver, is it?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A beautiful chronology of the transition from Winter to Spring in images… and emotions!
    We can feel the pleasure that the appearance of each of these offers from nature gives you and that is enchanting to feel.
    Nature will certainly be very grateful for that look of yours!😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Brava, Lynn! Your narrative reads like and iNaturalist mystery as spring unfolds around you. I’m imagining you bushwhacking around to find those precious satin flowers.😄 Enjoyed your beautifully shot images, your lead satin flower, the red currant bud and your slideshow is full of great shots. The pussy willows or catkins(?) are so graceful and pretty. Lots to love! 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    • An iNaturalis mystery, that’s a fun idea. I’m glad you mentioned the willow catkins – I liked the way they turned out. Yes, there sure is lots to love, so much so that other things fall by the wayside. It’s starting to slow down now so maybe I can catch up. 😉
      BTW, a facetime call came last night as Colbty was getting the twins ready for bed – so wonderful to see them rolling around the floor, laughing, and seemingly without a care in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Lynn. Beautiful post! Going through it I realized that I’m more ‘looking at the photos’ than looking at the flowers’.. I don’t know what that means, yet. And then I realized that when I’m outside with the camera I act quite familiar. I’m looking for opportunities for a photo; I see the beauty; the colors; the way things have grown; the textures; how the light touches them; but I’m not so much with ‘who they are’… Is that a bit selfish? Let me know what you think. Brings me to the verdict of the Dutch Jury: Nr3: Well composed, with that green diagonal cutting the well chozen square frame in two. Excellent use of DOF and the colors are great and make the bokeh a nice soft blanket in the background. See you in part2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is something I think about a lot. I summarize it as documentary vs. artistic photography. That’s way too oversimplified but I think that’s kind of what you’re talking about. In my family there was an emphasis on documentation and identification – my father was a scientist, etc. I really love identifying plants and naming them, even though I realize the name is not the thing. I also love beauty, light, form, texture, etc. for its own sake, outside of any ideas or names. I struggle sometimes to make accurate photographs of something that I saw but I get more excited when I’m playing with the pure forms and colors, the composition, etc.
      #3 would never work as an identification photo but it conveys a mood, I think. What do you think?
      And thank you!!

      Like

  11. So beautiful in words and pictures. I like the way you wrote here, very poetic! And the flowers are really a show, but much more than that. So tiny and so colorful, wow. But okay, if they want to be seen, they have to shout loud 🙂 The swamp lanterns are always such a joy. And I love the currant, but maybe because I am a pink flowers lover anyway 😉 There were some beauties in your slide show, but I am not sure about the numbers now. 5 and 7. 5 reminds me of Achillea and 7 looks interesting to me. The green-blue is the color of the leaves right? I love that mixture. The picture of currant and lichen is wonderful too. All are so beautiful. I understand perfectly how inebriated you were 🙂 By the way, what is Kinnickinnnick???

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Almuth, thanks for visiting! Have you ever been to one of the big Spring Flower Shows that are usually held in cities to get people excited about buying garden flowers? That’s what I was thinking about here – but this show is free and not very commercial. 😉
      The best thing about the currants is that strong, hot pink that contrasts so beautifully with the dark greens of the conifers. And they bloom so early, I love that. #5 sometimes has a much taller stem but early in the season, it hugs the ground. It’s Lomatium utriculatum. It’s tough and blooms early. Like the Shooting star (nest post) it grows in dry and wet places. It’s in the carrot/parsley family. #7 is a really odd bush. At first, you don’t even notice it but then if you look closely you think, wow, that’s a strange one. It grows more often on the other side of the mountains where it’s drier but we have some very dry spots that it likes. It’s called Soopalalie, from an indigenous name for it (Shepherdia canadensis). The berries make a kind of foam if you beat them with water but I haven’t tried it – I never see many berries. The leaves are bluish-green like you said, but rust-colored and rough-textured underneath. And Kinnickinnick (#14) comes from an Eastern North American indigenous word. It’s also called Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and it grows as a lovely, evergreen ground cover all around the globe in boreal regions. The leaves were blended with other leaves and smoked, the berries were eaten, etc. You’ve probably seen it in gardens if not in the wild.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I love seeing what grows in your part of the world! It’s so different from my surroundings. We have Mule’s Ears growing on our property and Lupine blooming in the surrounding forest now. Our monsoons have come early and everything is very green. Your photos and spring are such a welcome sight! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What grows here may be different, but yesterday I was on a small island just a few miles north of here that’s a preserve and I found columbine growing out of the rocks at the beach! I was so excited! It grows at higher elevations on some of the islands but not on mine. I think it may be more common at sea level in BC but I’m not sure. Anyway, I assume that’s a plant you see regularly. Yes, it’s really fun to see what grows in other places, e.g., we have a few native lupines here but I don’t think they’re as showy as yours. I’m glad you’re enjoying your local wildflower show, Denise, and thanks so much for all the comments. Eventually, we get around to it, right? 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Rescue from the wearisome, gloomy wintertime with a flourish of blossoms is nature’s good idea, and spreading that splendor to the rest of the world, to the less privileged people who do not live in your blessed corner of the United States, is your good idea  .  I hope that the principle “joy shared is joy doubled” worked for you too.
    I not only enjoyed the photos, I could also see the exuberant joy in your accompanying text, you write so expressively and rousingly that I believe every word and every feeling without reservation.
    We’re already living in blooming, fragrant June, and winter is a distant memory at best, but I’m happy to follow you into those early, first joys. I can empathize with the overwhelming happiness when you discover the first satin flower.
    Every year I rejoice with you about the overwhelming diversity of the newly awakening life.  Here too it was cold and wet until April (even now there are still nights with temperatures below 10°C) and like you I took comfort in the fact that the beautiful blooms thus lasted longer.  It was like that.  And now again through you – thank you, dear Lynn

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the ideas you set out in the first sentence of your comment, except that I’m not entirely convinced that this place is so much better or prettier than other places. Yes, the scenery is spectacular and we’re fortunate to have islands and mountains in close proximity. More importantly, intelligent people preserved lots of land decades ago. But most of the flowers are quite small and most people aren’t even aware of them. Since it’s been new for me, I’ve been excited about it. I love to share that, but I think the same thing could happen in many other places. It’s really good to read your comments about the text, in any case. I do get carried away, so much that I kind of collapsed at some point, exhausted from it all. I’m feeling tired and I need to shift gears more smoothly.
      It’s interesting that you also had a cool, wet spring (our nights are also still in that range oftentimes). We lead parallel lives to a degree and that’s comforting. Thank you!

      Like

      • My answer is lost in the depth of the internet, I’ll try again:
        You are certainly right: it is more a question of view, of attention and mindfulness to see the beauties in any place of the world. But you share your observations in such a beautiful way it always makes me feel better when I read and enjoy them.
        Leading parallel lives in certain aspects – it feels like a kind of nearness in spite of all the distance. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s