KEEPING UP…

…with seasonal changes is a motivating force. I missed three weeks of spring while I was away. That worried me, because after observing summer, fall and winter here on Fidalgo Island, I didn’t want to miss seeing the changes spring would bring.

But it was fine – when I returned from Europe 12 days ago, tender, green growth was visible everywhere. The spring ephemerals – wildflowers that take advantage of extra light on the forest floor before the trees leaf out – were blooming. These flowers benefit from spring rain too, and it’s been unusually dry. But at least for now the morning dew, and some moisture remaining in the soil, keep the green machine chugging along.

I’ve taken a walk outside most every day, not wanting to miss a minute of this fleeting season. I’m curious to see how spring here differs from spring 70 miles south, where I used to live. Many of the major players in this ecosystem are the same – the dominant evergreen trees, the understory of salal and sword fern, the basic weather patterns – but there are striking differences. Sussing out the disparities, season by season, is fascinating.

I’ve taken walks at a community forest around a lake, at my favorite places in Deception Pass State Park, and at a local park on a peninsula. Those locations are close to home but one day we drove an hour inland to Rockport State Park, where the ecosystem is a little different. In each place wildflowers were blooming, ferns were unfurling, birds were singing, insects were buzzing, and the cool, fresh air gave me a little shiver until I warmed up from trudging up and down hills.

I brought along a favorite macro lens, a wider-angled prime lens, and once, the old Super Takumar 50mm vintage lens, which can be a challenge to use, but produces some unique images. The sun has been bright lately, which isn’t ideal for photographing tiny, delicate wildflowers. I did what I could with the conditions I found. It was fun getting back to Lightroom. I really enjoy pushing those sliders around and manipulating images, but I’m rusty after three solid weeks away from it. In any case, I think you’ll enjoy the fruits of my walks – I hope so. I’ll get back to the Europe trip later – this feels like it can’t wait!

 

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1. Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) like all ferns, is interesting to peer at up close. I love those tightly coiled little fists. Some people harvest and eat the fiddleheads, but the safety of ingesting this fern is controversial.

 

2. Bracken again. Slightly different species of this fern grow in North, Central and South America, in Europe, in Africa, in China and Southeast Asia, and in Australia. In other words, it’s everywhere! Cattle farmers don’t like it because it can poison livestock.

 

3. A Twisted stalk, probably Clasping Twisted-stalk, aka Watermelon berry (Streptopus amplexifolius), unfolding in the shady understory of the old growth forest at Rockport State Park. The small flowers hide under the stalk – you have to get down really low to see them. A very elegant plant!

 

4. I think this is a close relative, Rose Twisted-stalk (Streptopus lanceolatus, v. roseus). It’s easier to identify after the flowers open, but what a beauty it is at this stage. Rockport State Park.

 

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4. Another elegant plant, though many people may not realize it, is our native Vine maple (Acer circinatum). This small forest tree is found, like many of our native plants, from southwest British Columbia to northern California. Close relatives are the familiar Japanese and Korean maples of Asia.

 

5. The little Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa) is found in cool forests in the US, Japan, China, Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Baltics. The plant depends on particular soil fungi and does not transplant well.

 

6. Calypso orchid petals seen from above. The flower does not produce nectar, but the fancy digs (seen in #5) are quite attractive to insects. Though a bee may leave disappointed, just one more futile try for nectar at another flower may be enough for pollination. Orchids often use this strategy of pollination by deception.

 

7. Looking up in the deep shade of the forest at Goose Rock, Deception Pass State Park. The cheerful oval leaves are the Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium), a common understory plant of our woods. Indigenous people made good use of the small berries. Whenever I see them there are only a few left; the birds and animals always seem to beat me to the berry.

 

8. Pacific Bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa), with its ferny foliage, creates a soft, pleasing picture wherever it grows. It’s a popular garden plant; the nursery trade has hybridized these flowers to produce much bigger, more deeply colored pink blooms, and pure white flowers as well. Rockport State Park.

 

9. Black and white? Color? I chose a highly desaturated look for this sweet fiddlehead unfurling it’s fronds at Cranberry Lake, on Fidalgo Island.

 

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10. The little Chocolate lily, (Fritillaria affinis) is a western lily of well-drained sites. Locally, it’s often found on bluffs and balds, the open spaces scraped clean by glaciers long ago. The small, brown and gold flowers can be hard to spot.  I had to sit down on the ground to get this angle; this plant was just a few inches tall. Taken with the vintage Super Takumar 50mm lens at f2 or f2.8.

 

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11. Another take on the Chocolate lily, seen from above and processed in sepia tones. This plant is similar to (but much smaller than) the garden plant Fritillaria meleagris, or Checkered lily, which is now rare in its native Eurasian range.

 

12. Death camas (Toxicoscordian venenosus), at Washington Park, where I saw hundreds of the pretty little plants, which are poisonous from head to toe, to both humans and livestock.

 

13. In bud here are two Common camas flowers (Cammasia quamash). Camas was an important food plant for indigenous people here in the northwest. It often grows near Death camas (above). The flowers are different, but when the flowers are gone it’s hard to tell the bulbs apart, and the bulbs are what people ate. Supposedly, tribes weeded out the Death camas plants to protect themselves against accidental poisoning. Taken with the Super Takumar 50mm lens.

 

14. Here’s an open Common camas flower, in a shadier place, where you can appreciate the delicate lavender color. Also taken with the Super Takumar.

 

15. Spring color is reflected in a fast-moving stream at Rockport State Park.

 

16. Is this a small bee? I don’t know. I was trying to photograph the impossibly tiny flowers of what’s known around here as Sugar-scoop, or Three-leaf foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata). The tiny flowers are scattered along a stem held high over three-part leaves. A delicate beauty, it rewards you if you can get close; in this case the reward doubled.

 

17. A stump of rotting wood is left in place at Rockport State Park. Downed trees are full of possibilities for many life forms, from tough lichens and luxurious mosses to the Douglas squirrels that use them as a picnic table and the Pileated woodpeckers that excavate meals from them.

 

18. Western starflower (Trientalis latifolia) sends up one or two flower stalks on delicate stems, leaving the flowers dangling over the whorl of leaves. It’s a beautiful sight when the pale stars are scattered above deep green leaves on the forest floor. Deception Pass.

 

19. The humble Starflower may have supplied indigenous people with food from its tubers. It’s slightly different from the Northern and Arctic starflower (Trientalis borealis and T. arctica), which grow in eastern North America, and Europe and Asia.

 

20. Stink currant – that’s a fine name! It describes the smell of crushed leaves, not the fruit, which is reported to be unpleasant to delicious, depending on the bush. Ribes bracteosum is the Latin name for this gooseberry relative that grows from Canada down to northern California. I found this one at Rockport State Park,

 

20. A woodland trail at Cranberry Lake, part of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands. Taken with the Super Takumar lens.

 

21. This buttercup (Ranunculas sp.) has lost its petals, but the stamens and developing achenes (the tiny fruits that hold a seed) are the same joyful yellow. Goose Rock, Deception Pass.

 

22. I couldn’t resist including this burgeoning specimen of dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). It was along a roadside at Rockport State Park but of course, they are everywhere!

 

23. Meadow, or Field chickweed (Cerastium arvense) and pink Sea Blush, aka Short-spurred Pletritis (Plectritis congesta) bloom happily in a meadow. Washington Park, Fidalgo Island.

 

24. A Red huckleberry bush gathers a shaft of light angling through the thick canopy of Douglas firs, Western hemlocks, and Redcedars. Deception Pass.

 

25. Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) has come into flower recently. The mid-size bush or small tree graces our roadsides with pretty, cream-colored panicles of flowers. The compound leaves are handsome too, with their elegant tips and finely-toothed edges.

 

26. Fringecup (Tellima grandiflora) is easy to overlook but a close-up view is rewarding. This is another Spring wildflower that is available as a garden plant, with bigger, more colorful flowers. Indigenous people used the plant medicinally. According to Wikipedia, T. grandiflora contains a compound with antiviral properties. Deception Pass. 

 

27. Two Vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla) plants rise above Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) fronds, which in turn hover over the flattened evergreen fronds of Sword fern (Polystichum munitum). Snow crushed the Sword fern plants while the others slept underground – but Sword fern is putting out new fronds. Vanilla leaf sometimes makes a delicate ground cover in the forest. The vanilla-scented leaves were used to repel insects and perfume living quarters.

 

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28. A Western trillium (Trillium ovatum) past its prime is still beautiful. As the flower slowly turns deep pink, the petals will shrivel and fall away. See the holes in the leaves? I suspect a slug or other creature chewed a big bite in the plant a while ago, when the leaves were tightly folded to the center. The unfurled leaves now reveal three holes. Rockport State Park.

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Abundance! That’s Spring for you! This is longer than my usual posts, but the flowers just keep coming! Soon the flora parade will fizzle to a frizz, as our dry summer weather takes hold.

A Spring Miscellany and a few regrets

A haze of fresh greens in the woods behind the house…

Fallen blossoms, stream-side at a Japanese garden…

The tight curl of last season’s fern frond in the sunlight…

The elegant spears of a tiny blue flower at a native plant nursery…

Morning dew on the grasses at water’s edge…

A Lady fern unfurling across a weathered fence…

Willow and Cottonwood springing to life in a wetland park…

The softness of a willow catkin…

And the final petal of a Magnolia blossom, ready to fall…

Spring evolves so quickly – birds silent all winter already are singing incessantly, the cherry blossoms are almost gone now, the lilacs are in bud, and soon peonies and irises will startle us with their beauty. One aspect of the Pacific northwest climate I’ve come to appreciate is the long, cool Spring. On the east coast the weather warms up fast and steals Spring right out from under you. 

But even with cool temperatures extending the bloom time here, it still rushes by too quickly. I get neurotic about not taking it all in, not “having time” (as if time was something I could have!) to experience it with all my senses.  I roam ceaselessly – a Japanese garden, a native plant nursery, a nearby island, local parks – and take photos along the way. I rush too much. The photos disappoint.

But… what matters is that Spring carries itself forward with no help from me, it takes me along, and I do so love it.  

Enchantment

There are days when you don’t want to travel too far but you definitely want to go somewhere new.  Sunday was like that, so we drove northeast a bit and then probed the back roads for miles, bumping down an old pot-holed logging road into a state forest, where we found gold. Well, golden leaves anyway, and a deep gorge, thundering water, pockmarked rock formations, mushrooms galore, and a fanciful, moss-hung forest.

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We were plunged into the midst of vibrant, lush growth, from the forest floor to the treetops far above us. The older trees, with their strange shapes and moss-covered trunks. seemed possessed of distinct personalities.

The deep gorge was lined with slippery rocks, twisting roots, and precarious precipices. It was impossible to see the whole waterfall, but the loud roar of water plunging down through ink-black rock told the story.

One way to peer into the dark recesses of the gorge would be to crawl out on one of the tree trunks that spanned the gorge. I didn’t do that, but I did creep out as close as I dared to the edge on both sides of the gorge to peer down at the water below.

I kept getting distracted by tiny lichens and mushrooms in all shapes.

Coral mushrooms of an indescribable hue grew undisturbed behind fallen logs. Bits of lichen, fallen from branches high above, littered the forest floor.

I kept wishing for the sun to come out – the forecast was for morning fog to burn off and it was already mid-afternoon. Finally blue gaps in the clouds appeared, and then a burst of gold penetrated the thick growth.

Back on the road, there was enough space between towering fir trees to see the bright October sky and sunbeams displaying golden Bigleaf Maple leaves above us.

Our legs were weary from climbing up and down the steep, twisted paths.  We had discovered a new place not too far from home, and as we got into the car we wondered what that “creek” must look like after the spring snow-melt. We’ll be back.

PATTERNS

This week’s Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge  is Pattern.  It’s everywhere.

Ponder this:

Does the key to the ubiquity of patterns in our world lie within our perceiving brain, or outside of us? Both? Is there any way to know?

And this:

“How is it that a man made, artificial, technological system is behaving like a natural system?  The more efficient it becomes, the more it looks like nature…”  From a video by Jason Silva called, TO UNDERSTAND IS TO PERCEIVE PATTERNS.

Watch it – it’s only 105 seconds long, and it will set your brain spinning.

Read about Jason Silva, who’s been called and “Idea DJ” whose short videos are “shots of philosophical espresso.”  Hey, no wonder I liked that video!

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Patterns have always motivated artists. Whether you locate them inside your perceiving brain, or outside in “nature”  (however you define that), they’re ubiquitous.   I need to narrow down this vast subject, so I’ve chosen patterns in leaves and branches, because they have interested me as long as I can remember.  I’ve abstracted these photographs in Photoshop, mostly using the Posterize and Cutout filters. It’s clear that the patterns I perceived here are at least partly inside my head.  I suspect some will resonate with patterns in your head, too.

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More PATTERNS await discovery at the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge.

To spin your mind harder, try googling “Pattern perception brain” and then add “Philosophy.”  The two links below look interesting, but it’s warm and sunny out, it’s spring, and I think my brain’s telling me it’s had enough of the computer screen. For now.

http://nivea.psycho.univ-paris5.fr/Synthese/MyinFinal.html

http://www.newdualism.org/papers/J.Smythies/Perception_1-1.htm

Not Just a Walk in the Park

The city of Kirkland, a suburb sitting straight across Lake Washington from Seattle, isn’t the place you’d expect to find deep woods with giant trees and a lush abundance of native plants.  But an effort has been here made to preserve the land – at least some of it – and though logging took its toll long ago, the forest in O.O. Denny Park retains the green magic of a pre-suburban time. I like to wander along the narrow, muddy trail here, wide-eyed with wonder…

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There are giant Red cedars and Douglas firs and the forest floor is packed with Sword ferns. A rushing stream carves a deep V into the ravine, where salmonberries, Devil’s Club and trillium vie with moss and lichens for the narrow light streams filtering through the canopy. It thrills me that it’s all just blocks away from busy suburban streets.

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The park is named for the first white boy born in Seattle – Orion O. Denny. This was the Denny’s country place; later it was a camp. There is nice lake beach access, making it attractive to families in the summer, but I prefer the woods, the trilling wrens, the towering trees and wildflowers.

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One Douglas fir, “Sylvia”,  is 600 years old.  It measured 255′ tall before a storm broke off the top twenty years ago, and at about 27′  in circumference, it still impresses. (The little square at its feet is a plaque).

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The other day I saw the strangest thing in Denny Park –

I was a yard or so off the trail, facing into the woods. At my feet I saw a small red purse, zipped up and carefully wrapped in plastic, and stuffed into the cavity of a decaying branch on the ground. I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t bent down to inspect a wildflower. It seemed like it had been there a while, but I couldn’t be sure.

I was curious, but something made me leave it where it was…fear? propriety? Maybe both.

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O.O. Denny Park – a magical place…

Look Up, Look Down – Early Spring Delights

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Photographs taken this spring at Bellevue Botanic Garden, Everett Arboretum, Washington Park Arboretum, Camano Island, and Kirkland, Washington (yes, we had a little snow the other day, but it melted fast).

Spring Pushes Through

Fragments of last year’s Clematis vine still cling to the post.

But the Hellebores are up.

The first fiddleheads, hidden inside a warm, protective covering, have broken through the ground.

Early daffodils shout at the sky,

or nod gracefully.

The strangely named Edgeworthia chrysantha pops its yellow globes on leafless twigs,

and Spring zephyrs rustle the bamboo into a tizzy.

Photographs taken on 3/5/13, at Bellevue Botanic Garden, Bellevue, Washington.

For the botany nerds or otherwise curious, Edgeworthia was named after a Brit named Edgeworth (too predictable an explanation, right?). He’s described as an amateur botanist, and he lived when England’s wide rule brought ample opportunities for any subject inclined towards plant exploration, as long as they had the means. As an administrator stationed in Punjab, I guess he did.  An internet search reveals that his diaries are in an Oxford library; four accomplished botanical drawings of his reside at the Missouri Botanical Garden in the U.S.  If I could access the diaries, I’d happily while away a few hours leafing through them.

Commonly called Chinese Paper Bush, Edgeworthia is native to China and the the Himalayas; the bark was used for paper. It grows comfortably in much of the US, opening fragrant blooms in late winter or early spring.

I first came to know it from a specimen at the Snug Harbor Botanical Garden in Staten Island, a borough of New York City. I was struck by its peculiar form – it tends to grow into a spherical shape, and with its stick-like branches with round, dotty buds-turning-to-flowers, it looked comical to me. Not a graceful plant, but its oddness draws one in. To a plant grazer like myself, that’s fine – I’m equally drawn by the odd, the graceful, the big, the small, the plain and the fanciful. Bring them all on!

IT’S IN THE DETAILS

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge – In the Details – is about the difference between capturing a whole scene – say a big view landscape – and its details.  Moss is everywhere here in the Pacific Northwest, making for fantastic Dr. Seuss trees, enchanting mystical rain forest scenes, and, when you look closely, amazing textures and colors.

These trees are on the side of a road, somewhere within 25 miles or so of Seattle – I don’t remember exactly where because it’s not uncommon to see trees completely covered with moss. Our moist, cool weather creates ideal conditions for it. People think of Seattle being on the West coast, but actually there’s a mountain range between us and the coast, and that, plus another one to our east, traps lots of moist air. And BTW, it does NOT rain all the time here – it’s cloudy and it drizzles intermittently. Real Seattlites go without umbrellas.

The strange mossy tree stump graces the Quinault Rain Forest, whose location down-slope from the Olympic Mountains and close to the coast means it receives about 140 inches of rain a year.

This is a Juniper haircap moss, Polytrichum juniperum, on Echo Mountain, a 900 ‘  rocky outcrop near suburban Seattle that harbors a bog and some rare wildflowers. These spore capsules are on female plants – the male plants are separate. This common moss grows on every continent, and has been used as a diuretic (that’s what Wiki says).

Take a step back…

I think this is Juniper haircap again, in the Quinault Rain Forest, a place that’s supposed to be too wet for it. Maybe I’m wrong. Mosses are complicated – the Seattle area has easily a hundred species or more, and you’d need a microscope to identify some of them.

Moss intermingles with lichens on every inch of these trees in Wallace Falls State Park, in the Central Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.

Back on Echo Mountain, moss takes on brilliant colors and supports an unusual spring wildflower, Sea Blush (Plectritis congesta).

At Bellevue Botanic Garden, across the lake from Seattle, ivy finds a comfortable place to anchor on a mossy tree trunk.

At a park nearby, looking up – instead of ivy, licorice fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) has found a foothold in a lush bed of moss.

Speaking of lush beds of moss- this roof supports quite a load, and I bet there’s some inside, too! (On Whidbey Island).

More images that get Lost in the Details can be found here.

Three Forks Natural Area in Snoqualmie, Washington

We were supposed to have a little sun yesterday. Well, the sun barely showed,  but at least it wasn’t raining so I took a drive south and found a spot along the Snoqualmie River to take a few pictures. I love the texture of a mountain with just a little snow on it, and the subtle drifts of clouds along the peaks.

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Up the road people were casting for steelhead trout, but here it was quiet.

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Until a paraglider caught my eye – the camera lens can only take in so much, so you have to look hard. But that’s what it looked like – a vast sky, a forbiddingly steep, rocky mountain face, and a tiny paraglider drifting down into the trees.

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Somewhere over there, hopefully, a good landing was made.

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The Big Leaf Maples along the river edge were thick with moss and licorice fern. They say the rootstock of this pretty little fern that stays green all winter tastes like licorice, but I keep forgetting to try it.

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As for climbing Mount Si, I’m not in shape for that climb (thousands of people do though, every year) but I’m glad I can photograph it.