Forests west of the Cascades, for instance, are moist coastal temperate rainforest dominated by conifers, while forests east of the Cascades are more like the Rocky Mountains, with a mixture of conifers and deciduous trees.
Woodland wildflowers, many of which are unique to this region, abound in the shady forests, while desert and grassland species thrive in the warm, dry conditions of the interior valleys. Coastal areas offer a completely different palette of wildflowers.
This collection includes 42 of my most favorite wildflowers I encountered in various habitats of the Pacific Northwest. By slowing down and looking for the "simple things" I found that within these complex ecosystems, the gift of wildflowers flourish.
While hiking and photographing the dramatic waterfalls within Silver Creek State Park, I was fortunate enough to discover the "Deer Orchid." Finding this little flower began a new goal to photograph the many Northwest wildflowers...the flowers I have missed along my many hiking adventures. This BLOG entry shares just a "petal" of what I discovered.
These locations are not the only places where the flower may grow.
LET'S GET SIMPLY WILD
It took a while and I am still not sure if I still have the right 'blue-eyed grass'. The genus is one of the most perplexing group of plants, with many often integrating variants named as species. The name 'blue-eyed grass' is very appropriate for this flower that appear like beautiful blue 'eyes' from the side of a grass-like stem. At first I didn't see this flower. It was well hidden in the tall blades of field grass.
spotted jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not
Warning: Berries can be toxic to humans, especially children, if ingested. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size.
The ripe fruits, when touched, suddenly burst open (hence impatiens, meaning 'impatient'). The phrase 'touch-me-not' is in reference to the spoken words of the risen Christ to Mary Magdalene, in the Bible - Luke 20:17.
WARNING: This highly poisonous plant should never be injested. In some native cultures, it was called nose-bleed plant because it had a reputation for causing nose-bleeds when touched.
The flower is short lived, so seeing them in bloom is a great treat. Without flowers, this plant looks much like an ordinary dandelion weed.
(Fritillaria lanceolata - Fritillaria affinis)
It was the first time on my wildflower quest that I was able to photograph up to ten different species from one small area. The native Checker Lily or Chocolate Lily was one of them. The bulbs of checker lily were eaten by most Coast and Interior Native American peoples. They either boiled or steamed them in pits. The bulbs are said to be tender and delicate, resembling rice, except for having a slightly bitter taste.
The Checker lily is quite rare in many places and should be left undisturbed.
The flowers are yellow and grow in hemispherical heads, the size of a golf balls. The flowers are trumpet-shaped. It grows in the loose, shifting beach sands of the fore-dunes along the immediate coast, 100-200 feet from the surf.
The soil must be very loose and free of organic debris in order for the plants survival. The plant is geared for salt spray and will not tolerate regular water nor extreme drought.
Abronia is from abros, the Greek word for 'graceful' or 'delicate.' A major part of the plants endangerment is due to the non-native European Beach Grass which has taken over the fore-dunes.
The Yellow Sand Verbena needs open sand to grow successfully. This was one of the hardest flower to find. I made several trips to fore-dune areas but came home empty handed every time. While in Bandon, in late August, I finally found it. I walked a three mile stretch of the coastline between the South Jetty and China Creek, finding only three mounding clusters.
It anchors itself in the loose shifting sand with a thick heavy taproot and grows thick, fleshy leaves to retain water during the summer dry period. If the beach is a difficult place to survive in ordinary circumstances, imagine how much harder it is now for the pink sand-verbena.
Its habitat is being crowded out by the European and American beach grasses, and while the beach grass may be here to stay, unless human intervene, the pink sand-verbena may not.
The Pink Sand Verbena, was declared extinct in Washington and British Columbia for several years but has been re-discovered on a beach in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada in 2001...yet did not grow in 2002. Small spotting's of the plant has been documented in Washington, but there has been no yearly successes. Pink Sand Verbena is listed as an endangered species by the State of Oregon and is considered a Species of Concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
There are currently only about ten cluster populations of Pink Sand Verbena in Oregon. The plant found at "Dog Beach" in Port Orford Oregon, was planted by man.
In the photo to the (right), taken at "Dog Beach," my hiking buddies are completely oblivious to the small Pink Sand Verbena growing so close on the main trail to the beach. Foot traffic will determine the success of this plant. Both the Yellow and Pink Sand Verbena can be found in "large" quantities at "Dog Beach." A special thanks to Robin Sears, from the Oregon State Parks, for helping me successfully locate the Pink Sand Verbena.
The Creeping Dogwood is a low-growing perennial that spreads by rhizomes that creep just under the soil surface. The four white "petals" are actually not part of the flower at all they are white bracts. The actual flowers are greenish and held in the center of the bracts.
In late summer clusters of vivid red berries replace the flowers for a second season of interest. Birds such as spruce grouse and warbling vireo eat these berries and help to distribute the seeds.
Bunchberry can be found growing throughout the northern half of North America, including most of Canada. It is often found in large colonies in areas of dappled shade or along the woods edge.
Besides growing in the Pacific Northwest, Pacific dogwood is found in the mountains near San Diego and Los Angeles, and a small population grows in Northern Idaho, where it is threatened. The flower is the floral emblem of British Columbia.
Because of its tannin, the bark is used for a rich, brown dye and as a preservative. The slim, long branches are made into baskets. Close grained and extremely hard wood, make it useful when made into tool handles, as well as for cabinetry.
For indigenous people, the wood was important; they used it to make bows, arrows, tool handles and hooks. Medicinally, it was used as a blood purifier, for strengthening lungs, and help with stomach ailments.
This beautiful tree grows in the dense conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest. In Oregon the tree grows in the Oregon Coast Range and the Oregon Cascades westside.
As the insect checks these false exits for an escape route, it is led down the tube structure and is unable to return to the top of the plant because of the slippery smooth surface of the inner tube and the sharp, downward pointing hairs which effectively block any chance of escape.
Eventually, the insects will fall into a pool of liquid digestive enzyme in the base of the leaf where they are absorbed as food for the plant. This plant is designated as uncommon due to its rarity in the field. It grows in cold wet coastal bogs and wetlands.
The name 'Cobra Lily' stems from the resemblance of its tubular leaves to a rearing cobra, complete with a forked leaf - ranging from yellow to purplish-green - that resemble "fangs" or a serpent's "tongue."
I have seen the cobra lily many times, but never had I been in view of the plant when the flower was in bloom...until now. Though I had seen pictures of the flower, seeing one in person was a great experience. The flower is just as bizarre and unusual as the tubular stem.
North of Florence Oregon, on the coast, you'll find the Darlingtonia State Natural Site. This park is the only Oregon state park property dedicated to the protection of a single plant species. Concurrently, the plants it protects are the only carnivorous flora in the system.
This 18-acre botanical park provides a rare look into this strangely-shaped plant. The Cobra Lily is the only member of the pitcher plant family (Sarraceniaceae) in Oregon.
Its aster-like, satiny blossoms come in purples, reds and magenta's so brilliant they seem fluorescent. The flowers only open in full sun, and will close each evening.
The botanical name comes from the Greek word karpos, for fruit, and brota, for edible.
(I have not tried to eat one.)
The Sea Fig has become very comfortable growing in the sandy shores of Oregon and California. This plant is not native to Oregon and thought to be native to South Africa. The history of how it came to Oregon is unknown.
The small native orchid flower grows in shady conifer forests at low to mid elevations. It is easily overlooked, even at 22 inches tall.
The Western Coralroot perennial herb, native to Northern California and small pockets in southern Oregon, is named after F.C. Mertens, a German botanist of the late 18th and 19th centuries.
It is native to the western United States from northern California to Montana. The Mariposa Lily is a perennial herb producing a slender, generally un-branched stem up to 15 centimeters in height. The basal leaf is 10-20 centimeters long and does not wither at flowering.
Each flower has three sepals and three petals with very hairy inner surfaces and edges. Each petal is greenish white in color with a purple crescent above a hairless patch at the base. This unique flower appear to be alive...animal like.
It can easily be missed if you were not looking for it. The plants are usually found on the margins of coniferous forests or on grassy slopes in open woods.
Indigenous people used the bulb as a starchy food source. They often roasted, boiled, or mixed with salmon roe, soups or dried into cakes. The lily scales added slightly sweet starch with a hint of pepper taste to the palate.
The spots on the petals give rise to the superstition that smelling the lily will give you freckles.
Both the vegetative parts and fruit of the European Bittersweet-Nightshade are poisonous to all kinds of livestock and to children because the plant contain the glycoalkaloid solanine.
WARNING: Symptom of being poisoned by this beautifully deceptive plant include anorexia, nausea, salivation, abdominal pain, emesis, constipation or diarrhea, apathy, drowsiness, progressive weakness/paralysis, and unconsciousness...just to name a few.
Nervous signs build to a maximum followed by death or recovery within 1 to 2 days. It is definitely "bitter sweet" to encounter this flower. Avoid at all times!
The coagulated latex of the Yellow Salsify was chewed by some Native American Indian tribes like it was gum.
This flower is a "sun lover" or "sun follower." Although the flowers do not actually follow the sun, they do close up at midday or in cloudy weather, a habit that make them often hard to find and earns them the name 'Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon."
This non-native flower is commonly seen in roadside ditches and on the edges of fields.
The Spotted Coralroot is named for its spotted lip. The flowers are purplish. The tri-lobed lip is white with purple spots. The leafless stem is purple to yellowish with the flowers on the top half. The flower may not open fully. The plant is usually self pollinating and all flowers bear fruit.
The distribution of this orchid is wide. It can be found in British Columbia across Canada to Newfoundland; western, northern and northeastern United States, south to California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Orchid seeds contain no stored nutrients. Before they can develop, they must be infected by a specialized fungus that establishes a symbiotic relationship, sharing food and enzymes until the young plant can survive on its own.
Coralroots, however, never become self-sufficient. Researchers have discovered that members of the genus Corallorhiza are parasitic orchids. They derive their nutrients from eating mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. While most plants make their own food with chlorophyll, Corallorhiza contains little or no chlorophyll.
Despite the name, they have no roots but only hard, branched rhizomes that resemble coral. These plants will be found deep in coniferous forests and subalpine woods. They like rich humus and damp soils where a shaft of light reaches the forest floor. They tend to grow in clusters of many plants.
The Castillejas, (Indian Paintbrush) are parasitic on the roots of other plants. They sometimes fasten their roots upon those of their neighbors and prey upon juices already partially absorbed. For this reason, Indian Paintbrush do not transplant well.
Native American Indians made a decoction of seeds from the Scarlet Paintbrush and swallowed for coughs and taken as a purgative and diuretic. They also used the decoction for stopping bleeding, helping a lame back, stiff lungs and sore eyes.
Their children sucked the flower nectar of these plants. The root bark was used as an ingredient to color various kinds of animal skins. Native Americans also covered the bright flowers with snail slime and used the mixture to trap hummingbirds.
The Harvest Brodiaea were easier to dig than a close relative, and so it is believed that the plant name comes from the fact that the "Brodiaea" were the ones to "harvest"...(Harvest the Brodiaea).
A better explanation for the common name is that brodiaeas bloom later in summer than most lilies. They bloom during the harvest. The beautiful purple flowers bring one last touch of color before Winter sets in.
Although found throughout the Northwest, the fragrant water lily is especially prevalent in shallow lakes or lake shores, west of the Cascades where it has been intentionally planted by property owners who admired the showy flowers.
This beautiful flowering plant is on Washington's and California's invasive noxious weed list. Why Oregon doesn't have it listed on their noxious weed list is mystery to me.
This plant impressed me. Each flower cluster stood on a one to two foot tall stout stem. This beautiful flower grows in very poor soil.
I returned later in the summer and collected some of the seeds. Since the plant grows in poor soil, I might try growing it in my backyard. They did not grow.
This fascinating plant called Indian Pipe, or Ghost Plant, is a great case in point. Indian Pipe is one of the easiest plants to recognize, when or if you can find them. Though common in the wet western forests, the plant 'seems' to appear to only disappear, when not looking. Finding them is a treat.
Unlike most plants, Indian-pipe doesn’t have chlorophyll, the ingredient that makes plants green. Since Indian-pipe has no chlorophyll, it can actually grow without sunlight...but it can't make its own food like most plants. Therefore, it has to "borrow" nutrients, either from decaying plant matter, or from another organism.
Roots of the Indian-pipe are connected via fungi to the roots of nearby coniferous trees. Though this flower looks like a fungas...it is not, however, it does rely on fungi to survive.
In the Nlaka'pamux Indian native language, the name for Indian-pipe means 'wolf's urine'. They believe it grows wherever a wolf urinated. Sight of the flower also indicates that the harvest of the wood mushroom is near.
The plant was also used medically to help stop bleeding wounds that would not heal.
Even though Indian Pipe is an unusually beautiful plant, don't bother picking it...it will wilt and turns black very quickly.
The plant is an annual and is more abundant on disturbed sites than in relatively undisturbed grasslands or sagebrush, which means that it is a common plant along the roadside.
Collomia is from the Greek kolla for 'glue,' since the seeds have a coating that turns very sticky when wet.
The plant's scientific name and common name have several interesting theories on their origin. The scientific name, Myosotis, means mouse ear, which describes the size and shape of the petal. Its species name, scorpiodes, and the common name "Scorpion Weed", are from the coiled plant stem that resembles a scorpion tail. This appearance led people to believe this flower was a remedy for scorpion stings; however, this claim has never been validated.
The common name may have originated from an unpleasant edible experience that was hard to forget (these plants taste bad).
However they may have a more heartfelt meaning. It's said that whomever wore this flower wouldn't be forgotten by his or her lover. There are two stories that illustrate the flower's significance among lovers and explain the common name, although both have tragic endings.
In the first story, a suitor was picking this flower for his love and saw the perfect specimen. It was close to the cliff's edge but he reached for it anyway. Losing his balance, the man plummeted over the cliff, shouting, "Forget me not!" as he fell.
The second story originates in Germany. A knight and his lovely lady were walking along a riverbank. He was picking this flower for her when he tripped and fell into the river. Before he went under he threw the small bouquet to her and shouted "vergiss mein nicht", the German name of the flower.
What can be taken away from this flower...how about the men need to leave it alone.
Aquilegia comes from the Latin word aquil, meaning eagle, referring to the shape of the petals. Formosa means beautiful. Indeed, the native columbine fits the descriptive epithet. The common name, columbine, stems from the Latin word, columbina, meaning dove-like.
Native American people used the columbine for many different purposes. Some thought the flower, as well as the whole plant, was a good luck charm. Children were warned to not pick the flower or it will rain. California Natives ate it as a vegetable after boiling the early spring greens. British Columbia natives treated the flowers like candy, the children sucking out the sweet nectar from the spurs...no wonder it rains a lot in western Canada, hence the Canadian name, Red Rain-flower.
The Native People found many amazing ways to use this plant. Medicinally, the plant was used as an analgesic and antirheumatic by rubbing the leaves over aching joints. Some chewed the leaves for coughs and sore throats and made a decoction of roots for a cold remedy. They made perfumes by chewing the seeds and rubbing it on their bodies and clothing, and not from the flower, although we often think it is the source for fragrance.
The columbine was considered a love medicine plant. The women used it as a good-luck-charm, to gain men’s affection.
The word Sedum comes from the Latin word sedo, "to sit," referring to the way many species grow. I chose this flower based on the photo. I liked the way the sedum was growing amongst the drought stricken rock moss.
Anagallis arvensis goes by a lot of names: the "red pimpernel", "red chickweed", "poor man's weather glass", "shepherd's weatherglass" and "shepherd's clock", to name some.
It is a low-growing, non-native annual plant in the Myrsinaceae family, originating in Europe, and grows in Asia and North America. The common names relate to the fact that the flowers will close when bad weather is approaching.
The presence of the flower is usually an indication of light soils. The flower is most noted for being the emblem of the fictional hero the Scarlet Pimpernel.
Berries may be mildly poisonous if eaten. The woody vines were used by native peoples for weaving, binding, lashing, and even for suspension bridges.
The Orange Honeysuckle was first noted by the Lewis & Clark Expedition on June 5, 1806, at Camp Chopunnish, Idaho County, Idaho.
The Inside-out flower grows in woodlands dominated by Douglas fir, White oak, Western hemlock, Silver fir, Noble fir and Western red cedar, as well as mixed evergreen and broadleaf deciduous forests.
The Native Americans chewed the leaves for a cough medicine. Modern medicinal uses are for sinus congestion, chronic rhinitis and hay fever.
Shooting Stars are good examples of the 'buzz pollination.' They have to rely on bees and other flying insects to provide proper pollination for their survival.
Dodecatheon means 'twelve gods,' from the Greek word dodeka ('twelve') and thoes ('god'), which can be interpreted to mean, a plant is protected by the pantheon...'every god.' So don't pick them.
Chaucer called it "eye of the day". Geoffrey Chaucer was an English author, and poet and was sometimes called the father of English literature...hence the "English Daisy."
This native to Europe is not affected by mowing and is therefore often considered a weed on lawns, though many also value the appearance of the flowers, including children who spend many summer hours making daisy chains.
Daisy is also a common girl's name and is a nickname for girls named Margaret, which originally comes from the Latin word for daisy.
In ancient Rome, the surgeons who accompanied Roman legions into battle would order their slaves to pick sacks full of daisies in order to extract their juice. Bandages were then soaked in this juice and then would be used to bind sword and spear cuts.
It is considered a hard flower to find even though it grow in large quantities in its limited habitat. Rosy balsamroot is an attractive, ground-hugging perennial with a carrot-like taproot. The taproot is in part the reason for its success in the harsh desert environment. The flowers are deep yellow, becoming rosy red with age.
It grows on moist slopes and in meadows, and is found in the summer along the roadside throughout the western region of the Columbia River Gorge.
The genus name, from the Latin campana (bell), means little bell. The name Harebell may allude to an association with witches, who were believed able to transform themselves into hares, portents of bad luck when they crossed a persons path.
In Scotland, another old name for this plant was Witches Thimble.
There are many myths and legends attached to the naming of the Forget-Me-Not flower. In a German legend, God named all the plants when a tiny unnamed one cried out, "Forget-me-not, O Lord!" God replied, "That shall be your name." In another legend, the little flower cried out, "Forget-me-not!" as Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden.
The Christ child was sitting on Mary's lap one day and said that he wished that future generations could see her eyes. He touched her eyes and then waved his hand over the ground and blue forget-me-nots appeared, hence the name forget-me-not.
Henry IV adopted the flower as his symbol during his exile in 1398, and retained the symbol upon his return to England the following year. In the 15th century Germany, it was supposed that the wearers of the flower would not be forgotten by their lovers.
Legend has it that in medieval times, a knight and his lady were walking along the side of a river. He picked a posy of flowers, but because of the weight of his armor he fell into the river. As he was drowning he threw the posy to his loved one and shouted "Forget-me-not".
This is a flower connected with romance and tragic fate. It was often worn by ladies as a sign of faithfulness and enduring love. Most people use these in weddings for love.
All clarkias are named for Captain Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. These pretty red flowers really do mean that spring is over, you'll find them growing beginning in late April after the rains have ended for the season.
This grouping of flowers was man planted, after the bridges were replaced at each end of the Elk Creek Tunnel. Native annuals, perennials, and native trees were replanted over the disturbed land.
The name Sour Grass is easy to remember by children who have tasted the leaves or unripe seed capsules. The tart bite of this plant is not unpleasant but the plant should not be consumed in large amounts due to the toxicity of the oxalic acid, the chemical responsible for the sour taste.
In fact, I wouldn't have noticed this flower if it wasn't for the time I was photographing a waterfall. I lost my balance and slid down an embankment. When I came to a muddy stop, there next to me was the Snow Queen flower. Discovering it by my accident made me forget my fall, and was glad my clumsy footing introduced me to this delicate beauty.
It grows in open, usually serpentine, rocky soils in higher elevations.
Because of its wide distribution, it goes by many names, including early blue violet and hooked-spur violet. In the Pacific Northwest, it begins blooming in March at lower elevations.
They are fairly small flowers that grow low to the ground, so they can often go unnoticed or stay hidden in the grass. They are found in a variety of habitats, however they prefer meadows and around forest edges.
It is edible and the color makes for a splashy garnish or salad additive.
Native Americans ground the seeds for flour and also roasted them as popcorn. It was also used medically for numerous illnesses, including colds, tuberculosis, internal pains, ulcers, rheumatism, chest pains, asthma, heart conditions, and cancer.
The Indian Pond lily can be found throughout the shallow dune ponds in the Oregon National Dunes.
American girls from the northwest Haida tribe believed if they ate the orchids bulbs, it would improve their bust lines. Picking this orchid will break the roots and kill the plant...so it is best to look but don't touch. The least used common name, 'Hider-of-the-north' is unfortunately becoming more and more of its true name.
Finding this little gem always makes my day. I first "discovered" this flower at Silver Creek State Park. Since then, I have come across the orchid at Watson Falls along the North Umpqua, and throughout the west side of the Columbia River Gorge,