The Wenatchee World



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Mother Nature's Rush Hour

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This time of year always is very busy for me, much like Mother Nature herself. Between my yard that is almost an acre, veggie garden, native plant nursery, dogs and the wildflowers it seems I never have enough time for all of what I would like to do. Too many weeds to pull, too many flowers all in bloom at once, too many trails that are absolutely gorgeous. Lucky I am to live in such a place.

Columbia bladderpod, Lesquerella douglasii, on a gravel bank of the Columbia River. This plant is also called Douglas' bladderpod. Occurring from BC to Oregon and a little part of Idaho, it is often found on sandy or gravelly areas near rivers. Columbia bladderpod is a member of the mustard family- Brassicaceae- which are characterized by having four petals and strange seed pods that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. These are very round and not flattened- which is where the common name of bladderpod comes from- the seed capsules are like an inflated bladder (or balloon). Often the seeds are more important to be able to identify a mustard to species than the flower is. Purple sage, Salvia dorrii ssp. dorrii, mainly a species of hot dry areas in the Columbia Basin and beyond, is currently blooming. Though they are pretty sparse near the Loop Trail in East Wenatchee, a good place to see purple sage in is fuller glory is the Colockum Wildlife Area on the road leading to the primitive boat launch. While some plants are just making an appearance, others are getting ready to call it quits. Bigseed biscuitroot, Lomatium macrocarpum among many other Lomatiums and early bloomers is going to seed. One of the non-native species that has grown by leaps and bounds just in the past week are the grasses on the east side of the loop trail. Most of it is rye, Secale cereale, originally planted for forage for livestock and grain, which has naturalized throughout Eastern Washington. It is often considered a pest, and the rye in Eastern Washington and parts of Oregon seems to be more aggressive than elsewhere. Rye is extremely hardy and can outcompete many natives simply by its robustness, but it also produces chemicals that inhibit other plants from germinating and growing. This is part of the reason that often you will see an entire field of just this grass. The stems of rye are glaucous- covered in a thin waxy layer making the plant look grey-green. This layer protects the plant from getting "sunburned" by making the plant lighter in color, and also helps it to conserve water. Monoculture of rye near 22nd St. in East Wenatchee. Even weeds are beautiful in the right light.