One of the desert parsleys or biscuitroots, Lomatium species, that does well in disturbed areas is barestem biscuitroot or barestem desert parsley. This is easy to distinguish from other species of biscuitroot- of which we have many- by the large flat leaves. Most biscuitroot leaves are very dissected and look like fern leaves- while these are wide and flat.Barestem biscuitroot has been flowering for several weeks now, and some of the plants are beginning to go to seed. Another distinguishing feature of this bicuitroot compared to others are the seeds- which tend to be rather inflated when immature- instead of clearly flattened like other species. It also is an extremely pungent plant, if you crush it it smells like parsley. This smell just get stronger as the plants mature- and even the dried seeds a year later are still pretty strong smelling.
When very young the leaves were eaten fresh or used as a pot herb by Indians. The leaves provided much needed vitamin C after a long winter and are some of the first edibles to come up in spring. The very smelly and pungent seeds were also put into food stores (often underground caches of roots) to deter insects and mice.One of those native plants in which gardeners are becoming familiar with are the Penstemons or beardtongues. There are over 250 species of Penstemon, all exclusively from North America. This is a penstemon that only occurs here in the Wenatchee Mountains- Penstemon eriantherus var. whitedii also called Whited's Penstemon. It is considered rare, as it only grows in a limited area and the plants are few. Besides tiny technical features, in general Whited's penstemon has larger flowers than many penstemons, as well as being glandular. Glandular meaning it is covered with tiny glands that make the plant sticky when touched. This shrub has already bloomed at the lowest elevations in the valley, but can still be seen (and smelled) blooming at middle and higher elevations. It is antelope bitterbrush or Purshia tridentata. A member of the Rose family- it also smells quite nice in flower. Not quite like a rose, but very flowery still. Antelope bitterbrush is an extemely important part of deer's winter diet. Many of the bitterbrush shrubs around Saddlerock show signs of this winter foraging by deer- nature's way of pruning... One of those misconceptions that I hear again and again is, "Look, there is an eagle." Often times there is a large bird in the sky and people automatically assume that it is a hawk or an eagle. Most of the time it is hard to get a good look to see really what it is, so it could be an eagle, but then... Vultures are very common throughout the west, but aren't often seen close up. They are carrion feeders, showing up like they are attending a banquet to any thing dead and during salmon spawning. They are a dark brown color without any markings, so from a distance can be mistaken for many other large birds, but in flight- the vulture unlike the rest of our large birds- always will wobble. Every once in a while with really gusty winds you might also see a hawk or eagle wobble, but the vulture always does, even on a windless day.