Category Archives: Flowers

Dog Mountain weekend hiker permits return to CRGNSA for peak season

The view facing west over the Columbia River from Dog Mountain Trail (Forest Service trail #147) in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area May 19, 2017. USDA Forest Service photo.

STEVENSON, Wash. (March 1, 2019) – For the second year, the USDA Forest Service requires permits for visitors interested in hiking Dog Mountain on weekends during peak wildflower season, which began in mid-April and continues through June 16, 2019.

Visitors can obtain permits one of two ways:

Visitors who board the Skamania County West End Transit bus at Skamania Fairgrounds in Stevenson will receive a free permit on arrival at Dog Mountain Trailhead. The shuttle ride costs $1 per person, per trip ($2 round-trip), and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each permit is good for one individual, on the day it is issued. The shuttle runs every half hour, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through June 16.

Visitors interested in reserving a permit online can submit their request at Dog Mountain hiking permits are offered at no cost, but a $1 per person administrative fee is charged for processing. Visitors parking a vehicle at Dog Mountain Trailhead will also need to pay the recreation site fee of $5 per car for use of the parking area, or present a valid Northwest Forest or interagency federal pass in lieu of the day-use parking permit. Only 250 reservable permits per peak season weekend day are available to limit congestion. Online permits do not guarantee a parking spot, so visitors are encouraged to carpool (or check-out the weekend shuttle service from Skamania Fairgrounds).

The permits are required as part of a partnership between Washington State Department of Transportation, Skamania County, and the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce to protect public safety. The permit program began in 2018, in response to growing safety concerns about congestion and accidents near the Dog Mountain Trailhead.

“Last year’s program was highly successful,” Lynn Burditt, area manager for Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, said, “In fact, many people said they hiked Dog Mountain for the first time last year, because they didn’t have to wake up early to beat crowds into the parking lot.”

Permits will be required for all visitors to the Dog Mountain trail system on Saturdays and Sundays through peak wildflower season (this year, defined as April 20 to June 16), as a measure to prevent congestion at the trailhead by encouraging visitors to take a shuttle.

“We made a few improvements this year – there are more permits available per day, and the administrative fee for online reservations is down to $1 from last year’s cost of $1.50, thanks to a new service provider,” Lorelei Haukness, recreation planner for the scenic area, said.

Dog Mountain Trail System includes both forks of Dog Mountain Trail (#147 and #147C), Dog-Augspurger Tie Trail #147A, and the lower portion of Augspurger Trail #4407.

Each hiker should carry a printed permit or electronic copy of their permit, as Forest Service employees will check for permits at the trailhead.

Back again this year, several businesses in Stevenson will offer discounts to shuttle riders — including Walking Man Brewing, Big River Grill, North Bank Books, Columbia Hardware, and Bits n’ Spurs. Visit Skamania County Chamber of Commerce in Stevenson to learn more about area businesses that are participating.

For more information, visit or call (541)308-1700.

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area encompasses 292,500 acres of Washington and Oregon, where the Columbia River cuts a spectacular river canyon through the Cascade Mountains. The USDA Forest Service manages National Forest lands in the National Scenic Area and works with the Gorge Commission, states, counties, treaty tribes, and partners to protect and enhance scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia River Gorge while encouraging local economic development consistent with that protection.

Learn more about Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area at or follow CRGNSA on social media at or

Source information: The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (press release).

In the News: Oregon Silverspot is back at Saddle Mountain

A orange and brown butterfly rests on a white flower

A population of Oregon Silverspot butterflies has been reestablished on Saddle Mountain, in the Oregon Coast Range, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

The Oregon Silverspot is one of three butterfly species in the Pacific Northwest federally listed under the Endangered Species Act. Two of the six known remaining populations of Oregon Silverspot are on the Siuslaw National Forest, at Mt. Hebo and Cascade Head.

Read more, at:

Forest Feature: Butterflies

A blue butterfly is perched on a purple thistle flower.

In July, our Pacific Northwest “Forest Feature” is the butterfly. Butterflies, like moths, are species of insects in the order Lepidoptra.

A gray-green butterfly with red-orange spots blends in against green woodland ground foliage.

A Clodius Parnassian butterfly is camouflaged against green foliage in the South Fork Skokomish watershed, located on the Olympic National Forest, June 7, 2016. USDA Forest Service photo.

Nearly 200 species, representing seven families of butterfly, are found in the Pacific Northwest – Hesperiidae, Lycaenidae, Nymphalidae, Papilionidae, Pieridae, Riodinidae, and Satyridae.

Moths are also members of the Lepidoptra order, but, there are some differences between them and their butterfly cousins: Butterflies have thready antennae with a knobbed or hooked tip, while a moth’s antenna may be thready or feathered, but will tapers to a point at the end. Both moths and butterflies hatch as caterpillars, but moths will cover their cocoon in fiber, soil, or leaves; a butterfly transforms to its adult form inside a smooth-coated chrysalis. Butterflies fly during the day, while moths are usually active at night.

Three butterflies native to the Pacific Northwest are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Oregon Silverspot (Speyeria zerene hippolyta) is federally listed as threatened, while the Taylor’s Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) and Fender’s Blue (Icaricia icarioides fenderi) butterfiles are listed as endangered species.

A fuzzy black caterpillar, observed from above, creeps up a stalk of grass.

A Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly caterpillar (post-diapause larvae), observed Feb. 26, 2016 on the Olympic National Forest . USDA Forest Service Photo by Karen Holtrop.

There are several reasons for this, but, a major one is that catepillars may be hungry, but some of them are picky eaters. Adult butterflies feed on pollen from many different sources. But as caterpillars, their eggs may need to be laid on on a specific species of plant to survive. This selectivity makes their species very vulnerable to invasive plants and noxious weeds, if those plants that crowd out the plants those caterpillars rely on, and to any environmental or other habitat changes that affect their preferred species for feeding or shelter.

You may think of butterflies as sun-loving creatures – and they are! Butterflies are cold-blooded, and must stay warm to fly. But forest meadows are a very important habitat to to Oregon Silverspot: The Siuslaw National Forest is one of the few remaining places you might spot it this butterfly; which thrives on foggy, breezy conditions.

Two of the six known remaining populations of Oregon Silverspot are on the forest, at Mt. Hebo and Cascade Head.

The butterfly’s survival is dependent on the early blue violet, Viola adunca, the only species on which the butterfly can successfully feed and develop as larvae.

A black, orange and white butterfly rests on a yellow wildflower.

The Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly, Euphydryas editha taylori, seen here in an undated photo, is a federally-listed endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. US Fish and Wildlife Service photo by A. Barna

Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly has lost 99% of its native habitat to development and suppressed wildland fires; paved roads, new buildings, and even trees have overtaken the prairie meadows that once hosted the native plants the butterfly relies on to lay eggs and for its caterpillars to feed upon after hatching.

One of the last remaining breeding areas for Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly is a military base, where explosives used in training set fires that have preserved the open prairie. Eggs are collected from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State each spring, raised under the supervision of scientists at the Oregon Zoo, and released back into the wild as caterpillars the following year.

The Fender’s Blue butterfly faces similar challenges in its native habitat, the upland prairies of the Willamette Valley. Establishing federally-designated protected habitat, using prescribed fire to expand prairies and reduce invasive grasses, and re-planting the prairie with native wildflowers – including Kincaid’s lupine, on which the butterflies lay most of their eggs – has helped increase the endangered butterfly’s numbers since it was federally listed in 2000.

The black-and-orange Monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, might be one of the most recognizable butterfly species in our region. This regally-named butterfly found throughout North America, including the Pacific Northwest. Its larvae grow on several species of milkweed.

A monarch butterfly rests in the cup of a person's hand

A monarch butterfly rests in the cup of a person’s hand in an Aug. 1, 2016 USDA Forest Service photo.

Entymologists (researchers who study insects) warn that while the Monarch butterfly isn’t endangered yet, its numbers have been declining rapidly for a decade.

One theory is the butterflies are running into problems finding flowers, or flowers free of pesticides, when they migrate south for the winter. Another is that deforestation has reduced their winter habitat, and stressed the butterflies who crowding in to overwinter. But no one is quite sure.

Do you want to help butterflies survive and thrive here at home in the Pacific Northwest? One way to help is to plant species of flowering plants and shrubs that feed caterpillars for butterflies that are native to your area around homes or public spaces.

Have you heard of a “butterfly garden?” According to the Washington Dept. of Wildlife, you can plant a garden that feeds butterflies in a space as small as a container outside your home!

Butterflies like to feed on brightly-colored flowers planted in sunny places, especially those that are protected from the wind. You can find a list of suggested plants in this brochure. Not only will the flowers help butterflies (and moths), they may also attract other pollen and nectar-loving creatures – including hummingbirds, and bees!

Try to avoid using insecticides – even organic ones, like Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) – when you can. If you do use them, follow the instructions and follow your state agriculture service’s recommendations to minimize the risk of exposure to beneficial worms, caterpillars, or insects in your area.

One plant that should not be part of your butterfly garden is the “butterfly bush” (Buddleia davidii). This bush is native to Chile, and is considered a noxious weed and a highly invasive plant in the Pacific Northwest – which means it could become a threat to native plants that our local butterflies depend on.

Did you know?

  • Butterflies “taste” with their feet.
  • Butterflies can “see” ultraviolet light.
  • A butterfly’s skeleton is on the outside of its body. The exoskeleton protects it and keeps it from drying out.
  • A butterflies tongue is like a long straw, which curls back up under their body when not in use.
  • Some butterflies don’t poop! They burn everything they consume to generate the energy to fly.
  • The largest butterfly in the world is Queen Alexandra’s birdwing, Ornithoptera alexandrae. It has an average wingspan of almost 10”! No one is sure what the fastest butterfly is
  • Butterflies live in nearly every habitat, on every continent in the world – except Antarctica. This might be because butterflies are cold-blooded, and can’t fly if their body temperature drops below 86 degrees F.

More information:

General information:

Butterflies and Moths of North America (Butterfly and Moth Information Service):

Butterflies and Moths of Pacific Northwest Forests and Woodlands (USDA Forest Service):

Endangered & threatened species:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: ESA listed species information

Oregon Zoo: Endangered and Threatened species conservation programs

Siuslaw National Forest: Oregon Silverspot butterfly info

Xerxes Society:

Butterfly gardens:

North American Butterfly Association project (Butterflies and Moths of North America)

Butterflies and How to Attract Them (Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife):

Monarch butterfly lesson plans, activities, and projects:

Journey North

Monarch Watch

Monarch Lab (University of Minnesota)

Forest Features highlight a new Pacific northwest species (or sometimes family, order or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy. If you’re an educator who would like more information about incorporating Pacific Northwest environmental and forest science in your classroom, email us at

Two brown-winged butterflies with white spots rest on a set of spiky green and red leaves.

A pair of Two-Banded Checkered Skipper butterflies, Pyrgus ruralis, found during a survey May 18, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region

National Pollinator Week June 18-24

Two bees at the center of a yellow flower

It’s Pollinator Week! In 2018, the annual celebration of pollinators and their contributions to sustaining biodiversity, habitat and agriculture is observed June 18-24. Since 2010, this week has been a time to celebrate the contributions pollinators make to our nation, supported by official proclamations from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, U.S. Dept. of Interior, and governors of many states.

Around the world, pollinators are declining due to factors that threaten all biodiversity. Loss of habitat is the principal reason, followed by improper use of pesticides, pollution, and invasive species.

Policymakers, natural resource managers, private landowners, and others want to make informed decisions that consider the needs of pollinators. Consumers can choose products that have been produced in a pollinator-friendly manner. Educators can emphasize the importance of pollinators; teach about their life histories; and instill an appreciation for the essential role played by pollinators in living systems.

Everyone’s future flies on the wings of our pollinators.

To learn more about Pollinator Week (and the Pollinator Partnership), visit:


What is Pollination?

Pollination allows for plants to reproduce. Much like the animal kingdom, plants have male and female parts and need to transfer genes from one to the other to create seeds for the next generation of plants. The only way this can happen is when pollen grains from the anther (male) of the flower are transferred to a stigma (female).

Some plants are able to self-pollinate—meaning that they don’t need any help from an animal pollinator to reproduce. Others can be pollinated by wind that carries pollen grains from flower to flower. About 80 percent of all flowering plants, and three-quarters of the staple crops that are grown for human consumption rely on animal pollinators.

There are a number of animal pollinators. The most recognizable pollinators are probably bees, but everything from ants and beetles to bats and birds can help pollinate.

More information:


Did you know?

  • 1 out of 3 bites of food we eat are thanks to animal pollinators.
  • Almost 90% of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators for fertilization.
  • About 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. Of those, 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats, and small mammals such as mice. The rest are insects like beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies and moths.
  • National forests and grasslands provide valuable migration habitat for the pollinators that allow everything from wildflowers to agricultural crops to thrive.
  • The USDA supports programs that help find homes for pollinators.
  • Honeybees are the most prolific animal pollinator—but pollinators range from insects like butterflies, wasps and ants, to mammals like bats, and even birds.
  • Pollinator populations, especially honeybees, have seen sharp declines in recent decades—there were about 6 million honeybee hives in the U.S. in 1940; that has declined to about 2.5 million today. Now more than ever, pollinators need habitat to keep our ecosystems and agricultural economy strong.
  • Pollinators play a key role in feeding American families and supporting the American economy. Pollinators contribute $15 billion annually to farm income in the U.S.
  • Worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend. Crops like almonds, apples, blueberries, melons, squash, even oranges and avocados are heavily reliant upon pollinators to reproduce and thrive.
  • The USDA Forest Service is a key agency in restoring degraded lands for pollinators and other wildlife, through the planting of native wildflowers that help connect birds, bees and other pollinating insects across the American landscape.

Suggested activities:

  • Plant a pollinator garden. Check out: for gardening instructions, and for educational and curriculum
  • Reduce chemical misuse. Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to reduce
    damage to your plants and to protect pollinators by using less chemicals. You could
    intersperse food plants, like tomatoes, with inedible plants like marigolds. Marigolds are known to attract pest insects away from food plants. Learn more about IPM and gardening at:
  • Limit lawn grass. Grass lawns offer little food or shelter for most
    wildlife, including pollinators. You can replace grass with a wild meadow or prairie
    plants. For a neater look, make a perennial border with native plants. Plants native
    to your area are adapted to your soil type, climate, precipitation, and local pollinators! You can get a list of plants native to your area at: 
  • Provide water. All wildlife, including pollinators, need water. Some butterfly species sip water from muddy puddles to quench their thirst and get important minerals. You can provide water in a birdbath or even a shallow dish placed on the ground. Pile small stones or glass florist beads in the water so the pollinators can crouch low and sip from the surface of the water without falling into the water.

Forest Feature: Wildflowers

A purple coneflower, surrounded by lupine and Indian paintbrush blossoms

We’re wild for wildflowers! Pacific Northwest wildflowers, our “Forest Feature” for April, add more than just their beauty to our landscape. Flowers also play an important role in sustaining a healthy ecosystem in national forests!

A bumble bee collects pollen from a large yellow flower

A bumble bee collects pollen from a flower on the Ochoco National Forest in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Wildflowers produce pollen that feeds bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, provide seeds that are eaten by birds and small mammals, and offer cover from predators for many kinds of wildlife. Native butterfly species often rely on specific species of plant to nurture and nourish their caterpillars.

Some native Pacific Northwest flowers and the wildlife that depend on them have become threatened or endangered as the plants have lost ground to development, habitat changes, and crowding from noxious weeds and invasive exotic plants.

Flowers are fun, and functional!

Many Pacific Northwest wildflowers have been used by native cultures, western pioneers, and even modern scientists to help produce food, fibers, dyes, perfume, and medicine.

A basket, woven from plant-based material using traditional methods.

The details on this basket-weave tray, created by a member of the Tohono O’odham people of Arizona, is made from beargrass leaves, coiled with dried yellow and fresh green yucca leaves and seed pods from the Devil’s claw (Proboscidea parviflora ssp. parviflora) plant. USDA Forest Service photo by Teresa Prendusi.

According to The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, the roots, stems, leaves and seeds of the arrowleaved balsamroot are all edible. Beargrass has thick roots that can be roasted or boiled, like potatoes, and the bulbs of some lilies can be eaten raw. Oils extracted from species of violets and lavender are used to produce scents for perfumes and soaps and to flavor foods like herbal tea and ice cream.

The chemical found in foxglove was the original source for digitoxin, a compound used in medication to treat atrial fibrillation and heart failure. Yarrow has been used for centuries to produce cough medicine, relieve pain, stop bleeding, and its leaves can be rubbed on skin as a type of insect repellent.

For more information about “Medicinal Plants of the North Cascades,” visit:

Learn more about ethnobotany – the study of plants sustaining people – at:

Don’t pick the flowers!

Indian paintbrush, cow parsnip and lupine flowers bloom in an open field.

Indian paintbrush, cow parsnip and lupine are native wildflowers found throughout the Pacific Northwest, as seen in this undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Bringing home a bouquet of flowers seems like the most natural thing in the world – but the Forest Service asks that visitors leave flowers as they find them in national forests. Picking flowers interrupts the flower’s natural life cycle. If too many are picked, it hurts plants’ ability to perform its ecological role sheltering and feeding wildlife, and reproduce.

Remember: Take only photos, leave only footsteps!

For more information about wildflower ethics, visit

Free-use and forest products permits for collectors

There are some ways to legally collect plants on national forests. Permits allow the Forest Service approve removal of plants that aren’t at-risk, while monitoring what is being removed, how much, and providing information to collectors about any seasonal restrictions or information they need to prevent gathering of rare plants by mistake.

Apply for a permit to gather plants for either personal or commercial use at the district ranger’s office for your forest you want to visit:

Helping forest flowers from home

Planting native flowers at home is a great way to help local wildlife and wild plant species!

Native flowers that are already adapted to your environment, which can reduce the need to use pesticides, which can harm bees, butterflies, and other pollinators in addition to insect pests.

Native flowers planted around your home and garden also provide shelter and food for wildlife that rely on those plants, expanding their habitat, while also producing seeds for new wildflower colonies.

Importing exotic plants is also a common source of invasive, non-native insect pests. And some non-native plants, like the butterfly bush, can become noxious weeds if they escape to wild areas!

Your county cooperative extension or master gardener program is a good source for information about choosing and caring for native plants and flowers in your garden or landscaping.

Find more information about landscaping with Pacific Northwest native plants, at:

Did you know? Many Pacific Northwest wildflowers are also fire-resistant, which helps create defensible space in the event of sparks fall near your home during wildfire season if used for landscaping. Wild strawberries, day lillies, flax flowers and lupine are just a few of the native flowers that are also fire-resistant and suitable for landscaping. The right landscaping can also keep water in the soil and reduce erosion in dry or drought-prone areas.

Learn more about gardening with fire-resistant native plants, at:

Fun projects for flower fans:

Now that you’ve learned about wildflowers, you can put your knowledge to use!

Black and white illustration of MacFarlane's Four-o'clock, Mirabilis macfarlanei. The flower is a narrow endemic found along the Snake River in eastern Oregon and western Idaho. It is listed as a threatened specieis. The deep-rooted perennial has brilliant magenta flowers with purplish stems. The flowers open in late afternoon and remain open throughout the night. The heliodinid moth is dependent upon this rare plant species.

Julie Kierstead Nelson, forest botanist for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, created a coloring book depicting “Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest,” which is available for download from the USDA Forest Service website at:


Learn more:


Washington Native Plant Society:

Native Plant Society of Oregon:

Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes family, order or genus) each month as part of our regional youth engagement strategy. If you’re an educator who would like more information about incorporating Pacific Northwest environmental and forest science in your classroom, email us at

Hikers make their way up a trail through a field of wildflowers

Hikers make their way up a trail through a field of wildflowers on the Willamette National Forest in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Further afield: Spring wildflower preview

There’s a saying, April showers bring May flowers. But even in March, any color that punctures winter’s gloom makes us wonder “when will the wildflowers arrive?”

Wildflower season brings big crowds to the region’s most accessible mountain meadows, which are renowned for producing dense displays of short-lived summer blooms.

Beginning March 31, 2018, Skamania County will provide shuttle service on busy weekends at Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to help alleviate traffic that created parking and safety issues, and visitors who don’t use the shuttle on those dates will need a Forest Service permit before they go.

More information:

Mark Skinner, regional botanist for the Forest Service – Pacific Northwest region spring, 2018 seems like a relatively typical wildflower season so far, in that the first spring flowers don’t seem to be significantly ahead or behind schedule in most areas.

But it’s notoriously difficult to predict when flower displays will “peak,” he said.

“Any place you go there are things that bloom early and there are things that bloom late. There are irises blooming the second week of April on the Umpqua (National Forest), but the lilies aren’t going to bloom until early July,” Skinner said.

Some of the first spring flowers in the northwest arrive as early as late winter, such as the blossoms on native cherries and other fruit-bearing bushes and shrubs.

The glacier lily, Erythronium grandiflorum, is among of the first flowers that emerges at higher elevations, appearing as snowbanks retreat in sub-alpine areas.

A Pacific Dotted Blue butterfly perches on a bluehead gilia blossom

A Pacific Dotted Blue butterfly perches on a bluehead gilia blossom at Marys Peak on the Siuslaw National Forest in this undated Bureau of Land Management photo.

One such area, Mary’s Peak, on the Siuslaw National Forest, is known to be an excellent site for spring flower spotting.

The area is a Forest Service-designated special botanical area.

“It’s a little earlier of a season than other spots in the Cascades, on higher peaks, and it’s also easy to access,” Lisa Romano, the forest’s Public Affairs Officer, said.

The Marys Peak day use area and parking lot are located alongside the largest of the mountain’s five sub-alpine fields, with a dirt road a path around the summit’s other meadows, a rock garden and a streambed, where a variety of other flowers can be found.

If you’re up for a more of a challenge, Tatoosh Ridge on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington, offers views spectacular views of Mount Rainier beyond exuberant summer flower displays in July.

Longtime northwest hiker Jay Stern filed trip reports from the trail on in 2016 and 2017.

meadow filled with wildflowers

Bands of colored flowers dominate the landscape in this Tatoosh Ridge meadow, photographed by hiker Jay Stern during a July 16, 2017 trip to Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Originally published on by the photographer (used with permission).

He recommends waiting until the July snow melt is well underway, bringing hiking poles, plenty of water, and watching other hiker’s trip reports if you are trying to time your trip around “peak color.”

“It’s worth the effort,” Stern said. “But that first section, the first two miles are going to be steep… you’re going to work for it.”

For a less intense hike, Willamette National Forest botanist Ryan Murdoff suggests the Tire Mountain trail, where visitors can find Washington lily (Lilium washingtonianum), wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca), vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla), field chickweed (Cerastium arvense), Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum quamash), broadleaf lupine (Lupinus latifolius), and other wildflowers. The trail leads into the Pacific Crest Trail system and is also open to horseback riders and mountain bikes.

For access to a variety of hikes and an expansive assortment of wildflowers, public affairs specialist Chiara Cipriano suggests the Iron Mountain, also located on Willamette National Forest.

More than 300 species of wildflowers grow in the area, and nearby trailheads offer several hiking options.

Two popular routes include the short summit hike, which leads to a viewing platform, and the Cone Peak trail, a longer trail but at a a gentler grade that takes hikers through several meadows.

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest botanist Helen Lau likes to send flower-seekers on a scenic driving tour: from Reecer Creek Rd. in Ellensburg, Wash., to Forest Service Rd. 3500 on the forest, and then follow the road up Table Mountain.

“The diversity of habitats within this drive are wonderful,” Lau said.

Wildflowers paint a red and green swath along the rocky edge of Soda Creek

Wildflowers paint a red and green swath along the rocky edge of Soda Creek on Deschutes National Forest in this undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Visitors who time their trip right can see forested roads carpeted with yellow balsam root (Basamorhiza sagittatta), dotted with showy phlox (Phlox speciose), and brightly-colored penstemon species. At higher elevations, they’ll find rugged, rocky meadows studded with brightly colored blossoms.

Cheryl Bartlet, a botanist based on the Olympic National Forest, also suggested a forest drive; Forest Road 24 to Lake Cushman, outside Hoodsport, Wash.

“It’s accessible to everyone, and is very easy to get to,” she said.

On their way to the lake, travelers pass cliffs and rocky areas supporting a diverse mix of summer wildflowers, including harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora), seablush (Plectritis congesta), farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena), checker lily (Fritillaria affinis), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), columbine (Aquilegia formosa), and sticky cinquefoil (Drymocallis glandulosa).

“Every spring, there’s a pretty spectacular display of seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) and chickweed monkeyflower (Erythranthe alsinoides) on the cliff faces,” Bartlet said.

Just watch out for the equally-bountiful poison oak along the roadway, she warned; wait to reach the lake before getting out to enjoy the scenery, or extend your trip by following trails from the Dry Creek, Mt. Rose or Mt. Ellinor trailheads.

Three Peaks Botanical Area, located in the upper Wynoochee River watershed along Forest Service Rd. 2270, is another top spot for wildflowers on the Olympic Peninsula.

The area was designated as a botanical area to protect ancient stands of Alaska yellow cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis), but is also home to wet meadows that support a particularly diverse mix of species, such as the yellow-flowered sedge (Carex anthoxanthea) and northern Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris), Bartlet said.

Yellow, red and blue wildflowers in a grassy field.

An array of primary colors make this grouping of wildflowers stand out at Starvation Ridge, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest in this undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Other species include elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica), pale larkspur (Delphinium glaucum), sticky false asphodel (Tofieldia glutinosa), arrowleaf groundsel (Senicio triangularis), Canadian burnet (Sanguisorba canadensis), marsh violet (Viola palustris), broad-leaved Caltha (Caltha biflora), leatherleaf saxifrage (Leptarrhena pyrolifolia) and yellow willowherb (Epilobium luteum).

Visitors may even catch a glimpse of Bartlet’s favorite flower, the common butterwort; a small plant, with a purple flower rising from a bundle of yellow-green leaves and one of the Pacific Northwest’s few native carnivorous plants.

The leaves secrete a digestive enzyme that slowly dissolves small insects, and it’s scientific name, Pinguicula vulgaris, means “greasy little fat one.”

“What’s not to love?” Bartlet said.

For earlier blooms, Patrick Lair, public affairs officer for the Ochoco National Forest, suggests visiting the Big Summit Prairie, near Prineville, Ore.

Wildflowers on Big Summit Prairie

Wildflowers abound on Big Summit Prairie, Ochoco National Forest, in this undated USDA Forest Service photo.

As early as April, visitors can find pink desert shooting stars (Dodecatheon conjugens) and lavender grass widow flowers (Olsynium douglasii).

In May and June, yellow wooley mule’s ears (Wyethia mollis) and purple camas flowers (Camassia quamash) begin to bloom in the fields, while pink and white bitterroot blossoms (Lewisia rediviva) emerge on the dry, rocky flats.

In June and July, look for western blue flag (Iris missouriensis), coastal larkspur (Delphinium decorum), giant red paintbrush (Castilleja miniata), Oregon checkermallow (Sidalcea oregana), and arrow-leaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), and Peck’s mariposa lily (Calochortus longebarbatus var. peckii) – a delicate blossom with round, blue-lavender petals that grows only in the Ochoco Mountains.

Fireweed bush grows on a rocky ridge above a lake

A cluster of fireweed grows on Harry’s Ridge, above Spirit Lake, at Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

For a longer drive, the forest’s Paulina District created a “Scabland Tour” that maps an all-day trek through several forest habitats. The route includes juniper and pine forest, wet meadows, and rocky scabland, views of the Snow Mountains, and a spectacular array of wildflowers, including Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamhoriza sagittata), mule-ears (Wyethia amplexicaulis), Sagebrush mariposa lily (Calochortus macrocarpus), lupine, and tapertip onion (Allium acuminatum).

In southwest Oregon, the T.J. Howell Botanical Drive through Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest offers several vantage points for viewing wildflowers and unusual plants, including Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Wayside, Days Gulch Botanical Area, Josephine Camp, and Little Falls Trail.

Howell’s saxifrage (Micranthes howellii) and Howell’s mariposa lily (Calochortus Howellii) can be seen at various locations. Both named for Thomas Jefferson Howell, one of the state’s earliest botanists.

Another of the Northwest’s few carnivorous species, the California pitcher plant (Daringtonia californica), is found in wetland areas.

The forest’s Rough and Ready Flat Botanical Area is another area known for unusual plants, including several rare, threatened and endangered species.

Three Fingered Jack rock formation with flowers in the foreground

Wildflowers pepper the field beneath Three Finger Jack at Canyon Creek, Deschutes National Forest in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

McDonald’s rock-cress (Arabis macdonaldiana), a federally listed endangered species, Hooker’s Indian-pink (Silene hookerii), and the two-eyed violet (Viola ocellata) are among the more unusual blooms, and appear alongside more common species like nodding arnica (Arnica cordifolia), coast larkspur (delphinium decorum), and western buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis). Flowers begin to emerge in March, with peak blooms in later April through May.

Further north, the Sauk Mountain day hike on Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest offers 1500 feet of elevation gain over two miles, with sweeping views of sub-alpine meadows, North Cascades mountain peaks, and the Skagit River valley.

Trailhead parking tends to fill up on weekends during peak wildflower season, so mid-week hikes are recommended. The mountain’s wildflower season is typically peaks in late July.

Wildflowers skirt the shore of Crescent Lake

Wildflowers skirt the shore of Crescent Lake on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in this undated USDA Forest Service photo.

And although Heather Meadows is better known as home to Mount Baker ski area, forest staff  say it’s also an excellent setting for wildflower hikes in late July, when the snow pack briefly recedes.

The Fire and Ice interpretive trail includes a 100 yard, accessible paved path with seating and an overlook, while Artist Ridge trail is a one mile loop featuring fields of Alaska bell-heather (Harrimanella stelleriana) and species like Avalanche Lilies (Erythronium montanum), broad-leaf lupine (Lupinus latifolius) and spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa).

The Bagley Lakes trail features a 3/4 mile path, with waterfalls and wildflowers along the route.

Green Mountain, accessible via Suiattle River Rd. (Forest Service Rd. 26) off State Route 530, is another popular hike on the forest. Its wildflower season peaks in mid to late July, and is best visited mid-week to avoid crowds.

Wildflowers along Kettle Crest trail

Wildflowers grow along the Kettle Crest Trail, Colville National Forest in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

In northeast Washington, the 44-mile Kettle Crest – South trail, part of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail on the Colville National Forest, offers numerous opportunities for wildflower seekers, as it follows the ridgeline over multiple peaks. One highlight is the White Mountain trailhead, located 30 miles outside Colville, Wash.

Kettle Crest – North also features numerous mountaintop meadows along the route.

For non-hikers, the portion of State Route 20 from Usk to Cusick, Wash., near Colville National Forest, features plentiful flowers along the roadway in mid-to-late May. The route is paved and passable by passenger vehicles.

If you have a vehicle capable of driving off-road (pick-up truck or SUV), consider entering the forest via Iron Mountain Rd. (Forest Service Rd. 9535) outside Addy, Wash. in late May or early June. Look for a rocky outcrop about 1 mile southwest of the junction with Forest Service Rd. 300, for “a stupendous view of the Colville Valley, north and south,” Franklin Pemberton, the forests’ public affairs officer, said.

Highlights include prairie stars (Lithophragma parviflora), desert parsley and biscuitroot species (Lomatium sp.), and shooting stars (Dodecatheon hendersonii), plus “a few surprises,” he said.

But while flowers are a great way to get people excited about the outdoors, regional botanist Skinner believes sometimes people focus too much on timing trips in search of peak blooms, and overlook the flowers blooming all around them, every day.

Glide Wildflower Show; April 28-29, 2018 in Glide, OR. Suggested donation is $3.

The Glide Wildflower Show is April 28-29 in Glide, Ore.

“We have one of the outstanding floras of the world, with plant diversity being especially rich. We’ve got hundreds of species found nowhere else, and some of the most spectacular forests in the world. It’s a fantastic place for plants.” Skinner said.


One place visitors are guaranteed to see plenty of wildflowers is at the Glide Wildflower Show, April 28 and 29, at the Glide Community Center in Glide, Ore. Forest Service botanists will be among those helping identify more than 600 flowering plants gathered from local forests and fields by volunteers for display! Find news about the exhibition and related events on the show’s Facebook page:


Forest botanist shares planting tips to protect pollinators

Close up photo of a butterfly feeding from a coral colored columbine blossom.


Close up of an Indian plum flower

An Indian plum flower blossoms on the Olympic National Forest in an undated USDA Forest Service ph

OLYMPIA, Wash. – March 5, 2018 – I’ve been out and about on the Forest of late, and even though March has just begun, some of our native plants are beginning to show signs of life! Indian plum (Oemleria cerasiformis) is in full glorious bloom right now and there’s a red flowering current (Ribes sanguineum) in my yard that looks like it could bloom any day now. Both of these native shrubs are important parts of the ecosystem on the Olympic National Forest, but they are also beautiful plants that are great additions to western Washington gardens. Not only do they look nice, but they also benefit pollinators and other wildlife around your home by providing food and shelter for these animals.Many of the pollinators that live on the Olympic National Forest might also find their way to your garden if you give them a reason to visit! Below are a couple of links to plant lists – both native and horticultural – that are attractive to a variety of pollinators, and that grow well in western Washington. Try some of these this year – especially the natives! – and see who shows up:

Who pollinates our plants?

Bees aren’t the only pollinators out there; butterflies, moths, birds, beetles and many other animals also pollinate plants. Some plants don’t rely on animals at all, but rather are adapted to rely primarily on the wind. Plants that are wind pollinated typically don’t have showy flowers – think grasses, oaks, alder, and our native hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). Plants that rely on animals for pollination typically have showy, smelly, and/or nectar producing flowers.

A bumblebee collects pollen from the center of a large yellow wildflower.

A bumblebee collects pollen from a wildflower on the Ochoco National Forest June 17, 2014 in this USDA Forest Service photo.

Some of our most conspicuous pollinators in western WA include hummingbirds, who transfer pollen from plant to plant “by accident” while they forage for nectar. Plants that rely heavily on hummingbirds for pollination will often have anthers – the pollen producing structures – that stick out of the flower so the hummingbird rubs against them when they drink nectar secreted from glands deep in the flower. The pollen then sticks to the hummingbird and is carried to the next flower it visits.

Our native bumble bees also make an appearance – keep an eye our native rhodies when they start to bloom this spring and maybe you’ll see “buzz pollination” in action. Some plants – including rhododendrons and azaleas – have evolved to be very conservative with their pollen and only release it under very specific circumstances, namely by buzz pollination.

These plants have anthers with a small pore at their tip where pollen is released. This happens only when and insect – usually a bumblebee – vibrates their flight muscles which produces a high-pitched buzzing sound; if you’re near a rhodie in spring, you’ll probably hear it. These vibrations cause the pollen to be released out of the pore in the anther, often explosively!

A bumblebee crawls on a pink flower blossom.

A bumblebee pollinates a wildflower, on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Aug. 5, 2008. USDA Forest Service photo by Tom Iraci.

The bumblebee then harvests the pollen, which is a nutritious food it uses to stock its’ nest. Some of that pollen will stick to its’ furry body and is then transferred to the next flower it visits. If you have a tuning fork (and who doesn’t), you can simulate this whole process on your own; I’ve heard that an electric toothbrush also works, but your neighbors may look at you funny after seeing you stick a toothbrush into the rhodies in your yard.

Honey bees are also a common visitor to our gardens and – although they are a non-native species – they are extremely important to agricultural crops like cherries, blueberries, apples, and many others. There is an entire industry dedicated to moving honey bee hives from crop to crop, which takes truckloads full of hives from one end of the country to another. Remember that truck that was full of bees that over turned on I-5 in Lynwood last year? That truck was likely headed to eastern Washington after spending time in California’s almond orchards, which annually require a staggering 31 billion honeybees (there are approximately 7.4 billion humans on the Earth, just to put that in perspective) to pollinate 810,000 acres of almond trees. The almond bloom in California is a massive event in the commercial beekeeping world, with truckloads of honey bees arriving from all across the country.

Butterflies are another type of pollinator, but represent just the adult stage in the lifecycle of these important insects. Before there are butterflies, there are eggs, larva (caterpillar), and pupa (the chrysalis). Each of these stages have different requirements including a food source and shelter to lay eggs and pupate.

A black caterpillar with orange tufts crawls across a red wildflower blossom.

A large caterpillar crawls across a wildflower on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Often, a single butterfly species will require different plants depending on what stage of their lifecycle they are in, and different species require different sets of plant species. Here are some tips on how to attract butterflies to your garden by providing the habitat elements they need.

Please remember, DO NOT PLANT BUTTERFLY BUSH (Buddleja sp.)! Even though this plant is extremely attractive to butterflies, it is a noxious weed and is becoming a real problem in riparian areas in western Washington, Oregon, and other parts of the country.

Happy Spring!


Cheryl Bartlett is a USDA Forest Service botanist on the Olympic National Forest in western Washington.

A blue butterfly with white and black spots rests on a green leaf.

Mallow Scrub Hairstreak butterfly (Clodius Parnassian) rests atop a leaf on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest July 8, 2009 in a USDA Forest Service photo.