Category Archives: Olympic National Forest

Marbled murrelet mysteries revealed by radio telemetry data

A researcher holds a marbled murrelet. The birds were tagged with radio transmitters to record location data as part of a study of their movement patterns. USDA Forest Service photo

In the latest edition of Science Findings, the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station explores the “hidden world” of the marbled murrelet.

The marbled murrelet, Brachyramphus marmoratus, is a Pacific coast -dwelling shore bird that is federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Ace, in part due to habitat loss.

A marbled murrelet egg rests in a natural shelf. The birds do not build nests for their eggs. USDA Forest Service photo by Nick Hatch.
A marbled murrelet egg rests in a natural shelf. The birds do not build nests for their eggs. USDA Forest Service photo by Nick Hatch.

Their eggs, which are laid on naturally occurring platforms, or shelves, are especially vulnerable to damage as a result of exposure to human-driven activities or development. Their lack of traditional nests also makes it difficult for scientists to study their breeding patterns, even as their total population continues to decline.

A five-year PNW Research Station study used radio transmitters to tag and track a cohort of nearly 150 birds in northwest Washington, producing valuable data about their feeding, breeding and flight habits.

The research illuminated how the birds interact with both marine and coastal forest habitats, and may offer some insight into why this population of birds continues to struggle, despite protections afforded to it by the ESA and in the Northwest Forest Plan amendments.

To learn more, check out Science Findings #213 at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/57633.

Researchers gathered radio telemetry data from a group of around 150 tagged marbled murrelet birds in northwest Washington. USDA Forest Service photo.
Researchers gathered radio telemetry data from a group of around 150 tagged marbled murrelet birds in northwest Washington. USDA Forest Service photo.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station staff report.

In the news: WTA ‘Thank a Ranger’ & ‘The Changing Face of National Forests’

Yewah Lau, district ranger for Hood Canal Ranger District, Olympic National Forest, in a 2017 photo. Photo courtesy of Washington Trails Association, used with permission.

The Washington Trails Association recently re-posted an interview with Yewah Lau, district ranger for Hood Canal Ranger District, on the Olympic National Forest, to highlight their “Thank a Ranger” campaign.

Yewah Lau spoke to the association’s member magazine about diversity, and the values that brought her to a career with the agency, in 2017.

Would you like to show your thanks and appreciation for a forest ranger through WTA? Read the article online at https://www.wta.org/news/signpost/the-changing-face-of-the-national-forest-1, then fill out the “thank you” form at the end of the page to express your thanks and pledge to thank a ranger on the trail during your next forest visit (please note: filling out the form discloses your email address and may result in additional emails from WTA).

From the article:

As the local decision-maker for the happenings on the east side of the peninsula, from Sequim to past Hoodsport and along some of its south side, her role is all-encompassing: recreation, vegetation and wildlife management, working with local staff and specialists to help protect resources, and interacting with and creating opportunities for the public.

Yewah deals with big complex multi-stakeholder issues, working with diverse factions, like elected officials, community groups and local tribes, something that she finds extremely fulfilling…

“I have met women who were the first: the first wildlife biologist in their forest or office, or the first firefighter … I feel like I’m following in their footsteps.”

Ultimately, though, Yewah’s work is driven by an overarching principle:

“Our obligation is to protect natural resources, wildlife and watersheds.  We have a mission that is unique and complex because we’re serving the American public and also trying to find the best combination of what all of those values are.”

 

Forest Feature: Elk

Bull elk grow antlers for the fall mating season

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re dedicating the November Forest Feature to showing our appreciation for an animal that has historically given much to people in the Pacific Northwest – the mighty elk!

Elk (Cervus canadensis) are among the largest species of the deer family in the world. They are also among the largest wild animals in North America – only moose and bison are larger among the non-domesticated species. (Fun fact: “Wild” horses on this continent are actually untamed domesticated horses, sometimes called “feral” horses – they cannot be truly ).

Elk from the Dosewallips elk herd along Highway 101

Elk from the Dosewallips elk herd along Highway 101 in Brinnon, Wash. on the Olympic Peninsula, Aug. 1, 2018. Elk herds are known to cross Highway 101, including the Dosewallips & Dungeness herds. As temperatures get colder, more animals start to live at lower elevations, near roads and some elk herds stay at lower elevations year-round. Courtesy photo by Karen Guzman (used with permission)

Elk first arrived in North America from Asia about 23 million years ago.

Historically, elk have been revered in many cultures. The meat from a single elk can feed many people. Their large hides can be used to create tents to house people, or clothing and shoes to protect them from the elements.

In North America, archaeologists have found images of elk that are thousands of years old, carved by the Anasazi people.

A Roosevelt elk bugles,

A Roosevelt elk bugles, June 9, 2011. USDA Forest Service photo.

Male elk are known for bugling – they make lots of noise to assert their dominance and attract mates.

They also have large antlers, which they use to fight for those same reasons.

Elk shed their antlers every year, and regrow them every spring.

A herd of elk approach a snowy river bank

A herd of elk approach a snowy river bank on the Olympic National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Elk travel in herds, and are quick to defend against predators

They can run up to 35 miles per hour, though they rarely run from a fight.

If their vocal warnings are ignored, both male and female elk might attack by rearing up and delivering powerful kicks from their strong forelegs.

However, elk are susceptible to many diseases. These including parasites, chronic wasting disease, and a disease called Elk hoof disease.

Releasing elk at Sparks Lake on the Deschutes National Forest

Releasing elk at Sparks Lake on the Deschutes National Forest in 1934. USDA Forest Service file photo.

Elk cows leave their herd to give birth, which helps them protect their calves by avoiding attention from predators. They return only once their calves can keep up with the herd.

An elk mother will take care of one another elk’s calf, if the other mother is feeding.

Elk need a lot of food to survive.

Elk eat all kinds of grasses, shrubs, bark and leaves.

Some favorite foods for elk living in the Pacific Northwest include Aspen, red alder, and willow tree barks; shrubs, vines and bushes – including salal, wild rose, and Oregon grape, blackberry, huckleberry and currant; and other plants, including dandelion, clover, bear grass and fireweed.

Elk are valued by hunters as a game animal; their meat is lean, low in cholesterol and high in protein.

A herd of elk climb a bluff

A herd of elk climb a bluff on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Super strength, super speed, super brave… in many ways, elk aren’t just mighty creatures of the forest, they are superheroes!

What do you like most about elk? Check out these fun facts and links to learn even more about our November “Forest Feature”!

Did you know?

  • An elk’s antlers can grow as fast as 2.5 cm per day, and reach a total length of almost 4 feet long, and weigh up to 40 lbs.!
  • Elk look a bit like deer, but they are much bigger. Adult elk stand 4.5 to 5 feet at the shoulder. With their antlers, a male elk might stand up to 9 feet tall!
  • Elk shed their coats seasonally. Their winter coat is five times warmer than their summer coat, and lighter in color – which helps camouflage them against bare ground or snow.
  • A bull (male) elk can weigh 600-800 lbs. A cow (female) elk can weigh up to 500 lbs. 

Learn more about elk:

Videos:



Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month, as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like more information about this topic, or other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate Pacific Northwest environmental education and forest science in your classroom, email us at YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

In the News: Mountain goat relocation set to start this week

A mountain goat, perched on a rocky outcrop.

The first of hundreds of mountain goats will be removed from Olympic National Park and relocated to Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests by helicopter, beginning this week, reporter Logan Stanley writes for The Olympian.

The goats are native to Washington State’s northern Cascades range, but were introduced to the Olympics in the 1920s.

“The move is aimed at re-establishing the depleted mountain goat populations in the Washington Cascades, and reduce problems caused in the Olympics by the non-native goats,” he writes. “Mountain goats have been known to approach hikers because they are attracted to the salt from their sweat, urine, and food. That behavior is less likely in the north Cascades where visitors are more spread out, said Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife manager who specializes in mountain goats. The north Cascades also have an abundance of natural salt licks, while the Olympic Peninsula has virtually none, Harris said.”

Read more: https://www.theolympian.com/latest-news/article218060560.html

Bog-dwelling beetle spotted on Olympic NF

A beetle crawls on a piece of moss.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Aug. 24, 2018 –  An Olympic National Forest biologist and a pair of Student Conservation Association student interns have documented the first known site for the Beller’s ground beetle (Agonum belleri) on the Olympic Peninsula.

Karen Holtrop, a USDA Forest Service wildlife biologist, Student Conservation Association interns Karen Guzman and Conor Cubit, and employees of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, found the beetle while conducting surveys for the beetle at the the Cranberry Bog Botanical Area in the Dungeness watershed, located on the Olympic National Forest,in June.

An intern sets beetle traps

Student Conservation Associaton intern Karen Guzman sets an insect trap during a survey for Beller’s ground beetle at the Cranberry Bog Botanical Area on Olympic National Forest June 14, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Karen Holtrop.

Beller’s ground beetle is a wetland-dependent ground beetle that is regionally listed as a “sensitive species” by the USDA Forest Service.  The agency lists species as “sensitive” when there’s a concern regarding the species population numbers, density, or habitat.

A woman examining a beetle in a specimen jar.

Annabelle Pfeffer, an intern working with the USDA Forest Service, holds a Beller’s ground beetle specimen during an earlier survey, May 3, 2018. USDA Forest Service file photo by Karen Holtrop.

The beetle was suspected to live on the Olympic National Forest, but that had not been confirmed until now. It is usually found in sphagnum bogs at a range of elevations, from sea level to alpine.

Threats include habitat destruction from urban development, logging, water-level alteration, peat-mining, and pesticides, and climate changes affecting bog water levels or seasonal duration periods.

The Beller’s ground beetle is also known to live on the Mt. Hood National Forest, and is also believed to be present on the Gifford Pinchot and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests — although this has not yet been confirmed.

The Olympic National Forest conducts regular surveys for wildlife, fish, and botanical species. Surveys are usually done in cooperation with state and federal agencies, tribes, non-government agencies, citizen volunteers, and others.

This summer, surveyors also confirmed the presence of the Makah copper butterfly on the forest.

Information gathered by such surveys not only documents where habitat for species can be found, but also helps identify locations for and the success of restoration efforts. For example, Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly, a federally endangered species was discovered to have returned to an area of the peninsula, following planting of native vegetation in its historical habitat as a result of a wildlife survey.

Interns prepare to survey for beetles in a spaughnum bog.

Karen Guzman and Conor Cubit, Student Conservation Association interns working with the Olympic National Forest, surveyed for Beller’s ground beetle on the forest’s Cranberry Bog Botanical Area June 27, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Karen Holtrop.


Source information: Olympic National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/olympic/learning/?cid=fseprd587761

Olympic NF salal permit sales announced, next is Sept. 5

Spruce tree trunks tower above a low layer of salal leaves, fringed by grasslike sedgeplants.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Aug. 16, 2018 – Permit sales for harvesting salal on the Olympic National Forest are next scheduled for Sept. 5, 2018 at the Forks, Quinault, and Quilcene ranger district offices during regular business hours.

Salal (Gaultheria shallon) is an understory shrub commonly used in the floral industry. It grows in dense thickets throughout western Washington and Oregon.

A total of one-hundred permits will be issued with a maximum of fifteen permits for each harvest unit:

  • Sixty permits will be offered from the Quilcene office for harvest areas located within Mason County and the east side of Clallam and Jefferson Counties.
  • Twenty-five permits will be offered from Forks for the west-side of Clallam County.
  • Fifteen permits will be offered from Lake Quinault for harvest areas within Grays Harbor County and the west side of Jefferson County.

A lottery system will be used if the demand for permits exceeds the supply.

Each permit costs $150 and can be used for up to two months. A valid U.S. Federal or State picture identification will be required at the time of purchase, and those buying the permits must be at least 18 years of age.

Permit fees must be paid via cash or check (no credit cards or debit cards).

At least one piece of high-visibility clothing is highly recommended while harvesting salal. Permit holders will be limited to having no more than 200 pounds per day in their possession.

Harvest unit boundaries are defined by roads or recognizable land features and a map of the harvest areas will be distributed with the sale of each permit.

Future salal permit sales are scheduled for November 7, 2018, January 9, 2019 and March 13, 2019.

For additional information about salal permit sales on the Olympic National Forest, call (360) 765-2215.

 

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: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/crgnsa/fire/?cid=FSEPRD572962.

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 nwhikers.net 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 nwhikers.net 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: https://www.facebook.com/Glide-Wildflower-Show-377053879003054/

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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

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.