Chattermarks

From North Cascades Institute

Search Chattermarks

Archives

North Cascades Grizzly

Searching for the elusive North Cascades grizzly bears, August 17-23

July 21st, 2014 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

North Cascades Institute is very excited to be partnering with the Wenatchee River Institute and Dr. Bill Gaines — the foremost authority on grizzly bears in the North Cascades — for “Ghost Bears: Searching for the Elusive North Cascades Grizzly Bears” August 17-23. Spend a week in the wild alongside Gaines’ team of wildlife biologists assisting in the scientific quest to secure credible evidence that grizzly bears, the ”Ghost Bear” of the North Cascades, still roam these mountains. Info and registration at www.wenatcheeriverinstitute.org.

WRI_Grizzly Poster

Top photo: This October 2010 photo provided by Joe Sebille shows a grizzly bear in the North Cascades. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says a hiker’s photo confirms a sighting of a grizzly bear in the North Cascades for the first time in perhaps half a century. (AP Photo/Joe Sebille)
5.18 GOG Big Rocks

Red rocks in the mountainous west

July 7th, 2014 | Posted by in Adventures

In May, toward the end of a road trip, my mom and I found ourselves in Colorado Springs for a couple days. While looking for things to do while we were there, I stumbled across the website for a park with some amazing rock formations.

Garden of the Gods park was set aside as public land in 1909. At that time, it was designated as a city park that would “forever be known as Garden of the Gods,” would not allow any “intoxicating liquors to be manufactured or sold in the park, no buildings except those necessary for the park to function,” and would “forever be open and free to the public.” Pretty cool. In 1972, it was recognized as a National Landmark.

Now, it’s filled with tourists, locals, climbers, and boulderers (you know, people bouldering…I may have just made up a word…). Since we were staying with some of my mom’s friends who live literally right behind the park, we were able to take the less crowded back trails for most of our walk.

#1 - Kissing Camels   This formation is called “Kissing Camels”.
#2 - Nesting AreasBirds have made homes in some of the holes in the sandstone. This is evidenced by their white droppings that stain the rock below.

» Continue reading Red rocks in the mountainous west

backpacking Hillary S.

The Preservation of the World

June 13th, 2014 | Posted by in Adventures

Ed. note: The days are getting longer, at least for another week or so. Here is a piece from a former graduate student to inspire you to get out there, both to the big-W wilderness as well as the wilds just outside your door.

By Hillary Schwirtlich

Glacier Peak Wilderness

We huddle from the driving wind under the protection of a band of stunted subalpine firs on the ridgeline near White Pass. My rain jacket is soaked through, again. The clammy synthetic material clings heavy to my arms and I can feel the cold rain seeping through my shoulders and wrists. My bare legs are numb. We ducked under these trees for a moment because we haven’t stopped walking for hours, but we know we can’t stop long or we’ll start to shiver. We’re attempting Glacier Peak for the second time tomorrow. Our first attempt, almost exactly a year earlier, was thwarted by a combination of lack of fitness and a spectacular storm of the kind that creeps like a blanket over the peaks of the Cascades in late summer. We hope our training will help us this time. We walked here from Mexico, we tell ourselves incredulously. The longest approach on a mountaineering trip ever. We can do this.

We stand up and start toward the pass, where the Pacific Crest Trail turns left toward the newly built bridge over the Suiattle River and our detour takes us left through a marmot colony toward Foam Creek. After so long away from cities, our eyes are tuned to pick out anything that doesn’t fit in this landscape, and we spot an orange lump on our route, then two strange figures, brown and white. “What is that?” I ask, and Chris replies, “Llama?”

view of White Pass Hillary S.A green view of White Pass: What the author imagines when she thinks of Glacier Peak Wilderness. Photo by author.

We’ve become a little wild ourselves by this point, and we approach warily. When we get close, the orange dome tent spits out a beanie-topped man, older than us, with a steaming cup in his hand. “Hi!” he beams, and since the rain has let up for a moment, we stop to chat. He’s a hunter, up for the high hunt. He hasn’t seen a single deer or elk, but he says he’s just happy to be where he is. “I’ve been coming to this country for a long time, and these hunts are just an excuse for me to be here, really.” We nod, we know what he means, we’re here for the same reasons. The Glacier Peak Wilderness was — and still is — the landscape my heart escapes to in its daydreams.

Movement has been our default for the last five months and the sun is setting earlier these days, so our restless legs tug us onwards. We wish each other good luck and Chris and I push on, our eyes trained upwards for our path over the ridge, a familiar notch. We leave the cupped, underused trail, climb up and over, then back down, up and down, our steps tracing ancient lava flows from the white giant over the ridge. Finally, we see it: our campsite, a windy plain of moonrock. Then farther, when the clouds clear for an instant, past a patchwork field of rock and snow: a lake of milky greenish water, beside the dirty remains of the White Chuck Glacier. We have been expecting this view, having been temporarily turned around on our previous trip, our climbing party arguing briefly over whether we were in the right basin. The USGS-made map dated from the 1970s showed a blue field of ice where a lake and rubble now was. This was the first place climate change, which I’ve now come to see as the grief, challenge and opportunity of my generation, hit me as something more than just a contested abstract concept.

panorama glacier Hillary S.Panorama of White Chuck Glacier (left) and the lake where it used to span (right). Photo by author.

We set up camp, giddy to be here, apprehensive about the morning’s weather. We fall asleep to the sound of wind howling across newly exposed glacial deposits. In the morning, the wind is stronger, and though fitness is no longer a factor and the sky clears, we reach a point a thousand feet below the summit when the wind severs my connection with the ground. I find myself flat on my belly, heart pounding, hugging the narrow ridge to keep from being blown away. Only slightly disappointed, we turn around. We still have Canada to look forward to, and this place will always be here.

On our way back down, a deafening roar rumbles from behind and we glance back in time to watch a fighter-jet contour up the white edge of glacier and barrel roll, only feet from the summit. Our legs go wobbly and we feel lightheaded with vertigo. “What if we were up there?” we ask.

coming down Hillary S.Coming down the mountain. Glacier Peak looms bright in the background. Photo by author.

Home

I used to have a moss garden. On the cement in front of the door of our north-facing, basement apartment, where only recently the weak spring sunlight has begun to stream through the branches of the rhododendron outside the window, the constant Washington wet would drip off the roof and land muffled and splashless on a bed of bright green moss the size of a dinner plate. When we moved in in September I made up my mind to sculpt it into some aesthetically pleasing shape, but that goal was quickly buried in a sea of grad-student to-dos. So there it stayed, ragged and shapeless and lush.

Until the end of February when a snowstorm left the ground white and left the newly arrived robins with no grass to pick at. The snow on our cement path melted faster than the snow on the grass, and the robins went for the only thing green they could find. I didn’t watch them do it — I only knew because the same thing had happened at my professor John’s house when we arrived at class that day. Bits of moss that had grown on his steps were strewn about his front walkway, strewn about by robins looking for insects and grubs and worms to tug out of the grass.

maple buds Hillary S.The little things: Maple tree flowers outside the author’s front door. Photo by author.

Now the snow has melted and the buds are breaking on the maple trees in the front yard. Snowdrops — those small white flowers that always know its spring before I do — have pushed themselves up from the cold soil and spread their frost-colored petals to the sky. The other morning, when the snooze on my alarm clock failed to get me out of bed, curiosity about the source of the trilling, musical song outside my window did. A crow calls twice and ruffles its glossy black feathers from the streetlight across the street, and chickadees scold and buzz from the birdfeeder, their eyes bright and black-crowned heads cocked. Nuthatches perch on the lip of the feeder, wary, then choose the largest seed and flit away to ignore gravity on the trunk of a nearby tree.

house Hillary S.The rhododendron bush and the “moss garden” (see left) helping provide a landscape to love, even in town. Photo by author.

For the last six months we’ve lived on this busy street corner and I’ve walked guiltily past the trash that lays in my yard, left by college students walking downtown and blown in from the streets and parking lots around where I live. But while sitting outside the front door on sunny days and behind my window on the much more common rainy ones, I began to notice. I started picking up that trash, respecting this tiny piece of land, surrounded by asphalt and concrete and filled with non-native plants. Because even though it’s a small thing, I know that this is the way I should treat a place that I love. It’s how I treat wilderness, after all.

-4Maple tree in the fall, setting the author’s front yard on foliage fire. Photo by author.
Leading photo: Not a llama, but a beanie-topped man the author and her partner, Chris, met on their trek through Glacier Peak Wilderness toward the end of their Pacific Crest Trail adventure.
 

Hillary Schwirtlich graduated in March from North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program. She is the Southwest and Sierra Program Coordinator for American Alpine Institute, and lives and gardens in Bellingham, Washington. She loves to read, write, climb, hike, paint and cook, and you will usually find her in the Chuckanuts, at Vital Climbing Gym, bike commuting through Boulevard Park or volunteering. 

 

 

cougar kitten! Eric York

SPECIAL EVENT: The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous

June 2nd, 2014 | Posted by in Institute News

The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous
Author Paula Wild reads and presents, “Sharing the Landscape: Can Humans & Cougars Coexist?
Saturday, June 7, 2014; 7 pm
Readings Gallery at Village Books, 1200 11th Street, Bellingham
Free!

By Paula Wild

Heavily falling snow covered our footsteps almost as quickly as we made them. The fat white flakes, the forest around us and the arrival of twilight meant visibility was fading fast. And right in front of us, filling with snow as we watched, were the large paw prints of a cougar.

Our pickup was parked a couple of kilometres (about a mile) from the small logging and pulp mill community of Port Alice on northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We’d pulled off Highway 30 onto the SE Main, a logging road at the bottom of the hill heading out of town, to retrieve our thermos from the back of the truck. But now, following the tracks into the woods toward a small creek, our thoughts were on cougars. As the snow silently erased the paw prints I peered between the alders and up into their branches with equal measures of apprehension and excitement.

      — from The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous, by Paula Wild (Douglas & McIntyre)

Collared cougar in tree_credit-Steve Winter-PantheraAs the widest ranging predator in the western hemisphere, cougars roam from alpine to ocean and favor forested areas and rugged terrain that allows them to sneak up on their prey. Photo by Steve Winter, Panthera.

Elusive, graceful, powerful. Whether they’ve seen one in the wild or not, most people are fascinated by the big cat called cougar, puma, mountain lion and approximately forty other names. These amazing predators can jump 18 feet straight up from a standstill, swim four miles or more at a time and run up to 45 miles per hour for short distances.

After the jaguar, the cougar is the largest cat in the Americas. It’s said that one shot on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in 1936 measured eleven feet from the end of its nose to the tip of its tail. Large padded paws allow the carnivore to stalk its prey silently, sometimes for hours. Cougars are 90 percent pure muscle, capable of taking down prey more than seven times their size.

And they’re masters at blending in. More than one expert told me, “If you spend any amount of time in the woods, chances are a cougar has seen you while you’ve been totally oblivious of its presence.” But cougars aren’t only found in the backcountry. In 1998, a cougar was killed about eight blocks from city hall in Olympia, Washington and GPS collars have tracked a surprising number of the big cats roaming through residential neighborhoods.

CougarCover Douglas and McIntyre

Long ago, cougars ranged from the Yukon to the tip of Patagonia and from coast to coast. Bounty hunting decimated their numbers in the first half of the 20th century but today many cougar populations, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, are considered healthy and stable. Some cougars are even migrating east into their former territory.

Like all predators, cougars play a vital role in a healthy ecosystem. For instance, the presence of a cougar keeps ungulates on the move preventing them from overgrazing an area. A landscape striped of vegetation can lead to soil erosion in streams, affecting fish, as well the bears, birds and other animals that feed on them. The ripple effect of eliminating predators affects nature in ways most of us never even consider.

Although attacks against humans are rare, cougars are opportunistic predators. Wherever they exist, there is some element of risk to pets, livestock and people. Research shows, however, that there are many ways to prevent an encounter from becoming an attack and an attack from becoming a fatality. For people living, working or traveling in cougar habitat, understanding the way the predator behaves and knowing how to respond is just as important as teaching young children how to navigate a busy street.

Cougar and Maine cat Gail LovemanA Maine Coon house cat and a cougar go nose to nose at a sliding glass door near Boulder, Colorado. Photo by Gail Loveman.

*     *     *

The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous is a BC Bestseller and is shortlisted for the 2014 BC Book Prizes Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award (Canada) and Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award in Non-fiction-Nature (USA). It contains 70 photographs, including a 16-page color insert.

If you are unable to attend the reading at Village Books, Wild will also be presenting at the following Washington locations:

June 6: Port Townsend at the City Council Chambers, 540 Water St. at 7 pm.

June 7: Seattle at the Burke Museum of Natural History at 1 pm.

Paula at Trent River by Rick JamesPaula Wild is an award-winning author of four books and has written for numerous periodicals including British Columbia Magazine, Reader’s Digest and Canada’s History Magazine. She saw her first live cougar in Washington state before she could walk. Today she lives on Vancouver Island in Canada. She was convinced to learn more about the powerful cat after hearing a cougar scream in the green space behind her home. Photo by Rick James.
 
Leading photo: This kitten might look cute and cuddly but at three weeks old already has sharp claws. Cougar cubs have blue eyes until they are about a year old. Photo by Eric York, courtesy UC Davis Wildlife Health Center.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
IMG_8001

Hey Bud

May 23rd, 2014 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

You know when you’re waiting and waiting for your meal to be served at a restaurant so you finally get up to go to the restroom, knowing your hot plate of deliciousness will likely have been brought to the table when you come back three minutes later?

I recently pulled that trick, only with my ecosystem.

Having persevered through a winter of twigs and more twigs, the promise enclosed in leaf and flower buds has been an exciting tease for the past month or so, little green gifts wrapped up tight, tender morsels for herbivorous deer and my appreciative eyes alike. But, save for Ribes, most were taking forever to crack, much less unfurl wantonly in their photosynthetic glory. So I left for ten days of spring break at the end of April, confident that the forest from which I drove away would look nothing like the lush kingdom to which I’d return.

It worked! At this point, I can’t even hope to keep up with the explosive profusion of photosynthetic beauty, and this is just fine. Here’s a sampling of new growth in full force all over the Environmental Learning Center campus:

IMG_8040Vine maple (Acer circinatum) buds. Note the bright, licorice-red branches. These will turn green over time, an adaptation allowing the understory tree species to photosynthesize to its maximum potential even in low-light conditions or in the winter after it’s lost its leaves. Young green branches are flexible, and are used in making items such as snowshoe frames and drum hoops.
vine maple buds k. renzStill crumpled like damp, newly-born birds’ wings, fresh vine maple leaves frame dangling flower buds, all covered in fine, shimmering hairs.
vine maple flowers k. renzVine maple leaves, seven-to-nine-pointed peridot stars catching sunlight in the mid-canopy. The half-inch wide flowers will, if successfully fertilized, develop into winged fruits called samaras, commonly know as “helicopter seeds.”
IMG_8149There are a few black swamp gooseberry (Ribes lacustre) scattered around the wetter parts of campus. These small shrubs were propagated by the National Park Service from seeds gathered just yards away near Deer Creek and were planted as part of a successful restoration effort after the Environmental Learning Center was built in 2005. The detailed flowers are only about one-quarter inch big, and you can see the bulge at the base of the petals where the hairy fruit, purportedly very juicy and tart, will eventually form.
fresh mahonia k. renzOregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium): This year’s recently emerged, pliable, scarlet-tinged new growth on the left contrasts with the tough, leathery leaves from last year on the right.
alder buds k. renzRed alder (Alnus rubra) buds form on the young saplings that are growing at the edge of almost every road or significant path at the Environmental Learning Center. Why the profusion? Alder trees love disturbed sites, and are some of the first “pioneer” species that come into an ecosystem after land has been cleared. Since the buildings are less than a year old, this species is thriving.
4 beetles k. renz Beetle-mania! Iridescent cyan insects congregate on an alder leaf, munching away on the new growth. Several of the leaves in this grove between the parking lot and the office were the site of such six-legged shenanigans.
devil's club budRecognize these spines? New growth of devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus), an exceptionally important plant to indigenous tribes along the Pacific Northwest coast. This species can be used for everything from perfume and deodorant (pulverized bark) to treating lice (berries) and rheumatism (roots and stems). A Mountain School student from the Swinomish tribe in La Conner said his mom makes paint from this versatile plant.
devil's club leaves k. renzPhyto-palms stretched upward toward the light, the devil’s club buds have burst into leaves that will eventually grow up to over a foot across. Mention of another local use for this plant was gleaned from John Suiter’s book, Poets on the Peaks (Counterpoint, 2002): To flog accused communists in the Skagit Valley during the Red Scare of the 1930s.
salal bud k. renzThe  tough, oval leaves of the ubiquitous salal (Gautheria shallon) frame the soft, blushy red buds that will later develop into smaller stems.
fiddlehead k. renz
 
Leading photo: Only three inches above the mossy floor, two gracefully coiled fiddleheads of lady ferns appear to confer: To grow or not to grow? (Apologies for the pterido-pomorphizing….)

 

All photos by author.

Katherine Renz is a graduate student in North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program. She readily admits she has a problem, an addiction to snapping photos of all things botanical, a pathological attraction to leafy supermodels.

 

 

 

Migratory Birds Erica Keene

Taking Flight at the Migratory Bird Festival

May 22nd, 2014 | Posted by in Field Excursions

By Erica Keene

Smiles, laughter and flapping arms – I mean, wings. Yes, wings. These were the best parts of a sun-filled weekend spent learning about migratory bird species during the fifth annual Migratory Bird Festival at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. On Saturday, April 26, over 120 participants took on the role of migratory birds to learn about the difficulties they face during their winged travels. Their goal? Get safely to their next stop along the migration route.

The first round was easy, no obstacles. In the second round, a hunter was introduced. With each successive round, migration became harder and harder. Habitats began to disappear. Predators started increasing and catching larger numbers of birds. Elders, teens and little ones alike all participated in this lively, competitive game to learn just how many challenges birds face when migrating long distances.

Migratory bird Erica KeeneYouth from Seattle Parks & Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities Program and the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Program attempt to migrate safely to their next location while facing challenging obstacles such as hunters and habitat loss. Photo by author.

Groups rotated through three stations where they learned bird identification techniques, discovered ways to help conserve birds at home and participated in the ever-popular migration game. Each group adopted a bird for the day and spent time at each station learning fun facts about the Mallard, Rufous Hummingbird or the Killdeer. Some participants were even able to spot their bird during the bird identification station.

The day ended with students writing and decorating a postcard to be mailed to them in a few weeks’ time and with presentations on their adopted birds. Groups led interactive presentations on the Killdeer’s broken-wing display and the Rufous Hummingbird’s flight patterns while others absorbed the sunshine and listened.

eldersElders and youth from InterIm Community Development Association learn about migratory bird conservation. Photo by: Jim Chu, USFS.
Migratory Birds Erica KeeneOver 120 participants gathered on Saturday in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day at Camp Casey. Coupeville, WA. Photo by author.

A handful of regional community and environmental organizations participated in this event in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day, including Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities Program (O2), InterIm Community Development Association, North Cascades Institute’s Youth Leadership Adventures and the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Program.

On Saturday evening, 23 youth from Seattle Parks & Recreation’s O2 program and InterIm Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development (WILD) stayed the night at Camp Casey on Whidbey Island in anticipation of a Sunday stewardship project. Pacific Northwest Trail Association Intern, Noah Pylvainen, took students on a walk along the Pacific Northwest Trail and introduced students to the idea of long-distance backpacking.

Migratory bird fest AnekaYouth Leadership Adventures students showing off their migratory bird postcards. Photo by Aneka Singlaub.

The next morning, students loaded onto the bus for a short trip to Fort Ebey State Park. Upon arrival, Operations Manager Craig Holmquist from the National Park Service introduced them to Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Students were given a demonstration on how to use a weed wrench and learned to identify Scotch broom: a tall, quick-to-spread invasive weed. Their task? Pull as much Scotch broom as possible out of the ground in just under three hours. Many youth had been to this event the previous year and were eager to get started. They looked at the area they cleared last year and when they realized none of it had grown back, huge smiles spread across their faces as the impact they were making started to seem more of a reality. This year, inn less than three hours, 23 youth and their adult leaders cleared nearly an acre of the invasive, yellow-flowered plant, an act of stewardship that will be appreciated by native plant aficionados to come.

migratory bird Erica KeeneZheonte Payne, 15, and Seth Wendzel from O2 share a high five in celebration of removing a particularly large Scotch Broom plant.
migratory bird Erica KeeneAfter nearly three hours of grueling effort, youth celebrate the two trailer loads of Scotch Broom they removed from Fort Ebey State Park. Photo by author.
migratory bird Erica Keene Lewen Chen, 17, from InterIm WILD loads Scotch Broom into a trailer to be removed from Fort Ebey State Park.

Thank you to the US Forest Service, Ebey’s National Historical Reserve, Ebey’s Trust Board, National Park Service, Skagit Audubon Society, Whidbey Audubon Society and all other staff and volunteers who helped make this event possible. We could not have done it without you!

Leading photo: Ximena Beccera, age 9, from the Kulshan Creek Program, learns how to use a spotting scope for the first time at the bird identification station. 
 

Erica Keene is the Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

 

 

 

Ribes K. Renz

But To Carry On: Ribes has Arrived!

April 29th, 2014 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

The anticipation was torture for an amateur botanist from southern climes. It took three weeks for the tight buds to finally crack and unfurl into star-shaped flowers. Three weeks, after months of the bare twigs and snow-smothered ground cover of winter. But, one by one, the red-flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) that is planted around the landscaped areas at the Environmental Learning Center began to claim its seasonal distinction as the first blooming plant of spring. Its species name — sanguineum — is appropriate, derived from the Latin sanguineus, or bloody. This early color lends a flushed optimism to the sunny edges of the forest, full of life amidst the still withered and brown remnants of the stubborn oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), another tall and lanky flowering shrub characteristic of these parts. Ribes’ tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, which are also set to arrive in the upper Skagit Valley after a winter vacation in Mexico and Central America. Anyone with one of those plastic hummingbird feeders, full of red #40-dyed sugar water, knows that these winged pollinators best see colors in the long-wave light spectrum — reds, oranges, and violet-reds.

hummingbird K. RenzYou’re right: This feeding of wildlife did not occur in North Cascades National Park but was taken on a trip to the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. A hanging row of plastic feeders was attended by dozens of colorful hummingbird species, sucking down enough artificial nectar in order to obtain their requirement of half their weight in food daily. Photo by author.

The white petals surrounded by the flashy pink sepals (aka “bud covers”) are like a neon sign throbbing around an otherwise inconspicuous target, alerting potential pollinators that this is where the goods are. Since hummingbirds have almost no sense of smell, flowers pollinated by the buzzing birds have no need to waste energy on manufacturing fragrance. Ribes are no exception. The individual flowers are small, only about half-an-inch wide. This lack of girth is compensated by their arrangement in a larger cluster, known in botanical circles as an “inflorescence”, which hangs down like a handful of succulent grapes, offering an easy one-stop buffet for hungry pollinators and a clear area for the assertive approach of a determined hummingbird.

Ribes with naturalists K. RenzTa da! Bow down to the first blooming plant of spring! From L to R: Seasonal naturalist Oliver Wood, graduate student and staff Tyler Chisholm, and seasonal naturalist Allison Andrews. Photo by author.

Though perhaps not as tasty as the hummingbird’s nectar, uses of this species have been found by humans, as well. According to Daniel Matthews in his comprehensive field guide, Cascade-Olympic Natural History, Ribes is the Arabic term for “rhubarb”, which makes sense considering its hot pink hue. In their Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Pojar and MacKinnon call the bluish-black, round berries “unpalatable” and “insipid” (author’s note: As a gardener who is always excited to nibble straight from the source, I would argue otherwise.). Various Coast Salish groups eat them fresh if necessary, but they are not preferred. No big deal, though, for now: Spring is the time not for berries, insipid or no, but for flowers. Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice! Happy Spring, everyone!

Ribes 2 K. Renz
Leading photo: A Ribes inflorescence. The individual flowers take a couple of weeks to open from the base to the tip, an adaptation allowing the plant to be available to pollinators for as long as possible, thus increasing its chances of reproductive success. Photo by author.
 
Katherine Renz is a graduate student in North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program. Had she had any foresight, she would have joyously written the book, Sex in the Garden, before author Angela Overy did. Are you similarly obsessed with flowers and pollination? It’s a must-read!