Peter and I checked out a local state park the other day, Anderson Lake. It is a state park. The park’s web page does not tell you the lake is completely closed to fishing, swimming and non-motorized boat use due to a blue-green algae containing toxic cyanobacteria. Called Anatoxin-a and a neuro-toxin, it’s linked to the deaths of humans and pets. The level in Anderson lake was almost 1,000 times higher than recreational criteria allows.
The day was grey and a bit muggy. The lake is 70 acres large and is surrounded by 410 wooded and wetland acres. It’s a pretty spot. Five acres of trails lace through the park. We walked around four+ I figure.
This post is about the flora. New to the PNW, I’m hungry for knowledge of my surroundings. Snapping pics while out and about, I frequently look up plants and such once home. Mind you, my info is gleaned from several reference books I have at home. It’s not guaranteed correct. Please don’t go eating large quantities of something or using it for an unverified purpose without doing your homework. Just have to throw that out there.
My favorite book is called Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackkinnon. I find it divided into sections that are easy to navigate. Much info about plants’ cultural significance and practical uses are included. This interests me.
Pond Lilies: Most all parts of the plants were used for medicinal purposes by native Americans and First Peoples (of Canada):
The trails varied from well worn paths through thinned forest (the area’s been logged) to tunnels through thick foliage to open and grassy meadows.
Spotted mountain bike obstacles:
On one end of the lake we passed through thickets of blackberries. Oh they are tasty! BTW, differentiate blackberries from raspberries this way: If you pull off a berry and there is a divot into the center of the berry it’s a raspberry. If the berry end is flat, it is a blackberry.
I believe this is Nettle (didn’t touch it to find out) tucked into Horsetail.
“Robert Geranium” – Sorry…a bit fuzzy.
Here’s a plant I’ve been noting but took awhile to look up. Oceanspray is also called Creambush. They favor dry, open sites such as logged land, thickets, ravine edges and coastal bluffs. Also know as Ironwood, the wood was once used for harpoon shafts, fishing hooks, and bows and arrows by numerous coastal groups. The wood was heated to make it even stronger. Sometimes the wood served as nails. Come winter, the flowers will turn brown and remain on the plants through the season.
Hardhack (AKA Steeplebush) surprised me. I’ve never seen anything like it. Then again, being new to the PNW means I’ve many of these encounters of wonder. These plants like damp spots next to lakes, streams, swamps and wet meadows. It’s in the Spirea family.
Salmonberries: Color varies from yellow to red. I’ve noted their flavor to be mild. Native peoples ate the berries as well as young stem sprouts (peeled and eaten raw or steamed). Quite watery, (almost mushy, I think) the berries weren’t dried but often mixed with other foods such as salmon spawn and grease. I think the collar-like frill around the berry looks like a crown. You can really see that on the red berry pic below.
Red Elderberry – Here’s another common sight I finally looked up. The berries are brilliant against the green foliage. These like steam banks, moist forest clearings and swampy thickets. I note them on road sides a bunch. An important food source for coastal Natives, the berries must be cooked before consumption or nausea can occur. The leaves and woody parts of the plant contain cyanide and are toxic.
Nootka Rose: Pete showed me how to turn the hips into tea once they are ready to be harvested. I’d like to try it. These (thankfully) grow everywhere up here, especially in disturbed areas. I just love the pretty pink flowers (these are darker pink than I’ve seen) in masses and grab a nose-full of scent when I can.
Indian Pipe: I stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted this one. This plant is fascinating. It prefers shady, humus-rich soil in mature forests. Having no chlorophyll means this plant cannot make its own food. Instead, the roots of this plant connect to tree roots via fungi. Nutrients are taken from the tree. Other names include Ice Plant, Ghost Flower and Corpse Plant. Fascinating. The plant blackens as it ages.
I don’t know mushrooms. Yet.
Red Huckleberries: It’s important to note there are other varietiwa of huckleberries. I’ve come across Evergreen huckleberries on Vancouver Island. I find the delicate, thin branches, pale green leaves and dainty red berries delightful. Looking up through the bunch with sun filtering through is even more sweet. Berries are edible though reportedly sour. I haven’t tried any. They like forests, especially ones rich with decaying wood.
Have you noted a trend? “They like forests” I seem to tap out frequently. How I’m loving learning about this ecosystem new to me.