by Anne Schuster, Prairie Conservation Specialist at Wolf Haven International
Ah, Fall – a time of pumpkins, spiced apple cider, fiery-colored autumn leaves and trick-or-treaters. But look at what’s blooming on our prairie right now. These beautiful plants typically flower in spring or early summer – not October.
By Kim Flotlin, USFWS wildlife biologist
Mazama pocket gophers are another fascinating animal found at Wolf Haven (although rarely actually seen, since they primarily reside underground). The Mazama pocket gopher is both state and federally listed as threatened.
USFWS wildlife biologist Kim Flotin has written an entertaining, informative blog about the challenges faced by both dispersing pocket gophers and college students.
The nice weather of spring has brought beautiful wildflowers to the South Sound prairies. If you come by Wolf Haven International in the next couple weeks you will be in for quite a show on the prairie.
As you walk along the trail, you might first notice the shining yellow Western Buttercups (Ranunculus occidentalis) or the low white flowers of the Virginia Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana). Make sure you take a closer look
between the green Camas shoots coming up, because the striking Henderson’s Shooting Star (Dodecatheon hendersonii) is in full bloom for a while longer. This flower is sort of built inside out, with the pink-purple petals sticking backwards towards the stem, leaving the stamens and pistil to be pointed straight out of the flower.
Some mounds are covered in a dark green plant called kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) which is just starting to get its light pink bunches of bell-shaped flowers. Make sure not to step off of the trail, as kinnikinnick is a host plant for the caterpillars of the rare Hoary Elfin butterfly.
When you get closer to the Grandfather Tree, you will be between two areas that have had prescribed fire applied to them in the past few years, one of which was burned in 2013. These areas will have some new and easier to see flowers. The Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca) is sprouting up in deep purple patches near the trail.
Careful not to leave the trail, you can look on the North side of the trail, before the Grandfather Tree, to try and spot some Golden Paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) coming up. Golden Paintbrush is federally listed as threatened, and state listed as endangered, so if you see it, do not disturb it. All paintbrush species are hemiparasites, which means that they have some chlorophyll with which to make some food, but they get most of their nutrients by stealing it from nearby plant’s roots. The brilliant colors associated with
paintbrush plants are not their flowers, but rather colorful leaves. Golden Paintbrush has inconspicuous green flowers between the bright yellow leaves.
Other flowers in this area are the very small blue flowers of Blue Eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora) and the tall stalks with freshly blooming white flowers of Wholeleaf Saxifrage (Micanthes integrifolia). Off in the forest at the edge of the prairie, there is still a Pacific Trillium (Trillium ovatum) or two in bloom. The famous Common Camas (Camassia quamash) buds have been shooting up, and will start blooming within the next few days, but expect them to cover the prairie in large purple flowers in May.
Many of the plants from last month’s blog are still blooming, and all of the same animals are out, to be joined by many more butterflies and other insect pollinators. Most of the Bluebird boxes are still empty, but it seems that a pair of Tree Swallows is going to nest in the bird box that has a Washington Fish and Wildlife live webcam in it. Most days I see a bird or two in it, and there are more sticks appearing in it every day. You can watch the live bird box cam here: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildwatch/bluebirdcam/video.html
Center for Natural Lands Management AmeriCorps,
Wolf Haven Outreach and Restoration Technician