What could be more beguiling — or more intrinsically American — than trails lined with wildflowers … trillium, foxgloves stretching to touch the sun, and tiger lily carpeting the woodland floor in early spring? The season for wildflowers is gloriously long in Oregon, typically starting in late March at lower elevations, lasting through to late July and into August in the higher reaches of the Cascade Mountains.
Our Venturing Crew recently completed our first 3-day backpacking outing on the North Umpqua Trail. Along the hike, we observed a variety of native wildflowers – some we were familiar with and others had us stumped until we returned home and were able to pull out our wildflower identification books.
Pictured below are five Oregon wildflowers that we observed. Can you identify each?
Hiking in spring and early summer is a treasure hunt of color as wildflowers bloom in the meadows and mountains of Oregon. Look for blossoms on these trails and others around the state.
1. Deer Orchid (Calypso bulbosa) – Also known as Calypso Fairyslipper or Hider-of-the-North
One of the most elusive flowers we observed was the Deer Orchid. This beautiful little native orchid is my favorite. Though the orchid is widespread in the western temperate forests of Oregon, it is rather illusive and often hard to find.
It is highly susceptible to even slight disturbances in its environment. Trampling and picking are the primary reasons for its rapid decline in some locations. Picking the flower inevitably kills the plant, because the delicate roots break at even the lightest pull on the stem.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has listed it as a species vulnerable to extinction on a global scale. Transplanting or cultivating the plant is rarely successful because of its need for specific soil fungi that are not usually present on transplant sites or in controlled environments.
2. Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) – Sometimes referred to as Swamp Lantern
This distinctive plant is found in swamps and wetlands, along streams and in other wet areas of the Pacific Northwest, where it is one of the few native species in the arum family. It emits a “skunky” odor that when it blooms.
Surprisingly, the stench is quite beneficial to the plant’s survival. It discourages animals from nipping at its leaves and disturbing the soft, muddy wetland habitat it prefers. The smell (most often described as rotting flesh) also attracts bees and flies that act as its pollinators by moving pollen from males to the waiting stigmata of females.
3. Trillium (Trillium albidum) – Also called Giant Wake Robin or White Toad Shade
The three leaves and three-petal flowers of Trillium are so distinctive, even children can tell them from other plants. This is a blessing as well as a curse because it seems few can refrain from picking the flowers which retards their bloom because it prevents the corm (storage area within the stem) from receiving the nutrients they require for next year’s bloom.
Trillium flowers are stalkless, being borne directly on the ruff of leaves that extend under them. There is no pedicel between the base of the leaves and the base of the flower and it is hence a sessile species.
4. Forget Me Not (Myosotis sp.) –
There are both native and non-native species in the Pacific Northwest. Those that are non-native most likely escaped from gardens and found suitable habitat. Unfortunately, I do not know the specific species of the one pictured here.
The genus name, Myosotis, means mouse ear, which eludes to the size and shape of the petal. Perennial M. scorpiodes generally remains under a foot high but reaches 2 feet or more across, spreading by creeping roots. The blue springtime flowers typically have a yellow eye, though white-and pink-eyed forms exist.
5. Rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum) –
In springtime large clumps of pink and purple flowers begin showing off in yards and woodlands throughout the Pacific Northwest.With a native habitat ranging from 19,000′ alpine meadows in Nepal to tropical regions in Northern Australia and the wind-swept coast of Scotland, the rhododendron exhibits a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.
Rhododendron thrives in disturbed habitats such as roadside embankments and recently deforested wild lands. They can also live up in the mountains. Oregon’s mix of moisture, mild weather, and acidic soil, make it a Rhododendron paradise.
Wildflowers in the PNW
This is an excellent field guide featuring more than 1240 stunning color photographs. It describes and illustrates thousands of commonly encountered species, both native and nonnative, including perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Written by Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, is a must for your nature center.
Encompassing the Pacific Northwest from southern British Columbia to northern California, from the coast to the mountains and high desert, this handy book is perfect for hikers, naturalists, native plant enthusiasts, and anyone wishing to learn about the amazingly diverse wildflowers of the region. Organized by flower color and shape, and including a range map for each flower described, it is as user-friendly as it is informative.
Years ago when we first started homeschooling, nature study was a major part of our science curriculum. Our weekly nature walks prompted a wealth of questions from the kids with which I incorporated short, mindful lessons that I sprinkled throughout the following week.
Often, we would use Barb’s Outdoor Hour Challenges as a focal point to get us started. Here’s a post I wrote following our wildflower hike in the summer of 2010. What a joy to reflect back on their early nature studies and journaling experiences.
Welcome to the The Nature Book Club Monthly Link Up. Devoted to connecting children to nature, the monthly link up will begin on the 20th day of each month.
We welcome your nature book and activity related links. Read on for more details and for a giveaway!
See all the great posts from The Nature Book Club’s co-hosts in May:
The Nature Book Club is brought to you by these nature loving bloggers which are your co-hosts. Are you following them? If you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to follow each one.
Miss Rumphius Mixed Media Art from Emily at Table Life Blog
Wildflower Walk and Pressing Flowers from Barbara at Handbook of Nature Study
Wildflowers Nature Study from Jenny at Faith and Good Works
Oregon Nature Study Quiz: Wildflower Edition from Eva at Eva Varga
Wildflower Fairy Poetry & Art Activity from Melanie at Wind in a Letterbox
Flower Fairy Peg Dolls from Cassidy at Freshly Planted
Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms Online Book Club from Dachelle at Hide the Chocolate
Wildflowers Unit Study & Lapbook from Tina at Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
Fingerprint Painting on Canvas Activity from Katrina at Rule This Roost
DIY Flower Press from Thaleia at Something 2 Offer
Dandelion Life Cycle Learning Activities from Karyn at Teach Beside Me
- Choose an engaging nature book, do a craft or activity, and add your post to our monthly link up.
- The link up party goes live at 9:00 a.m. EST on the 20th of each month and stays open until 11:59 p.m. EST on the last day of the month. Hurry to add your links!
- You can link up to 3 posts. Please do not link up advertising posts, advertise other link up parties, your store, or non-related blog posts. They will be removed.
- By linking up with us, you agree for us to share your images and give you credit of course if we feature your posts.That’s it!
- Let’s party.