Last weekend I went for a jaunt out to Ancient Lakes with my family. Once meandering down the Ancient Lakes trail, I was surprised and entranced to see colors of wildflowers that were in bloom. After what felt like a long winter with little color other than greys, whites, browns, and blacks it was enticing to see pops of bright colors again. Spring is here and I am ready to gain some knowledge base on our local plants and wildflowers.
The first flower we came across at Ancient Lakes was the Carey’s Balsamroot. This species is similar in size to the Arrowleaf Balsamroot but has heart-shaped leaves that are vibrant green without the wooly hairs like the Arrowleaf. Carey’s Balsamroot is found in drier areas once you leave the Ponderosa Pine’s behind. Did you know there are four species of Balsamroot plants that bloom in our region? That is pretty impressive and explains the small variations noticed (for example, the short rounded petals and button like appearance of the Carey’s Balsamroot in relation to the Arrowleaf Balsamroot with its’ long pointy petals) between the Balsamroot plants.
Next we saw the Sagebrush Buttercup low and hiding between the grasses. These bright little plants can be found throughout the Columbia Basin and are usually one of spring’s first arrivals. Frequently they grow beneath large shrubs such as Sagebrush or Bitterbrush. Buttercups reportedly contain a potent skin irritant, called protoanemonin, which causes redness and blistering of the skin. Native Americans often used it on their arrowheads as a poison. Mashed and dampened whole plants were used to alleviate body pains.
As we walked along next to the numerous lakes and waterfalls, scattered amongst the terrain was the Western Serviceberry. This is a common shrub to our area that has many fragrant white flowers. Serviceberry stems and leaves are a valuable food source particularly for deer. The berries are one of the earliest fruits to ripen, and provide a staple food source for birds and coyotes. These are currently blooming all over our local foothills. Look at the hillsides for a glimpse of this lovely plant.
For more information on Balsamroot species visit the Derby Canyon Natives blog post by Ted Alway titled Balsamroot Time. This is a great location to buy Native plants (located in Peshastin, WA) to our region along with a host of knowledge Ted Alway is able to provide.
You can also find a variety of local plants listed at the Chelan Douglas Land Trust website by clicking here.