Join Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates and native plant enthusiasts for this exciting presentation on May 9th at Southern Oregon University.
Have you seen your first spring wildflowers yet? I have, and I couldn’t be happier! Douglas’ grasswidows start blooming as early as late February through early March in the Klamath-Siskiyou.
One of the earliest wildflowers to bloom in the spring, Douglas’ grasswidow (Olsynium douglasii var. douglasii), also referred to as purple-eyed grass, is a harbinger of warmer, sunnier days ahead. This cheerful grass-like plant will brighten your day as it announces the arrival of the coming wildflower-filled spring.
Early season pollinators appreciate the early blooms of grasswidows and it is not uncommon to see native bees foraging on the flowers.
Douglas’ grasswidow is in the Iridaceae (Iris) family, in the genus Olsynium, with other species in the same genus being mainly from South America. Many folks may have gotten to know this lovely species when it was classified under the closely related genus, Sisyrinchium — hence one of its common names: purple-eyed grass.
The origin of the common name, grasswidow, has not been confirmed despite many theories.
These early blooming flowers inhabit rocky, vernally-wet places that turn very dry in the summer. You will see it growing on dry, rocky bluffs, in meadows, and in open oak woodlands from low to mid elevations.
The Siskiyou Field Institute (SFI) is the place to go to learn about the native flora and fauna in the Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion. There are so many great field courses to choose from — from kids courses, introductory courses, to professional level courses, there is something for everyone! SFI is an extraordinary resource! The course catalog for SFI’s 2017 field season is now available.
Published on Jan 30, 2015
Specialized relationships between animals and plants are the norm in nature rather than the exception. Plants that evolved in concert with local animals provide for their needs better than plants that evolved elsewhere. Dr. Tallamy will explain why this is so, why specialized food relationships determine the stability and complexity of the local food webs that support animal diversity, why it is important to restore biodiversity to our residential properties, and what we need to do to make our landscapes living ecosystems once again.
Dr. Tallamy is the author of Bringing Nature Home which won the Silver Medal from the Garden Writer’s Association in 2008 and the recently published book he wrote with landscape designer Rick Darke The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden. He is an Honorary National Director of Wild Ones and is regarded as one of the leading voices for designing healthy ecosystems in our public and private spaces by using native plants.
It’s been quite the winter in the Klamath-Siskiyou this year. I write this with two and a half feet of snow outside and a one and a half mile snowshoe to the nearest plowed road — an unusually big snow year at 2,100′ in elevation!
As winter settles in and you start daydreaming about springtime and wildflowers, take some time to reflect on wildflower seed mixes as well — more specifically, what species are actually in those wildflower seed mixes?
If you support the conservation of native flora, intact ecosystems, biodiverse landscapes, traditional ecological knowledge, or if you belong to a native plant society, or other environmental organization that works for land conservation or pollinator advocacy, for example, you may be just as dismayed as I am to learn that many commercially available packets of “wildflower” seed mixes don’t actually contain native wildflower seed at all, and may, in fact, contain noxious weed seeds.
Native wildflowers of the Klamath-Siskiyou
In most commercial wildflower seed packets the term “wildflower” is often used to refer to species that naturalize easy, or in other words, species that can can take over quickly and flower profusely, spreading themselves around in abundance. Unfortunately, this describes many non-native species that take over native plant habitat, displacing native flora and impacting floral diversity as well as pollinators adapted to native plants.
Your winter daydreams of vibrant wildflower meadows flowering in profusion may turn into a noxious weed nightmare if you don’t do your due diligence in researching what species are in a wildflower seed mix.
In an unpublished study from 2002, a University of Washington undergraduate student researcher grew out the seeds from 19 “wildflower” seed mix packets. The result: All 19 packets contained from 3 to 13 species that were identified as being invasive in some part of North America. And even worse, eight of the plants were identified as noxious weeds.
In the University of Washington’s, UW Today, Sandra Hine’s 2002 article about the research explained that the seed packets used were, “distributed by firms including Burpee, Ed Hume, Lake Valley Seed, Lilly Miller, Molbak’s, Napa Valley Wildflower, Nature’s Garden Seed and Sundance. Seventeen of the mixes in the experiment were purchased and two were gift items.”
Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) was found in four of the wildflower mixes, but only one had it listed. Toadflax is listed on Oregon’s state noxious weed list. Hine also explained, “Gardeners might be surprised at the flowers and seeds that are readily available for sale that are considered invasive or noxious. For instance, the wildflower most commonly observed as part of the mixes was the popular bachelor’s button (Centaurea cyanus), germinating in beautiful hues of pink and blue from three-quarters of the packets tested. Bachelor’s button might be fine if kept confined to one’s own yard but it’s invasive — that is it outcompetes other plants — when it gets into native grasslands and prairies.”
Bachelor buttons easily escape gardens and invade nearby native plant communities.
This problem is not limited to large corporate seed companies; unfortunately, even smaller seed companies that espouse organic and non-GMO ethics include non-native or invasive plant seeds in their “wildflower” seed mixes. Take a look, there’s not many native species included in these lists:
Territorial Seed Company’s “Northwest Wildflower Mix”: Five-Spot, Siberian wallflower, Scarlet flax, California poppy, Lance leaved coreopsis, Yellow lupine, Blue flax, Russell lupine, Chinese houses, Baby blue-eyes, Corn poppy, Shasta daisy, Bird’s eyes, Dwarf godetia, Clarkia, Globe gilia, Mountain phlox, Tall white sweet alyssum, Black-eyed susan
Peaceful Valley’s “Regional Northwest Wildflower Mix”: Aquilegia vulgaris, Centaurea cyanus, Cheiranthus allionii, Chrysanthemum Maximum, Clarkia amoena Semi-Dwarf Single Mix, Clarkia unguiculata, Collinsia heterophylla, Coreopsis lanceolota, Eschscholzia californica, Gilia capitata, Gilia tricolor, Layia platyglossa, Linum grandiflorum rubrum, Linum perenne, Lupinus densiflorus, Lupinus polyphyllus Russell Strain Mix, Lupinus succulentus, Nemophila menziesii, Papaver rhoeas, Phacelia campanularia, Rudbeckia hirta.
Eden Brother’s “Pacific Northwest Wildflower Seed Mix”: Gypsophila elegans, Centaurea cyanus, Nemophila menziesii, Clarkia amoena, Digitalis purpurea, hacelia campanularia, Collinsia heterophylla, Papaver rhoeas, Coreopsis lanceolata, Cosmos bipinnatus, Eschscholzia califorica, Gaillardia aristata, Rudbeckia hirta, Lupinus perennis, Lupinus polyphyllus, Cooreopsis tinctoria, Cheirianthus allionii, Linum usitatissimum, Linum grandiflorum rubrum, Phlox drummondii, Cosmos sulphureus, Rudbeckia gloriosa
Sustainable Seed Company’s “Northwest Wildflower Mix”: Baby Blue-Eyes, Bird’s Eyes, Black-Eyed Susan, Blue Flax, California Poppy, Chinese Houses, Clarkia, Dwarf Godetia, Corn Poppy, Five-Spot, Globe Gilia, Lance-Leaved Coreopsis, Mountain Phlox, Russell Lupine, Scarlet Flax, Shasta Daisy, Siberian Wallflower, Sweet Alyssum, Tidy Tips and Yellow Lupine.
Seed Savers Exchange’s “Flower, Bird and Butterfly Mix” doesn’t list the species that are in this flower mix, but the photo that accompanies it depicts bachelor buttons as being part of the mix.
The search for Franklin’s bumblebee (Bombus franklinii) if finally getting the national attention it deserves through CNN’s “Vanishing: The Earth’s 6th mass extinction” video series. In one video from the series, CNN reporter John D. Sutter follows preeminent bee researcher, Dr. Robbin Thorp, as he searches for Franklin’s bumble bee on Mt. Ashland in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon.
The renowned floral diversity of the Siskiyou Mountains gives rise to an amazing diversity of native bee species; in fact, northwest California and southwest Oregon has the highest diversity of bumble bee species of anywhere in the world. Preserving the botanical diversity of the region is paramount for the protection of wild bees and pollinators.
“Anthony Barnosky, an expert on this from Stanford University, told me humans have about 20 years max to shape up before this mass extinction becomes inevitable. And by mass extinction he means three-quarters of all known species would be lost.
Franklin’s bumblebee should be a wake-up call — a window into a dystopian future.
It certainly was for me.” — John D. Sutter for CNN.com
Soaproot, also known as amole or amole lily, has a range that extends from southwest Oregon down to San Diego, California. It grows in diverse habitat types throughout its range: valley grassland, chaparral, mixed evergreen forest, foothill woodland, closed-cone pine forest, northern coastal scrub, and coastal sage scrub. In the Klamath-Siskiyou it is most often found in foothill woodland, mixed conifer forest, and white oak or madrone woodland in the valley bottom.
Calflora classifies the genus Chlorogalum in the Agavaceae family, while the Oregon Flora Project classifies it in Asparagaceae. The Calflora classification of Chlorogalum in Agavaceae is surprising, as the only other plants in the Agavaceae family in the Klamath-Siskiyou include Camas (Camassia) and Rushlily (Hastingsia), and these are related to Agave and Yucca, including the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia). Who would’ve thought that soaproot is related to the Joshua tree? Amazing!
Depending on the location, soaproot will bloom between May and July. The flowers are borne on a very tall (up to 2′ tall) flowering stem. When you encounter a large stand of soaproot in flower it is a lovely sight, and when you do it will be in the evening or early morning, as the white soaproot flowers open in the evening, stay open overnight, and close up in the morning. Because of its flowering time, it is generally our lesser known, night flying pollinators that pollinate soaproot; however, if you watch soaproot flowers in the warmth of the early evening you may still find bumble bees and other day flying native bees and pollinators searching for pollen and nectar before nighttime comes on.
Soaproot flower popping open in the early evening.
Soaproot grows from a large, elongated bulb covered in thick coarse fibers. The juices of the bulb contain natural saponins that can be used as a soap — hence the name. Native American tribes within its range used soaproot for soap, but they also used the fibers of the bulb for brushes. The Miwok people reportedly roasted and ate the bulb as a winter food, cooking out the inedible saponins. Other tribes may have eaten soaproot too, as well as used it for various medicinal uses.
I can personally attest to the soapy qualities of soaproot — it does indeed make a fine soap!
After flowering and setting seed, soaproot goes dormant for the remainder of the summer and fall, pushing up new leaves in early winter.
Soaproot grows easily from seed, however, to reach the flowering stage it may take 3-5 years. The first few years the long, strap-like leaves will grow from the large, fibrous bulb, feeding the bulb for future flowers.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds has seed of soaproot in stock now! Just shoot us an email if you want to give this useful and unusual native bulb a try in your garden or native plant project.
Native bee pollinating soaproot flowers in the early evening.
We have added many species to our inventory this fall! The quantity available varies from species to species, so if you want something in particular, order soon so it doesn’t sell out. Some species have already sold out before they could be added to our inventory because of early-bird customers who contacted us with specific interests. Don’t see something you want on the list? Email us and let us know what you are interested in. We may have really small quantities that don’t make it on the list, or we can collect seed for you next year.
Our updated inventory includes the price per single packet of seeds for each species on the list. If you are interested in larger quantities just email us and let us know.
Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds also offers native seed collection services through contract. If you need large quantities of seed for a project, contact us! This works best if we have a few months, at least, before the start of seed collecting time. Low elevation seed collecting can start as early as May, and high elevation seed collecting occurs anytime mid-summer to fall. Land owners who want to encourage biodiversity and native plant conservation on their land find the use of locally wildcrafted, ecoregion-specific seeds benefits the overall quality of their land stewardship goals.
Fall and early winter is the perfect time to plant many native seeds. Some annual species, like bluehead gilia (Gilia capitata), need to germinate with fall rain. They will overwinter as a small seedling in order to put all their energy into flowering next summer. Many perennial species need exposure to the cool, moist temperatures of winter in order to break the dormancy of the seed and germinate in the spring.
Happy native seed planting! -Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds