Friday, August 12, 2011

Mt. Rainier - Woodland Wildflowers

Mt. Rainier National park is home to some of the last preserves of Old Growth forest in the Pacific Northwest. Only about 15 percent of the old growth remains and about half of that exists within the Mt. Rainier National forest and the Olympic national forest. While at Mt. Rainier, we took a hike down through the old growth forest by Narada falls. Many of these trees were between 500 and 1000 years old!

I would guess this tree along the trail is around 800-900 years old as we had seen one about the same size earlier in the day marked as 850 years old:

Ferns cover the slopes:

These are just unfurling their new fronds:


But even in this dense woodland, there are wildflowers. Vanilla Leaf grows under the thick canopy:

What I am pretty sure is Pacific Coralroot was just starting to shoot up from the earth. It belongs to the orchid family and has very small, purple flowers on slender stems. It is very easy to walk right past these on the trail without noticing them:

Pioneer Violets were everywhere along the trail:


And there was still the occasional Trillium or two in bloom:

Many streams make their way down the mountainside resulting in breaks in the dense vegetation that allow for many wildflowers to grow. It was along these streams that I saw gorgeous smatterings of Jeffreys Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi). I simply LOVE these wildflowers!:

Also found here were Marsh Marigolds:

And stands of salmon berries in bloom. Hummingbirds LOVE these flowers, by the way. We had these in our garden when I was growing up and the hummers would go wild over the blooms:

In other open areas, where the sun was able to sneak in a bit you will find Bunchberries or Ground Dogwood. These were also a favorite of mine growing up in our Pacific Northwest garden:

And the always fabulous Columbia Tiger Lily. These were hard for me to photograph. My little point and shoot did NOT like the orange on green background in the low light of the forest:


Both the Tiger Lilies and Bunchberries were growing amongst the native Heuchera (Heuchera-glabra):

And again you will see Vanilla leaf here also growing with the Heuchera:

You will notice the last couple of photos were taken by the road, but to see most of the woodland wildflowers, you really do need to get out and hike some trails. The best flowers are back in a little way. You really don't have to hike that far in. Just a mile or so will do. And most tourists won't walk more than about a hundred yards or so in (really, we are a very lazy nation), so once you walk down the trail a bit, not only do you get to see more wonderful flowers, but you get the forest mostly to yourself. :)

Mt. Rainier - Subalpine Wildflowers and Cliffs

As we were driving along the road up to Paradise on Mt Rainier, sheer cliff faces were everywhere and even these were covered in subalpine wildflowers.

Pink Penstemon were clinging to the cliffsides, drenching them in pink. It can be *very* difficult to get good photos of these flowers as these cliff faces do not often have nice wide road shoulders next to them that you can pull off on and just saunter up and take a photo. As a matter of fact, many are located on blind, shoulderless corners of the roadside. So what do I do? I challenge Darwin and walk down the road, around the blind corner and try to take photos. So, um, yeah, I very nearly got myself ran over. But I did get some penstemon flower pictures!:

Pink Pentstemon Rupicola:

The same cliff face was also home to this stuff, which I think is Moss Campion:

And also this Beargrass which looks like a grass, but is really part of the lily family:

At the very base of the cliff were big clumps of Twinflower:

At another cliff face, where the water was trickling down to pool at the base before trickling down the hill even further were these Common Yellow Monkey Flowers:


Also found here were Mertens Bluebells. These were found anywhere at this elevation where water made the ground mushy:

Mertens Bluebells (Mertensia paniculata) belong to the Borage family:

Yet another cliff we stopped by had a waterfall cutting deep into it. Goatsbeard grew all around it:

Many wildflowers were on the cliff on the other side of the road and below this waterfall and I was leaning over the edge a bit to try and take photos of them.

Cascade Penstemon (Penstemon Serrulatus):

Rosey Spirea:

Some small sunflower-looking flowers (Senecio-fremontii) were growing in clumps on the rocks here as well:


Mt. Rainier - Lupine, Paintbrush, and Avalanche Lilies

For all you non-Northwesterners out there, Mt. Rainier is the great big, glacier covered volcano you see behind Seattle. Here is a view from the Paradise Visitor center up on Mt Rainier:

Paradise normally receives an average of 680 inches of snow a year. This 2011 year, they received 907 inches of snow! One of the top 5 snowfalls on record. There was more snow at Paradise than ever recorded since 1916. As a result of this large snowpack and the unusually cool spring and summer this year (one of the coolest on record), when we arrived at Paradise in very late July, there was still a very heavy snowpack where one would normally find large wildflower meadows at this time of year:

When Summer arrives and most of the snow has melted, the subalpine wildflowers begin to bloom. The first to appear are the Avalanche lilies. They can be found poking out of the snow as it finishes melting away:


There were many of these poking through the snow between the still leafless shrubbery at the base of the visitor center:

Large swathes of these lilies will cover the ground as the snow melts. They were just beginning to bloom when we arrived as the snow was just beginning to clear away. Doubles:

In the few places the snow had completely melted these wildflowers were smothering the ground:

What is that you say? Paintbrush and Lupine? Isn't that the Texas Hill country?!? No! It's the Alpine Lupine(Lupinus arcticus )and Scarlet Paintbrush(Castilleja miniata) of the subalpine meadows. Paradise up on Mt. Rainier is at an elevation of 5400 feet and its wildflower meadows rival any that you will see in the Texas hillcountry. As a matter of fact, the meadows appear strikingly similiar even though the environments could not be more different!:

Scarlet paintbrush and Alpine Lupine:

When the snow finally melts from the slopes above Paradise, likely at the very end of August this year, they will be blanketed with these wildflowers:


Many other wildflowers bloom amongst the lupine and paintbrush. Here are some asters and buttercups:

The buttercups seemed to be a favorite of the black-tailed deer. They were very focused on browsing the little yellow flowers and didn't seem to mind me taking their photo:



While in the Pacific Northwest, I stopped by Weyerhaeuser's International headquarters in Federal Way, Wa. to view the Pacific Rim Bonsai collection. The collection includes bonsai from six different Pacific Rim nations.

Weyerhaeuser is also the home of the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden that displays over 600 rhododendron species on 22 acres which in spring, when the rhodies are blooming, is the most amazing sight you will ever see! I highly recommend going to see it if you happen to be in the Seattle area in the Spring. When we were there this year, there wasn't much blooming, but they did have a couple nifty things I snapped photos of.

First is this climbing hydrangea:

I couldn't even get the whole thing in the photo. It had climbed well over a hundred feet up this tree!:

And in the giant greenhouse, where they have the tropical rhodies, they had this hanging pot of carnivorous pitcher plant (nepenthes truncata) which I thought was pretty keen:

OK, back on to the Bonsia. The bonsai ranged from a few years old to some several centuries old. Some of them were even grafted onto very old pine trees that were dug from the wild that were thousands and thousands of years old! All these grafted onto old wood bonsai were all older bonsai from pre-1960. You know, before that kind of thing was frowned upon.

There were single trunked bonsai, multiple trunked bonsai, bonsai trained to grow over rocks and even tropical bonsai that had to be kept in the greenhouse (most of the bonsai are outside). Every bonsai was unique and I got a little carried away (OK, *really* carried away) with the photos. But here goes:

And there were so many more. These were only some of the Bonsai in the collection. My favorite ones were those that had been trained to grow in the down direction as they appeared as if they were overhanging a cliff.