A Wildflower Walk with Larry Part II

This is Part II of a series of posts about a two-hour wildflower walk/talk with Larry Yox, a resident here at Lost Valley Community in Oregon. If you missed Part I, you can find it HERE.

Larry Yox Wildflower Tour Guide

Continuing our walk through the meadow, on our way to the Creek Trail, Larry began to speak about the blue camas flowers that were spreading across the meadow in abundance. Camus is a kind of lily whose bulbs were a main staple of the indigenous peoples’ diet. They would dry the excess bulbs to use in winter. The camas were used like we use onions and additionally, for medicine.We refrain from picking them, so that they can propagate themselves in their natural manner.

A Field of Camas Was Sometimes Mistaken for a Lake by Pioneers (This is not our Meadow — Click image for photo credit.)

One hundred years ago entire meadows would be filled with blue camas flowers, giving pioneer settlers the impression that they were seeing a lake. Larry said he has seen our own meadow appear that way at times.  Larry also told me that the western buttercups and the blue camas do a kind of “pas de deux” at this time of year, making a beautiful yellow and blue carpet across the meadow. Two weeks after he told me this, I witnessed that exact image, as I gazed out across the meadow while my sister was visiting. She was taking photos right and left, enchanted by the blue and yellow carpet of wildflowers.

Larry told me so many things about camas that this information alone could take up the rest of this post. I’ll try to keep it short. There are two varieties of camas, “little” camas and “big” camas. The names do not really refer to the size of the plant. The main difference is how the flower blooms and what pattern its petals make. Both kinds of camas flowers have six petals (well, three petals inside three “seeples” or the “wrapper” the petals are in that also look like petals as the flower blossoms.) Got that? I didn’t at first.

“Little Camas” Flowers Look Like Airplane Propellers

“Big” Camas with Petals and Seeples Interspersed

Then Larry showed me that when the flowers of the “little” camas bloom, they look like an airplane propeller, with three petals and two seeples pointing up and one seeple pointing down. As there weren’t any “big” camas blooming at the time, he described the flowers of that version as having three petals  equally distributed around the flower with three seeples. Click photos to enlarge and get more information.

Before we leave the topic of camas, I’ll mention that there is a poisonous variety that is usually white. So don’t eat the white ones. Recently, I read a book about the early Scots sheep herders who settled northwestern Montana between 1890 – 1910. They referred to this variety as “death camas” and many unsuspecting sheep met their demise after eating it.

Leaving the meadow and moving on toward the forest Larry began to share new flowers, shrubs and trees every few feet. I’ll do my best to keep it simple and maximize the images.

There were tiny purple flowers of the geranium family that were almost too small to see.

Tiny purple Geraniums Looked Like Purple Dots in the Grass

Wild Strawberry Plants Sporting Blossoms and Promises of Berries to Come

A Hazelnut Bush featuring both the male catkin parts that arrive in the depths of winter and the female flowering parts that finally get here in April. Talk about keeping the gentleman waiting!

Female Flowers and Male Catkins. Even Larry Scratches His Head about How The Hazelnut Manages to Reproduce.

Larry pointed out a sweet cherry tree growing up into one of the evergreens next to it. I’d have missed it completely, if he hadn’t been there to point it out. Sure enough, the leaves were cherry leaves but most of the fruit will be way too high for human consumption. Well, the birds and squirrels must eat too. And now that I’ve got you all curious, I must tell you that I don’t even have a photo. It was too dark to get a decent shot but trust me, there’s a cherry tree growing in our forest.

The Pacific Northwest is known for its berries. Both wild and domesticated versions of berries populate the region. We have many wild berries on our property: blueberries, blackberries, salmon berries, salal berries, elderberries and the very popular thimble berry. Larry pointed out a thimble berry plant and the sign near it that actually has a salal plant growing in front of it now. There is a large patch of thimble berries growing right in front of my house, so I cheated a bit and I’m slipping in this photo that I took just a few days ago. The blossoms are already turning into berries that are hollow and look just like thimbles when picked. I hadn’t realized that the flowers have a fragrance, until I was walking by this patch and they wafted their lovely scent my way. I had to stop and smell the thimble berries.

Thimble Berries with Blossoms Already Becoming Berries

So now, while I’m back at my house, I think this is a good time to close this chapter. Part III will take us along the Creek Trail, which has been our destination all along. I promise many more extraordinary flowers to come and hope you enjoyed the stops along the way. Larry and I will see you again soon.

 

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7 thoughts on “A Wildflower Walk with Larry Part II

  1. So loving your trips into nature Alia… and look forward to the next one…. your up this next Monday to be featured on my blog, if you could send me your piece about what compassion means to you and info about any book or service you are sharing with the world… this weekend, that would be great. barbara@memymagnificentself.com much love to you x barbara x

  2. I can see why those early pioneers thought they were seeing blue lake.. Such a wonderful walk you took me along.. How wonderful to see the many wild flowers so loved every bit of it 🙂

    • Thank you Sue. I’ve begun Part III but had too many other projects going this week. Taking a trip to see my younger son in California tomorrow. I’ll be away for 10 days. Think I’ll spend some time with WP. Thanks for your visit and comment, Alia

      • So understand your busyness Alia.. and my priorities like yours are elsewhere from WP.. 🙂 So relate so well to your words.. Enjoy your California trip.. Family come first always.. 🙂 xxx

  3. I didn’t know about camas – what a beautiful variety of plant. Does the white (death) camas look like the purple flower? Just curious.
    But this is a neat post because where I live in North Carolina, there are lots of berries that grow, too. Elderberry, wineberry and blueberries and even grapes are pretty common around here. I love to walk and pick them and even freeze them for eating in the winter.
    Thank you for this lesson – reading the historical part was neat, too!

    • Hello Sageleaf — I thought I had replied to this comment but I don’t see the notification that I did. I can’t answer your question about whether or not the white and blue versions of camas look alike. You’ll have to try Google for that answer. I’ve heard or read that not all white camas are poisonous but enough are that people have generally avoided eating the white ones. Grazing domesticated animals are vulnerable. Wild grazing animals (like deer) probably have learned to avoid them and then passed that information along to their offspring. Deer seem to be very tuned into the smell of anything they are considering eating. This caution has probably saved their lives over eons. Just guessing on that but it would make sense. Thanks for your interest, Alia

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