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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.