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Occasional posts - from the quirky to the momentous - on the life and times of the Methow Conservancy.
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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cottleston Pie, M.Ed. Grad School Update #2

by Mary Kiesau, Methow Conservancy Educational Programs Director

The first month of graduate school has gone quickly, just as I suspected.  See the first post explaining all this here.  I’ve gotten very used to all the twists and turns on Hwy 20 (and can tell you that Cascadian Farms is closing after Nov 2!), but I’ve also figured out how to print documents at the library (an undergrad had to teach me), taken a city bus to campus (this is a big deal for me!), and taken advantage of all the recreational fees I’m required to pay by lap swimming in the wonderfully large indoor pool on campus (first lap swim in about 14 years).  This is all along with all my schooling of course.

The first three classes within the Masters of Education in Environmental Education program involve a lot of reading and discussion, to the point that I feel like most days are formalized book clubs, but there is also a lot of useful overlap in the classes and a lot of self-reflection, self-inquiry and self-direction, to the point that I also feel like I’m going to counseling session (both in my head and in group therapy).  One could wonder if it’s worth the money to attend advanced book clubs/therapy sessions, but so far I would give it an enthusiastic “Yes!” though I know there is still a lot of difficult work ahead of me.  Someone told me a couple of weeks ago that going to graduate school is giving a gift to yourself.  The sentiment didn’t fully soak in at the time, but I totally get it now.  I am pampering myself with the time and space to explore, learn, express, discover, understand and grow, about myself and about how I want to use what I learn and how I grow.  I am extremely grateful to the Methow Conservancy for allowing me to do this.   

While I have done and read many things in the past month, I wanted to share something specific to give you a glimpse into my grad school work.  Here’s a portion of a 7-page paper I wrote that was a discourse analysis of a book that was foundational to me in my youth.  I choose "The Tao of Pooh."

As one might suspect "The Tao of Pooh" uses Winnie-the-Pooh and his cast of friends as a way to explain the philosophy and primarily tenets of Taoism (aka Daoism).  Pooh is the embodiment of Taoism according to the author Benjamin Hoff. 

Cottleston Pie
This was the longest chapter in the book and I think it was my favorite. And though it was longer than the other chapters, it had clear, easy to understand points, namely: we all have a unique Inner Nature; know and trust yourself; things are as they are; accept your limitations; we don’t have to know and understand everything; and, self-reliance starts with all of this.

Cottleston Pie is one of Pooh’s songs that Hoff uses to highlight Taoist principles.  One part of the song says, “A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.”  This notion is one all of us understand - you can’t put a square peg in a round hole.  How do we apply this to our lives and values, behaviors and attitudes?  Hoff says, “…things are as they are…everything has its own place and function…”  This applies to people and our world of nature and things.  A key piece of the book for me is the statement, “When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong.”

Next, the song says, “A fish can’t whistle and neither can I,” which Hoff kindly explains as “I have certain limitations and I know what they are.”  This is a bit like the “make lemonade out of lemons” saying in that Hoff says this principle isn’t about throwing your hands up at your weaknesses but, first, recognizing them, and second, understanding them so that you can perhaps use them to your advantage or even turn them into strengths.  This part of the Cottleston Pie chapter was not my favorite part.  It felt like a motherly know-it-all telling me that I can’t use the word “can’t.”  But, this is all part of the big Cottleston Pie picture. 

The final verse in the song is, “Why does a chicken, I don’t know why.”  It means, “We Don’t Know!”  I love this because it says, stop trying to figure all this out; we don’t know and we don’t need to know.  Hoff says all we really need to do is “recognize Inner Nature and work with Things As They Are.” (Cottleston Pie stands for Inner Nature)


A lack of Inner Nature speaks to what has happened to so many of us and what I think is one of the core reasons humans have caused so much damage to each other and to our planet.  Hoff writes, “Unlike other forms of life, though, people are easily led away from what’s right for them, because people have Brain, and Brain can be fooled. Inner Nature, when relied on, cannot be fooled. But many people do not look at it or listen to it, and consequently do not understand themselves very much. Having little understanding of themselves, they have little respect for themselves, and are therefore easily influenced by others.”  I think this speaks volumes and, unfortunately, probably characterizes most of us to some degree.  Are any of us really content with (let alone fully aware of) our true self? Aren’t most of us trying to be who we think we should be or who others think we should be?  We let people (and definitely the media and the capitalist system, which could be a whole other paper) make us feel unimportant, small and unworthy.

Wrapping up Hoff says, “The Way of Self-Reliance starts with recognizing who we are, what we've got to work with, and what works best for us.”  Being self-sufficient is a very important thing for me - something I’ve worked consciously and specifically towards for the last 10 years - but I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve never thought about it in quite these terms.  Basically, self-reliance starts with who I am, not with what I can (grow food) or can’t (build a house) do. 

Near the end of the book, Hoff says that Tz’u, which is “caring” or “compassion,” is one of the greatest things we can have and do.  From caring comes courage and wisdom.  He talks about living lives of desperation and clinging to hollow substitutes and it made me think of something I constantly remind myself of - that we are all struggling to understand “what’s it all about?” whether we know it or not, and that we need to be more compassionate with ourselves and others.  It’s the first step, as Hoff says, to “setting ourselves free.”

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Learning & Growing with an M.Ed., Update #1

by Mary Kiesau, Methow Conservancy Educational Programs Director

I can’t exactly tell you what compelled me to apply to graduate school last winter and actually go through with it this fall except that lifelong learning is an important part of my life and is one of the things that best helps me contribute to others, through my work at the Methow Conservancy as well as personally. 

I admit I don’t really know what I’m getting myself into, and it’s sort of crazy and not exactly easy to go back to school at the age of 40 when I have a perfectly fine job and a perfectly full life already!

On Sept 24, 2014, I began a weekly commute to Bellingham to participate in the Masters of Education in Environmental Education degree program at Huxley College at Western Washington University.  Fortunately (and the only reason I even considered applying), this program is set-up relatively well for working professionals in that one only has to do two 10-week quarters on campus, which I’ll do this fall and winter, and then the rest of the program is independent, including the Masters thesis or project, and will be done in the Methow and in-conjunction, as much as possible at least, with the Methow Conservancy.

Rest assured, I’m not leaving the Methow Conservancy or the Methow, I’m just a “part-timer” for about six months.  Like many of you, I’ll be checking the Methow weather and web cams and missing great events that happen mid-week, and living for the weekends when I can drive over and get my Methow fix. 

For those of you who want the logistical details, for this fall quarter which ends Dec 5, I drive over on Monday mornings and return to the Methow on Friday afternoons.  I continue to do Conservancy work everyday remotely, and then more on the weekends in the office and in the field.  The public shouldn’t notice any difference.  You’ll even probably see me at First Tuesdays!  I get a month off between Dec 6 and Jan 6 and then start the winter quarter which runs through mid-March.  For that quarter, I’ll drive over on Sunday afternoons (yes, the long way around) and return to the Methow on Wednesday afternoons.

So far, the classes and coursework, and my instructors and classmates, are interesting and engaging.  I’m really enjoying all of it, though I’ve never forced myself to read so much in my life!  It’s a little weird to be spending the bulk of your days reading, thinking and discussing, and not really “doing,” but as a practitioner of environmental/natural history/conservation/sustainability/stewardship…education I think an overall goal is to use the dedicated thinking/reading/discussing time to grow and learn so that when I get back to “doing” I will have a stronger foundation for it, and hopefully be more skilled and suited for it.

Here’s a little bit about this fall’s campus-based courses:
ENVS 585 Environmental Education Foundations, Dr. Nick Stanger
This class is taught outdoors, rain or shine.  It employs a lot of self-reflection and “Transformative Inquiry” to help us discover our own EE foundations and envision our future as practitioners of EE. 

ENVS 587 Conservation Psychology, Dr. Gene Myers
This class is about the human mind, emotion, behavior patterns, language, social patterns, biases, and so on.  One goal of the class is to better understanding how people think about, feel about, benefit from, experience, and relate/connect to nature, and what inspires or inhibits conservation action.

ENVS 501 Research & Projects in Environmental Studies, Dr. David Rossiter
This class is primarily a seminar involving significant reading and discussing.  It looks at the current trends in and historical contexts of environmental studies from a wide variety of historical and modern practitioners, with the goal of giving us a broader context of human-environment studies.

I had to write down some of my goals/expectations for this program.  Here’s what I said, in no particular order:
  • I should be changed for the better through this program. Maybe this is not entirely something I can measured but I believe it will be something I can sense.
  • I will go through each class with a high degree of respect and trust for what instructors are asking us to do and for the work I do, as well as some degree of humility, humor, self-respect and joy. I will try to honor myself and my work, as well as my instructors and my fellow students.
  • I will bring all my values - about the natural world, doing what is right for each of us, conservation and environmental issues, community, global issues and the need for huge changes/transitions (David Orr says, “...we continue to educate and the young... as if there were no planetary emergency.”) - with me when I read and think for each class, discuss in class, and attend.
  • I will try to integrate what I’m reading, thinking about and learning in all my EE classes so that I have a cohesive understanding of what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed. These classes taken together as a whole should be greater than the sum of their parts when the quarter is finished.
  • I will try to determine what is important and relevant in what I read, think about, discuss and do in these classes and apply those things to my life and work, both professionally and personally.
  • I expect to be intellectually challenged and stimulated, and to enjoy myself and the classes.


IF YOU HAVE CONNECTIONS IN BELLINGHAM, I'm searching for a place(s) to stay mid-week from Nov 3 - Dec 5 and Jan 6 - March 15!  An unoccupied house, or a small private self-contained apartment/room is ideal, and I'm happy to move around if places are only available some of the time I need lodging.  Free to cheap is also ideal but may not be practical I know.  I can provide more details if you have any ideas.  Email me at mary@methowconservancy.org  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tales from the Mushroom Trail - Notes & Video from the July First Tuesday


Notes by Volunteer Intern Piper Sallquist
Video Summary by Volunteer Intern Claire Waichler

Morels and the Methow: Hunting an Underground Culture
On July 1st, the Methow Conservancy hosted author Langdon Cook for a lecture on his new book, The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America. Cook is a Seattle-based author known for his writing on the food and culture of the Northwest, and his new book only expands on this.  He spoke of his time traveling with and investigating the peculiar group of people devoted to picking and distributing mushrooms in the forests of the West. In certain seasons and years, the Methow Valley is ripe with morels, and this bounty attracts some hobby harvesters and some commercial. 


Cook tells his stories with an explorer’s gleam in his eye- at once nonchalant and thrilled to deliver adventure stories from an unexpected origin. Mushroom hunting is a casual pastime for many, but Cook takes a pastime and makes it his entire world. He recounted stories of hours long hikes yielding over a hundred pounds of the coveted fungi, and tales of temporary camps occupied for months at a time during the fleeting harvest seasons. The mushroom trade is the second largest all-cash industry in the United States, and operates in a shady world of seekers too stubborn or independent to pursue an industry with lower-hanging fruit. Cook immersed himself in this culture, becoming a mushroom hunter himself and following the “mushroom trail”, the migration pattern up and down the west coast that allows for full time fungus gathering.

The lecture was also peppered with photos of ways in which mushrooms might be consumed- from lobster mushroom risotto to matsutake stir-fry. Cook’s ability to combine adventure tale and homegrown gourmet was striking and quite effective, and certainly worked as an advertisement for his book.

When asked about the sustainability of the mushroom trade, Cook emphasized the benefits of appreciating and experiencing the forest to its fullest potential. 

What a way to start the summer!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Plant Geography

Notes from the 6th (last) class of the Botany Conservation Course
by Course Volunteer Phyllis Daniels & Course Coordinator Mary Kiesau
 
We started the class off with a quiz lead by Mary Kiesau, course coordinator.  Images of plants were projected and we had to answer questions about them.  See the quiz here
 
Then, George Wooten taught a short session on Plant Geography.  George reminded us that even though we have learned how to identify flowers by using plant keys based on plant characteristics, we will run into situations where keys will only get us so far and sometimes habitat is the best way to identify a particular species.

The geographic patterns that plants form give us clues as to how they got there.  
Plant geology involves four patterns:
  • habitat
  • process
  • genetics
  • mutualism (interaction with other species).

Western Larch and Subalpine Larch look identical but are separated and distinguished by habitat (elevation).
Alpine Forget-me-not only grows on certain high elevation peaks.

An example of habitat would be that wild pansies are very rare in Okanogan county because of a need for a very specific habitat.  It needs to have a special clay soil and will not grow in the sandy soil we see in the valley.

Process is what actively happens in the habitat; some examples of processes are fire, snow, and glaciation.  A Macloskeyi violet only lives in soil that has been turned over from receding snow. 

Genetics play an important role for example when the flower has adapted so that it can bloom underground.  That is amazing because no pollinator can reach it, so why would it do that?  Plants can get stuck in a particular habitat and become so specific it can’t move out of it, so if something changes the habitat (like the climate change) the plant will probably go extinct because it's so specifically designed for the old habitat.

Mutualism is the way two organisms of different species exist in a relationship in which each individual benefits.  There are so many cases of animals and plants needing each other to survive.  In co-evolution, it’s sometimes hard to tell where the plant ends and the animal begins.. so George left us with this intriguing question - If they cannot exist without one another then are they different species or fundamentally one combined organism?  Is it a plant or an animal?  Ponderosa pine or squirrel?  Squirrel or serviceberry?  Bear or huckleberry? 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ethnobotany

Notes from the 5th class of the Botany Conservation Course
by Course Volunteer Phyllis Daniels & Course Coordinator Mary Kiesau


Rosalee de la ForĂȘt, an herbalist, and her husband Xavier, the creator of the Sustainable Living Project, were the speakers for the fifth class in the Methow Conservancy's 2014 Methow Conservation Course “Botany: The Basics & Beyond.”

Ethnobotany is the study of the relationship of plants and people.  Xavier pointed out two myths about people and nature.  Myth one:  humans are above nature and therefore can do what they will - it all belongs to them.  Myth two: humans are below nature and don’t belong to it and should leave it alone.  He suggests a third possibility; to have a mutually respectful relationship with nature; to partake of it and have a positive impact on the earth.  Myth #2 that humans are not natural to the ecosystem can cause us to make abstract categories: that there is a domesticated realm (garden is ours to do with what we want) and that there was pristine wilderness.  These assumptions don’t incorporate the fact that for 10,000 years Native people harvested native plants and by doing so many different plants increased their productivity.

Roselee said getting to know plants is like getting to know people.  You get to know them bit by bit.  You learn their name, what family they come from, and then you get to know them more specifically and intimately, like what they do or in the case of plants, what they can do for us.

Lily Family - First, we went over important root crops.  These plants have evolved to expect us to dig them up, aerate the soil and spread their bulblets.  Wait until the plants have gone to seed to harvest so that the seeds can sow when you dig. You can increase the number of plants by a factor of 5 or more for every one you harvest.  There are numerous edible plants in the lily family, but some lilies, like Meadow Death Camas, should not be eaten, so take care to know your plants well.  These plants grow from corms, technically not bulbs though they look like a bulb.  We’ll use the words interchangeably here, but when we write bulb we mean corm.

  • Yellow Bells - edible corms, tasty, good texture, starchy. 
    Yellow Bell Corms
    Grow deep in ground 6-8” to survive  in the cold winter and our dry summers.  The corm is covered with little bulblets or propagules - wipe those off and spread them in the hole you’ve dug to make new plants. Can eat raw or cooked.
  • Chocolate Lily - is also a “rice root” bulb with many small bulblets covering the one main bulb.  These are typically cooked or dried before eaten as they are slightly bitter.
  • Tiger Lily - bulbs look more like garlic cloves; strong bitter taste; best mixed with other foods.
  • Glacier Lily - sprout in the snow and flower as snow is receding; bulb is elongated, sweet and crisp.
  • Mariposa Lily- there are two types here though the Cat’s Ear or Lyall’s is far more abundant.  It has a smaller bulb; both have a sweet nutty flavor and can be eaten raw or cooked..
  • Hooker's Onion - the leaves alone can look like yellow bells or death camas when there is no flower. Use it like any onion - the bulb and green tops are like scallions.
Orchid Family - many orchids have been over-harvested by people simply picking the pretty flowers.  We do not recommend harvesting orchids in general.
Striped Coralroot

  • Coralroot - there are several types of coralroots (spotted, striped and western here). They are used for fever, cold and flu, and to calm children.  Pull up whole plant, cut into pieces, and replant parts.
  • Mountain Lady’s Slipper - blooms late may and early June.  It is a tasty bulb but is also a relaxing nervine (plant remedy that has a beneficial effect upon the nervous system in some way), and relieves stress.  This plant has been over harvested and cannot survive without underground fungi so it cannot be transplanted.
  • Fairy Slipper or Calypso - This orchid has also been over-harvested and depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a soil-dwelling fungus. The corm was used for food.
Daisy Family - This family gives us both native and non-native plants for food and medicine.
  • Arrowleaf Balsamroot - important food and medicine.  Early in the spring, look for dead leaves from last years plant and you’ll see new sprouts coming up.  Dig down to get the fresh shoots, but don’t take more than half of them.  The young stalks, leaves and flowers are edible and have incredibly pleasing resin flavor.  Peel off the hairy outer layer and munch on the pithy center.  Later in the spring, when the flower heads are dried, you can gather sunflower seeds.  As medicine, resin from fall roots is an expectorant, is anti-microbial, and works well as a poultice for wounds, fevers and upper respiratory infections.
  • Arnica - in low doses, arnica is great for injuries (too much of it is poisonous).  It stimulates capillaries to dilate and stimulate blood flow. Use it externally (salve or oil) for post surgery, postpartum, bruises, sprains.  To make a cream, you can use the whole plant or just the flower.
  • Yarrow - name means ‘many flowers’ and it’s known as the Master of Blood because it can stop bleeding as well as help move blood in body (bruises and clots) if taken internally.  It is an antiseptic, is used to heal wounds, and combined with mint and elder flowers can shorten the duration of the flu.  It helps with lung function, bile secretion, and breaks down fat. It is a bit bitter and is therefore good for digestion.  If Rosalee could only take one plant to a deserted island it would be yarrow. 
  • Big Sagebrush - is antimicrobial and cleans pathogens out of the body (and spirit when used as a smudge); prevents bacterial infections and fungal infections.
  • Dandelion -
    Making Dandelion Wine
    every part of this “weed” can be used for food and medicine yet Americans pour 90 million gallons of herbicide a year to kill this plant.  People from Europe brought it here because they couldn’t live without it.  Leaves offer Vitamin A, Phosphorus, & Potassium. Leaf and root combined effectively treat acne, PMS and eczema.  Combined with burdock it is a cure for cancer.  The milky sap can be used for warts.  The root roasted makes a great coffee flavored tea.  Buds can be pickled or used in salads or stir fried.  Harvest when open and fry.
  • Pineapple Weed -  another common weed around here - found in compacted soil.  Use as a camomile substitute; it promotes sleep and is used for anxiety relief.
  • Salsify - a weed here, in Europe it grows wild and is cultivated as a vegetable crop.  It has a carrot-type long tap root.  Green buds (before going to seed) can be used in stir frys.
Parsley Family - Some are edible and some are deadly so be careful and know your plants.
  • Chocolate Tips - (a lomatium) is sometimes called ‘big medicine’ has strong dramatic resinous flavor.  The whole plant can be used but root is used most commonly. Has strong anti-viral qualities and is used for herpes, HIV, and Epstein Barr.
  • Biscuitroot - another lomatium with a carrot-like root was a popular Native American food.  It was boiled and eaten or dried and pounded into flour.
  • Indian Celery or Bare-Stem Lomatium - entire plant tastes like celery and can be eaten raw or put into soups and dishes.
  • Cow Parsnip - big plant with big maple like leaves.  Causes sun sensitivity and blistering when brushed up against.  The stalk can be eaten after peeling the hairy outer layer; steam it or batter up and fry.  In small amounts (2 seeds per soup pot) seeds can be used as flavoring.  As medicine the root and seed are used; seeds numb toothache pain.
L to R: Springbeauty corms, Biscuitroot roots, Burdock root (sliced) and Bitterroot roots

Purslane Family
  • Bitterroot - was the #1 root that Native Americans gathered here.  In bud stage is the perfect time to dig roots with a digging stick from the loose rocks in which it grows.  The root looks like legs with “pants” (an outer red sheath or thin bark) that need to be peeled off or will be extremely bitter.  Split the crouch of the pants open and pull out the tiny red “heart” or seed embryo and plant it back in the ground you just dug.  Can be eaten raw, boiled or dried as flour.
  • Spring Beauty - other important purslane family plant, the whole plant can be eaten.  The root (corm) is starchy and potato-like.  The thicker the flower stem or the larger the clump of flowers the bigger the bulb. Take the large bulb and let the smaller ones grow.  The above ground part is great in salads.
Conifers
  • Ponderosa Pine - high in vitamin C, has a citrus taste; the needles make a great tea (steep the needles for 10-15 minutes).
  • Douglas Fir- can also be used for tea; is high in antimicrobials (what the plant uses for protection we use for medicine).  Draws out boils, deep splinters, etc.
  • Spruce - flexible bark for baskets.  Take bark off living tree, doesn’t kill it as long as you only take small sections (1/3 or less of the diameter) and you don’t knick the wood underneath the bark.
Figwort Family
  • Elephants Head - lousewort used for relaxing stress and anxiety and in structural medicine - externally - to relax muscles.  Used as a smoking herb (aerial portions).
  • Mullen - common weed around here, it pulls up nutrients with deep taproot to reinvigorate the soil.  Oil is used for earaches, fuzzy leaves for lung strengthening and asthma.  Nutrient dense with a mild taste of vanilla. Dry stalks are used for friction fires and the tall seedpods on stalks for torches.
Heath Family
  • Uva-ursi or Kinnikinnick (longest palindrome ), also known as Bearberry - is an important food for bears. The berries are mealy not juicy but you can fry in oil to improve.  Medicinally, the berries are used to treat bladder and kidney disorders, and the smoked leaves are good for persistent cough.
  • Huckleberries or blueberries - of course, we all know how edible and easy to gather these are.
Rose Family
  • Wild Rose (there are several species) - easy to harvest the petals and hips and both are used for many things.  Cover the petals in honey, to make rose honey to eat or in mead.  Cover in oil for use in creams as an astringent to tighten and tone.  Used to heal the Heart both spiritually and physically.  Rose hips have Vitamin C; mixed with apple cider vinegar then strain off to make rose hip compote.
  • Saskatoon or Serviceberry - best berry in the valley and grows all over the place.  Is very sweet so it was usually crushed or mashed to form a patty like fruit leather or mixed with more bitter berries to lessen the sweetness.
  • Chokecherries
  • Chokecherry - ripe in late summer, early fall. Not the best tasting but the highest content of all the antioxidants (free radical for heart health damage).  Good for jelly and the bark is a cough suppressant.
  • Hawthorn - #1 herb for Heart - good for high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and lipids (lipids are fats, their primary purpose in the body is energy storage). Leaves, flowers, and berries are used.  Thornes can be used for fishhooks or toothpicks. Hawthorn can help improve the amount of blood pumped out of the heart during contractions, widen the blood vessels, and increase the transmission of nerve signals.  Hawthorn also seems to have blood pressure-lowering properties, according to early research. It seems to relax the blood vessels farther from the heart due to a component in hawthorn called proanthocyanidin.  Research suggests that hawthorn can lower cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad cholesterol”), and triglycerides (fats in the blood). It seems to lower accumulation of fats in the liver and the aorta. Hawthorn fruit extract may lower cholesterol by increasing the excretion of bile, reducing the formation of cholesterol, and enhancing the receptors for LDLs. It also seems to have antioxidant activity.
  • Bitterbrush - used for digestive purposes as a laxative and to rid the body of parasites.  Sip slowly!
Other Odds & Ends
  • Fireweed - used to make a great tasting tea, and medicinally as an astringent.  Harvest flowers before full bloom.Marsh Violet (any violet probably) - tastes good raw (salads); is used for lymphatic breast lumps or any lumps or skin disorders.
  • Elderberry - flowers used for upper respiratory with fever as
    Blue Elderberries are collected in Fall
    well as in creams for the skin. Gentle enough for children.  Berries known to cure 8 different influenza viruses - take it early on and regularly and in two days your well. Also good for herpes if used at onset (the flavonoids inhibit reproduction of the virus). Used to make wine and used as a dye. Flowers are quite edible too.
  • Common Mallow - although often considered a weed, this plant is often consumed as a food.  This is especially true of the seeds, which contain 21% protein and 15.2% fat.  Mallow has been used in traditional Austrian medicine internally as tea or externally as baths for treatment of disorders of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract.
  • Shepherd's Purse - stops hemorrhaging
  • Valerian - induces sleep, relaxes tense muscles; is an antispasmodic for flu and coughs.
  • Cottonwood - great smelling buds are very resinous and are antimicrobial and used as a pain reliever.  Salves and tinctures are commonly made.  Here's a "how to."
  • Oregon Grape - “ ..it could save the world” Is antimicrobial; kills digestive parasites and can even kill the super bugs like MARSA; also good for teeth and liver function.
  • St. John’s Wort - has gotten a bad name because it’s dangerous for cows to eat, and although it is best known as an antidepressant, it is really only good for specific types.  It is actually better for herpes, epstein barr, nerve pain and sciatica.
  • Knapweed - once it was said “only virtue is it’s abundant nectar for honeybees” but it has also been proven to be a powerful antioxidant for soil - it gives alkaline soils iron and fixes nitrogen and iron to be used by other plants.
  • Milk thistle seed - is used for mushroom poisoning.
“We are all here to awaken from  the illusion of our separateness “
Thich Naht Hann
Eating local in the Methow

Monday, March 10, 2014

Conifer Identification



Notes from the 4th class of the Botany Conservation Course 
by Course Volunteer Phyllis Daniels & Course Coordinator Mary Kiesau

Susan Ballinger, Wenatchee-area naturalist and educator and creator of The Wenatchee Naturalist course, was the fourth speaker in the Methow Conservancy's 2014 Methow Conservation Course “Botany: The Basics & Beyond.”  This is the 10th annual course.

Susan started the class off with some information about the Washington Native Plant Society and a quick overview of a conifer key, which is ordered according to their evolutionary development.  

Male pine "cones" aka strobili will release pollen.
Conifers are gymnosperms which means “naked seed.”  Unlike angiosperms (the flowering plants we studied in the previous three classes), conifer seeds are not contained within an ovary (aka not covered with fruit).  The seeds are born in cones and on scales.  Most conifers are evergreen (except Larch in our area) and have needle or scale-like “leaves.”  Most conifers bear both male and female cones.  The smaller male cones called strobili produce pollen. While the female cone produces seeds.  The female cone receives pollen by way of the wind. 

Conifers have developed from uncertain conditions; they can tolerate badly drained soil; they have adapted to wildfire; they are sun seekers; and can grow tall and massive.  In the world’s forests most trees are broadleaf.  Because of low humidity, weeks of drought, with a mostly cool winter the Pacific Northwest has mostly conifers. 

From top left clockwise: Ponderosa, Lodgepole, Whitebark and Western White
There are 3 families of conifers in WA state and 19 native conifers in the Pacific Northwest.  They are:
       PINE Family
      4 true fir (Abies)
      2 larch (Larix)
      2 spruce (Picea)- 1 only coastal
      4 pine (Pinus)
      1 false hemlock (Psudotsuga)
      2 hemlock (Tsuga)
       CYPRESS Family           
      1 white-cedar (Chamaecyparis)
      1 juniper (Juniperus)
      1 cedar (Thuja)
       YEW Family- 1 yew (Taxus)

Young trees often look different and have differing characteristics than the adult trees that they grow into, so to keep up with the incredible variety we must keep in mind some other factors:

There are 3 habitats for conifers in our area of the Pacific Northwest
   Eastside Low Montane Forest: 1800-3000 ft; gets 15-30” of precipitation; main conifers that we find at this elevation have all adapted in some way to frequent wildfires.  They are the Ponderosa Pine, Western Larch, Douglas Fir, Grand Fir, and Lodgepole Pine.
   East-side High Montane Forest: 4000- 6000 ft. - gets 35-50” of precipitation; the main conifers are Subalpine Fir, Engelmann Spruce, Western Larch and Lodgepole Pine.
   Subalpine: 6000 ft. - the closed canopy disappears and the weather is windy and dry.  Growing there are Subalpine Fir, Whitebark Pine, Subalpine Larch, and to a lesser degree Mountain Hemlock and Yellow Cedar.

Common Characteristics of our Primary Conifers

Western White Pine
·         Needles are clusters of 5, whitish blue green, slender and flexible, 2.5 - 4 inches long. They are lined with tiny teeth so feel rough.  
·         Tree shape is narrow open crowns with regularly spaced whorls of branches extending from main trunk. 
·         Cones are long (6-11”), curved, slender, and have pitchy scales.
·         Bark is gray and thin. Mature tree bark appears checkered. Sap weeps and orange needles indicate blister rust infection.

Whitebark Pine
Whitebark Pine
·         Needles are clusters of 5; yellow-green color, stiff and short (1.5 – 2.5 inches).
·         Confined to the timberline zone in the Cascades it takes on stunted growth with shrubby forms on snowbound windy sites.  
·         Bark is gray and scaly
·         Cones are egg-shaped and 2-3 ½ inches long.  They remain closed on tree when ripe and rely on an unusual symbiotic relationship with the Clark’s Nutcracker bird to disperse its seeds.  Because of the birds habit of burying a cache of these seeds the trees tend to grow in clumps or groups.  The cones are an important food for the grizzly bear.

Ponderosa Pine
·         Needles in clusters of 3 (sometimes 2), dark green and very long (5-10”).  
·         Mature trees have broad crowns of regular whorls of long limbs. As they grow, they shed their bottom branches as an adaptation to fire which is hindered from reaching the crown and forced to stay low to the ground.  
·         Bark is gray brown when young and becomes red-brown and deeply furrowed when mature.  Large trees shed the bark in jigsaw puzzle plates with a corky texture that are resistant to burning.  Once burned the area weeps causing a “catface” that serves as insulation.
·         Cones are egg shaped, symmetrical, 3-5 inches long with prominent prickly scales.  Male strobili are purple

Lodgepole Pine
Lodgepole Pine
·         Needles are in bundles of 2, are yellow-green and 2”  long.
·         Bark is thin, gray-red/brown, scaly and pitchy
·         Cones are usually bent and narrowly egg-shaped. 1-1/2-2 inches.  Sharp prickle on back of cone scale.  Can remain closed on tree for several years until burned.
·         Trees are relatively short-lived (ave age 60 yrs) and have a small and slender form in forested habitats, rounded crown in open habitats.
·         Adapted to stand-replacement wildfires: -- their serotinous cones open only when heated by fire. Seeds then spread & grow in full sun

Western Larch
·         Needles are deciduous, in soft fine clusters of 25-40 on little woody spurs on branch.  Triangular, bright yellow-green,
·         The tree has a tall narrow pointed crown.
·         Cones are small (1 – 1.5”) with long bracts that extend beyond scales.
·         Bark thick, deeply furrowed, flakes into orange brown plates. At base, thick and corky and fire resistant.  Rapidly grows tall into a high open canopy.

Subalpine Larch
·         Needles are like Western Larch needles but are in smaller clusters (20 – 30 needles), are 4-sided, are blue green, and are marked on all sides by white rows of stomata.
·         Bark is yellow-brown, furrowed and thin, and broken into large loose scales.
·         Cones are same size as W. Larch, are rounded and deep purple, covered in wooly hairs, bracts longer than scales, end in long spikes.
·         New shoots are covered with fine, white, wooly hairs, unlike W. Larch.

Sharp Spruce Needles
Engelmann Spruce
·         For Spruces think about Ss. Needles are sharp, and square (you can’t roll them between your fingers) and short.
·         For Engelmann spruce, needles are blue-green with whitish bands, about 1” long and they extend from all sides of a twig.
·         Cones hang down like a pendant, are oblong, 1-21/2” long, scales diamond shaped and ragged at tips; rubbing them sounds like paper. 
·         Bark is thin, dark purple/reddish-brown; in loose scales that flake off easily

Douglas Fir (aka False Hemlock)
·         Not a true fir.
3-pronged bracts extend beyond cone scales.
·         Needles are soft (fir think fur) and scattered singly over the twigs, often in rows on opposite sides of the twigs, length varies around 1” long, mostly blunt at apex, yellow or blue green.
·         Bark is dark brown to black, deeply furrowed & thick
·         Cones are 3-4” long, oblong to cylindric, pendant with a three-lobed bract that extends past the cone scale (looks like a mouse feet and tail)
·         Best field ID mark:  there’s a spear-like tip at the end of every branch – touch the tip to feel a poke (true firs have rounded tip)

Western Hemlock
·         Needles dark green on top, whitish below; variable length up to 1 inch.  Project outward on the sides of twigs, making branches look flattened & spraylike.
·         Cones are small, up to 1 inch long, and almost as wide.
·         Bark is dark gray-brown & heavily furrowed, but only 1-inch thick. Inner layers dark red to purple.
·         At tree-top, bent over leader.

Mountain Hemlock
Mountain Hemlock
·         Needles -- scattered singly and project from all sides of the twigs (looks like it has crazy hair), about ¾ inch pale green or whitish on both sides b/c of rows of stomata on both surfaces. 
·         Bark is dark reddish purplish brown, deeply divided by rounded scaly ridges.
·         Cone is broadly cylindrical 1-2” long.
·         At timberline, grows in a shrubby form.

True Firs have:
       Cylindrical cones stiffly erect on horizontal branches near the top.
       Different pattern of foliage on cone-bearing branches (denser) 
       Cones stand upright on tree, are purple and sappy when young, and then scales open and fall away, leaving the stalk of the cone standing upright
       Young fir trunks have resin-filled blisters on smooth bark.

Pacific Silver Fir
·         Needles flattened, blunt, 1-inch long, glossy green on top, silvery white on rows of stomata on underside (2 bands).  Neatly arranged with 3 rows of needles: one row each project horizontally from opposite sides of twig, and one row runs along the top of the stem.
·         Bark-- ashy gray with lichen blotches, thin and smooth with resin blisters becomes scaly on old trees.
·         Cone is upright cylindrical, 3 ½ - 6”, deep purple and smooth.  
·         Key field ID mark:  Looking down on branch, the stem is hidden from view; unlike grand fir with brown stem always visible
fir cones stand upright and are purple and sappy
Subalpine Fir
·         Needle tips rounded, whitish on both sides, <1 inch.  One white band above, 2 white bands below.  Growing on all sides of the twig-on short, stiff horizontal branches all the way to the ground.
·         Cones are 2.5 – 4”, deep purple, often covered with an “icing” of shiny resin.
·         Bark is thin, smooth, light grey. 
·         In rocks & on ridge tops, takes on shrubby form
·         Slender cone-shape sheds snow.

Grand Fir
·         Needles are flat, blunt, dark shiny green above & whitish (2 bands) on underside, >1 inch long.  Spread in two regular comb-like rows from opposite sides of twig
in a “two-ranked” array.
·         Cones are 3-5 inches, greenish. Sit upright, but sometimes tip sideways due to weight.
·         Bark is thick, furrowed, divided into narrow flat plates. In young trees-dark, gray, & thin.
·         Fire-ladder, due to low branches

Red Cedar
Western Red Cedar
·         Needles are scale-like, oval, lying flat against the twig, opposite in 4 rows, rounded on back & sharp pointed, and dark yellow green.
·         Branches are spray-like, spreading down & outward.
·         Bark is thin, ridged and fissured; is grayish to reddish brown.  Mature tree bark can be peeled off in long thin strips
·         Cones are small, woody, egg-shaped, less than ½-inch thick. 

Alaska Cedar
       Needles are scalelike, opposite in 4 rows. Prickly tip, Keeled ridge on back. Dark bluish-green. 1/8-inch.  Branch in flat fern-like sprays.  After 2 years, needles turn yellow-brown for 1 year before being shed.
       Cones are woody, rounded, <1/2 inch thick.
       Bark is shaggy & gray, hanging in loose rough pieces, but will not peel off into strips.
       Thrives in cold, wet, climate.  Deep snowfall insulates tree from extreme cold.
       Slow-growing-often at upper limit of trees, avalanche chutes, bogs, or rocky crags.

Pacific Yew
·         Needles are flat with pointed tips; arranged in two rows, one along each side of the twig; dark green above, paler below (no white bands), ¾ - 1” long.
·         Bark is reddish brown, thin, broken by broad fissures into red to purplish scaly ridges.
·         Small low-spreading tree 20-50 feet tall with asymmetrical form, often branching to the ground, in understory of moist, mature and shady conifer forest and along streams at low to mid elevations.
·         Cone is hidden in a rounded scarlet, fleshy berry-like-cups (an aril); open at one end.
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Next week’s class is on Ethnobotany.