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CdA students sprouting native plant garden on Blackwell Island

PUBLIC LANDS — Lake City High School students will be helping restore native plants to Blackwell Island Recreation Area this week in a project coordinated by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Coeur d'Alene District.

Students in the school's advanced placement Environmental Science course helped sow the seeds in January for the new native plant and pollinator garden at the popular Lake Coeur d'Alene recreation site. 

BLM botanist LeAnn Abell and Jasmine Williams of the Coeur d’Alene Forest Nursery helped the students start a variety of native north Idaho plants such as blanket flower, Idaho fescue, and yarrow.  Through the winter, the students tended the small plants and prepared them for their future home at the native plant garden.

On Thursday, March 26, about 35 students from Lake City High, along with volunteers from Kootenai County Master Gardeners, the Idaho Native Plant Society, The Lands Council and the University of Idaho’s Confluence Project, will join for a day-long planting event.

A grant the WREN Foundation received from the Idaho Botanical Garden will help provide funding for interpretive signs at the area.  Benches and other amenities will be added later this spring.   

“The creation of this interpretive garden brings a long-time vision together”, said Abell, noting that some of the work started last summer. 

All shrubs and plants established in the garden will be representative of inland northwest species. 

Blackwell Island Recreation Site opens for the season on May 21.

Sign up: Hanford Reach wildflower tours

NATIVE PLANTS — Spring wildflower tours at Hanford Reach National Monument have proved so popular, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is doubling the number of tours this year — and asking people to sign up for a lottery to fill the slots.

This year’s tours are April 25 and 27 and May 8 and 10.

In 2013, the tours were on a first-come, first-served basis and filled in 21 seconds.  

The tours are within the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve of the Monument and may include the top of Rattlesnake Mountain, weather permitting. Viewing stops are planned along the tour route.

Weather will also play a decisive role in the quality and quantity of the wildflower show. 

“We’re a bit concerned that the wildflowers may not be as spectacular due to the very dry spring we’re having,” said Larry Klimek, Hanford Reach National Monument Manager. 

“However, there are always things to see and learn about on the Monument.  Even in an off year, the plants are worth seeing, and the guides are knowledgeable on a variety of topics related to the Monument.”

Native plants highlighted in Moscow program

NATIVE PLANTS — Learn about native plans, with emphasis on the penstemon family, at a free illustrated program by Nancy Miller on Thursday, March 27, at 1912 Center, Fiske Room (412 E. 3rd St.), Moscow, Idaho.

Experience the rocky beauty, plants and animals seen in Leslie Gulch, Succor Creek, Mores Mountain, Hells Canyon, and more in this program for the White Pine Chapter of the Idaho Native Plant Society.

Harvest underway for huckleberries — Idaho’s state fruit

FORESTS – Huckleberries, designated Idaho’s state fruit in 2000, have been ripe for picking for a couple weeks in the low areas of Priest Lake, and the crop is gradually ripening up the mountain slopes throughout the Inland Northwest.

Don’t set your purple-tongue ambitions too high, yet.

Outdoors editor Rich Landers found ripe huckleberries for the first hour of hiking up Scotchman Peak Trail 65 northeast of Lake Pend Oreille on Thursday with lots of green berries above that to satisfy berry pickers in the prime picking period of August.

Savvy huckleberry pluckers know certain high areas, such as the Roman Nose Peak region in the Selkirks, are harvest-perfect in September.

Huckleberries flourish in several varieties across the region, from the deep-purple lowbush types in the east Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness to the tiny grouse huckleberry (a.k.a. grouse whortleberry) that grows on 10-inch high, small-leaf plants at or above timberline in the Selkirks and Bitterroots.

The ”big huckleberry” (a.k.a. black or thin-leaved) is the most popular berry in the Idaho Panhandle. This species grows in moist, cool forested environments at mid to upper elevations. The plants grow up to three feet tall and take up to 15 years to reach full maturity.  The single, dark purple berries grow on the shoots the plant produced that year, according to plant ecologist Charles Johnson.

Huckleberries are a treat for humans and a necessity for the region’s bears. A poor huckleberry crop in the Priest Lake area in 1979 resulted in reduced bear productivity and survival for the next two years, according to research by John Beecham, retired Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologist.

Black bears have flexible ‘prehensile lips’ that can pick individual huckleberries without ingesting leaves faster than a human can harvest.

Bears can be expected anywhere berries are ripe. Pickers should carry bear spray as a precaution.

The annual Huckleberry Festival sponsored by the Priest Lake Search and Rescue is set for Saturday, July 20, at the Priest Lake Golf Course, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Info: Dory Miller, (509) 979-8802.

Native plants bugged by interesting visitors, expert says

Native plants bugged by interesting visitors

FLORA – Pollination and other services provided to native plants by insects will be explored in a free program by Nan Vance, retired Forest Service research plant scientist, 7 p.m., May 9 at Gladdish Community Center in, Pullman WA. 

Info: (208) 874-3205.

Nisbet to talk about naturalist David Douglas and Turnbull Refuge

NATURE — Spokane author and naturalist Jack Nisbet will present a program, "David Douglas in the Shrub Steppe,” 7:30 p.m., Aug. 21 at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge headquarters south of Cheney.

Seating is limited. Sign-up in advance with Louise Oleary of the Friends of Turnbull, 235-4531, or looeezoleary@netscape.net.

A $5 donation is suggested.

Among Nisbet’s books is “The Collector,” which details Douglas’ role in documenting flora and fauna in the Columbia Basin around 1826.

Douglas fir? This is the man.

Nisbet is curating a museum exhibit,  David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work, set open Sept. 22 in Spokane at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

Pick huckleberries without damaging plant, Forest Service pleads

NATIVE PLANTS — The huckleberry bush, the most revered shrub in the Inland Northwest, is getting less respect as berry pickers succumb to greed.

Practices are getting so bad, the Forest Service has issued a media release warning that recently observed practices — such as CUTTING OFF A BUSH SO BERRIES COULD BE MORE EASILY PICKED — are against the law and punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.

My god.

It's safe to say most huckleberry plant abusers aren't among the families returning to their favorite huckleberry hot spots generation after generation.  None of these people wants to damage plants and reduce the harvest of future years.

However, many people may not realize the senseless and improper use of rake-like huckleberry pickers also damages the berry bushes. 

Meanwhile, read on for more information on the latest damaging practices reported by the Forest Service.

Veterinarian’s state flora ripe for trouble

Nature didn't stand still while I've been on vacation. 

In the past two weeks, the cheatgrass has gone from green and soft to cured with spear-like seedheads that cling to socks and fur.

I just brushed dozens of cheat seeds out of my dog's fur after a training run.

The season has come to stuff cotton in a hunting dog's ear's before going afield.  I could buy a yacht with the money I've spent over the years to have veterinarians extract cheatgrass seeds from deep inside my dogs' ears.

Big berry crop at your ‘service’

FORAGING — Bruce Howard of Spokane says this is an epic year for serviceberries, the pulpy purple fruit on the native shrubs that caught our eyes with lovely, delicate white blossoms in April.

"With the weather we've had, they are like real fruit this year," he said, noting the berries have been abundant and more flavorful that normal.

Expert to lead wildflower walk Sunday at Turnbull

NATIVE PLANTS — Late May is prime time for some of the loveliest wildflowers at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Join Northeastern Washington Native Plant Society veteran Sylvia Eberspecher for a leisurely 2-hour walk to learn about some of the wildflowers, trees and shrubs.  

She will point out distinguishing features of common plants that can be confused with each other, and share a few stories of how some plants got their names.

A former Master Gardener and garden center employee, Sylvia will point out some native plants that grow well in urban gardens. Although scientific plant names will be given, you don’t need to know Latin or memorize botany terms to enjoy this trip. Sylvia will bring her favorite identification books and explain what is particularly good about each one, from beginner to advanced.

 Muffins and bottled water are provided. Meet at 10 a.m. by the Turnbull Headquarters buildings.

For starters, here is a plant list.

Pre-register wtih Sylvia (209) 379-5881 or Louise OLeary (509)235-4531 or email  looeezoleery@netscape.net.

Two Washington plants warrant ESA protections

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two plants found exclusively on or adjacent to Washington’s Hanford National Monument warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. 

Both species, the Umtanum Desert buckwheat and the White Bluffs bladderpod, are found primarily on federal lands, occupying cliffs overlooking the Columbia River.

The Service is proposing to list the Umtanum desert buckwheat and the White Bluffs bladderpod as threatened.  A species listed as threatened is considered likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

The agency is also proposing to designate critical habitat for each plant: approximately 344 acres for Umtanum Desert buckwheat and approximately 2,861 acres for White Bluffs bladderpod. All of the land proposed for critical habitat for the Umtanum Desert buckwheat is federally-owned. Of the 2,861acres proposed as critical habitat for the bladderpod 2,400 are federally-owned. The remainder of the proposed critical habitat is a mix of state (42 acres) and private lands (419 acres).

More photos are available here.

Read on for details.

Native Plant Society to hike at Freezeout Pass

NATURE — It's prime time to join the Idaho Native Plant Society to get in a good hike and marvel at the native plants in the high country near St. Maries.

Gerry Queener will lead a group field trip to Freezeout on Saturday (Aug. 20). '

Beargrass, orchids, penstemons, lupines, columbine, fleabane (daisies) and paintbrushes all are expected to be on display. Habitats will range from subalpine forest to alpine meadow at 6,500 feet elevation. The terrain is moderately challenging.  

Meet at the Moscow Eastside Marketplace (south end of parking lot near Hwy 8) at 8 a.m. to arrange carpooling. The group will return about 3:30 p.m.  A couple drivers with high clearance vehicles and good tires are needed – the last 5 miles is very rocky with steep drop-offs. 

Bring water, hat, sunscreen, lunch, and good hiking footwear.

Info: Pat Fuerst, epfuerst@frontier.com, (509) 339-5213.

Free drought-resistant landscaping classes offered

CONSERVATION — A free gardening class on Drought Resistant Grasses, Lawn Alternatives and Installing a Drip Irrigation System will be offered from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on six different dates this month at six Little Spokane Watershed Fire Stations:

The class, being repeated due to popular demand, will be presented by Water Smart Outreach Coordinator, Dixie Chichester, from WSU Pend Oreille County Extension on the following schedule:

  • Aug 9, Diamond Lake Fire Station # 31, 325272 Highway 2 (West of Newport);
  • Aug 15,  Sacheen Lake Fire Station #32, 6131 Highway 211, (NW of Newport);
  • Aug 16,  Mead Fire Station #44,17207 N Newport Highway (Across from Cat Tails);
  • Aug 18,  Riverside Fire Station #46, 3818 E. Deer Park – Milan Road;
  • Aug 23,  Deer Park Fire Station #41, 315 East A Street;
  • Aug 25, Colbert Fire Station # 49, 302 W Monroe. 

Every class is free, thanks to sponsorship by the Little Spokane Water Smart Alliance (LSWSA), but pre-registration will reserve handouts and allow notification if class is canceled. 

Call (509) 447-2401 or email carlapogson@wsu.edu .

The LSWSA also currently offers $100 rebates to homeowners in the Little Spokane River Watershed who purchase qualifying Energy Star clothes washers and Water Sense efficient toilets. 

For further information about the rebates visit www.littlespokanewatersmart .org or call (509) 447-6454 (Pend Oreille County) or (509) 477-3604 (Spokane and Stevens Counties).

Hike reveals bare grass fantasy

HIKINGWhen I hike through the forest this time of year, I can't help but note the resemblance between blooming beargrass and ….

Native Plant Society hiking to area attractions

HIKING/NATURE — The Northeast Chapter, Washington Native Plant Society  continues to offer a nifty schedule of field trips that combine hiking with nature observation.

Check them out and consider joining their group, or at least offering a $5 donation should you tag along on a guided hike.

Please confirm with field trip leaders before attending.

Read on for the hikes scheduled for June, including the Liberty Lake field trip set for Saturday.

Native plants focus of Dishman Hills guided hike

NATURE — Sylvia Eberspecher of the Northeastern Washington Native Plant Society is leading a native plant hike in the Iller Creek Conservation Area of the  Dishman Hills on Saturday.

Learn about native plants during a leisurely hike through a semiarid ponderosa pine forest with lovely wildflowers, a wetter forest habitat that includes hemlock, grand fir and Pacific yew, and a very special creek corridor.
If you take half the walk (2.5 hours), bring water and a snack. If you take the entire walk (about 5 hours), bring plenty of water and a lunch.
The route involves some steep stretches — wear sturdy shoes or boots. 
The outing is free, but pre-register with Eberspecher, (209) 379-5881, for details and car-pooling instructions.

Fiddling around with wild edibles

NATIVE PLANTS — The wild asparagus has been popping up, and morel mushroom gatherers have been striking gold for weeks.

Next up:  Fern fiddleheads.   

Tip: Do your homework before eating any wild plant or mushroom.

Long-distance hikers talk on wildflower and wild lands

BACKPACKING — Phil Hough and Deb Hunsicker, a pair of long-distance hikers from North Idaho, will tap 3,100 miles of footwork to present a free program, “Wildflowers, Wild Lands and Wild Times Along the Continental Divide,"  Wednesday, 6 p.m., at the Sandpoint Community Hall.

The program is cosponsored by Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society, Sandpoint Parks and Recreation and Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness

In July 2008, intrepid hikers Phil Hough and Deb Hunsicker, aka Nowhere Man and Walking Carrot, embarked on an epic journey to hike the 3,100 miles length of the Continental Divide Trail.  Over the following three summers they completed this rugged route as it traces its course along the spine of the continent.  In doing so, they also completed the third and final leg of the coveted “triple crown” of hiking, which also includes the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Hiking the Continental Divide, with an eye to native plants and wild lands, they snapped more than 14,000 photos and compiled countless tales from the trail.