Posted by: columbiahighlands | March 21, 2011

Spring beauty

Western spring beauty (Claytonia lanceolata) on the Thirteenmile trail. Photo: Aaron Theisen.

Western spring beauty (Claytonia lanceolata) is one of the Inland Northwest’s first harbingers of spring. Large populations of this plant, with its white to pinkish flowers and lance-shaped basal leaves, can often be seen emerging from the ground as soon as the snow melts.

Look for them in open forests, particularly in shallow depressions that accumulate extra moisture. The sunny, south-facing slopes of the lower reaches of the Thirteenmile trail provide excellent opportunities for hikers itching to see some spring color.

Native people often relied on the nutritious round bulb of the spring beauty for carbohydrates, earning it the nickname “Indian potato”. To ensure continued crops of this food staple, Interior native people replanted the small bulbs. Today, overgrazing and the invasion of weedy non-native plant species have reduced the habitat of western spring beauty, but thoughtful land-management can ensure its continued survival.

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