Posted by: columbiahighlands | May 6, 2011

Celebrate Washington Native Plant Appreciation Week

Celebrate our state’s natural heritage this week during Washington Native Plant Appreciation Week.

Showy Jacob's ladder (Polemonium pulcherrimum). Photo: Aaron Theisen.

As a “crossroads” for the Okanogan Highlands, Columbia Plateau and the numerous subranges of the Rockies, the Columbia Highlands are home to a wide variety of plants. Here, for example, boreal bogs and forests reminiscent of northern Canada intermingle with the northernmost reaches of Great Basin steppe.

Consequently, the Columbia Highlands host many plants on the edge of their range.

For example, one small population of the velvet-leaved blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides), more common to northern Canada,  is found in the entire state of Washington, in a patch of Engelmann spruce forest in Clackamas Mountain roadless area.

Few-flowered shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum). Photo: Holly Weiler.

The Kettle Range is a biological “hot spot” for moonworts, a delicate fern; ten species are found here, all of which are rated as “sensitive” or “species of concern” by government agencies.

Our native plants play an outsized role in our ecosystem, providing, among other roles, food and cover for critters all the way up the food chain. In addition, native plants provide color and character to our local landscape. Best of all, whereas a lucky few might chance to see a bear or wolf in the wild, our native flora await discovery by anyone willing to explore the untamed reaches of the Columbia Highlands.

Invasive non-native plant species have been identified as one of the gravest threats to our ecosystems. However, because they remain undisturbed by road-building and other development, our roadless areas represent some of the last, best unspoiled refuges for native plants.

If you’d like to learn more about the native plants of our region, become a member of the Northeast Washington chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. And be sure to check out the chapter’s list of events, including botanizing weekend to Salmo Research Natural Area in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness July 16.

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Responses

  1. That’s another powerful argument for the roadless areas! I have the impression that you have more support for them there than we have here.

  2. There is broad support here for a forest plan that includes, among other things, Wilderness designation. Now it’s just up to our congressional representatives to act!


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