Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Sorry I haven't posted any flowers lately. I lost my camera. But fall is lovely, whether photographed or not.

Some big literary plans coming up soon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Taiwanese Raspberry

The Taiwanese or Creeping Raspberry, aka Rubus hayata-koidzumii, looks very different from its American cousins, but is a popular groundcover sold at many home and garden stores. They bear abundant, bright orange, edible fruits (I collect and eat a large number every year. IMO they are delicious, with a flavor reminiscent of actual oranges. My husband complains that they are "hairy.")

The plant grows into a thick, low carpet:

That can attractively cover a wide area and tolerate a fair amount of neglect:

Some of the plants I have seen around bear fruit every year, and some never bear fruit, so I assume the plant comes in male and female varieties, but perhaps there are other factors involved.

They are definitely not "wild" since they are an import found at the garden center, planted as part of the local landscaping, but it is still fun to walk down to the local "patch" each year and gather the fresh berries.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Pioneer Graves: Gordon and Flanigan

J. L. Gordon, 1847-1929. His stone is in good condition. 

The Flanigan stone is looking rougher, though I think it was not carved flat in the first place: 

Victor, 1902-1929, died at only 27 years old. Amanda, his mother, 1881-1927, died the same year as her son. Perhaps they died in the same accident, or from the same disease, or perhaps she died in grief after her son's untimely passing. 

The Flanigan grave was made with room for two more names--perhaps Amanda's husband and Victor's wife were expected to join their loved ones here, but never did. People who long outlive their spouses often remarry or move away, their reserved graves forgotten or discarded as they form new lives.

Amanda's modest stone, rather like the original Taylor stones, no longer marks any particular spot in the yard. I didn't see a small stone for Victor; perhaps he never had one. (The hole on the left side of the stone is probably for flowers; those are common.)

Found in the Carson graveyard, WA.

Monday, July 9, 2018


Rubs parviflorus, aka thimbleberry, is yet another member of the vast blackberry family that grows wild throughout the Pacific North West.

Unlike its more famous cousins, the the thimbleberry is essentially thornless. Its large leaves are soft and fuzzy, making it a favorite of campers in search of toiletpaper. The five leaves that normally grow in a star-like pattern on the blackberry are joined in the thimbleberry.

It grows well in the shade, quickly expanding (underground) into enormous thickets. My thimbleberries began as sprouts escaping from a nearby garden via underground roots, in other words, weeds a neighbor was happy to let me dig up and take off her hands. Most of the sprouts died, but a couple survived the transplantation. A few more have sprouted from seeds collected in the woods. (Thimbleberries, in my experience, are much easier to grow than raspberries.)

Its berries look like, yes, thimbles (salmonberries, by contrast, don't look anything like fish.) They resemble thin, delicate, papery raspberries. Some people complain they are too dry, but I find them pleasant.

Because of their delicacy, they must be eaten immediately and are difficult to carry home, much less preserve, which makes the berries a wild, seasonal treat.

Friday, July 6, 2018

My Newest Bramble: Salmonberry

Salmonberries (rubus spectabilis) are in the same family as blackberries and raspberries. They grow in a temperate band along the coasts of California, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Alaska, and part of Idaho. It grows well in shady areas.

Mature salmonberries look like little blackberry trees, though with decidedly fewer thorns. They havebright pink flowers that mature multi-toned, yellow to reddish berries. (Completely edible.) Since they are wild and only rarely domesticated, the plant's exact taste and colors vary a lot by region. I have always found the berries delicious, but the ones near you might be bland.

I have been trying for years to grow salmonberries, but wild seeds often require a lot more work (like cold stratification, scarification, digestion, or just leaving in the dirt over the winter,) than domesticated seeds to get going. The salmonberry plant, like other brambles, likes to send out underground roots to start new plants, which is great for it but makes things harder on me. It's one thing to collect a few berries at the local park, and quite another to dig up saplings and start hacking at their roots (don't do this. It's probably illegal.)

You could probably also use rooting powder to propagate these (and other plants) from cuttings; it has just failed for me so far.

So after years of failure, I bought this one on Amazon. So far, so good: it looks healthy, alive, and well.

Meanwhile, this little sprout finally appeared in one of my pots:

Blackberry? Salmonberry? Weed? Give it a couple of years, and we'll find out!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Grave Bear

This bear statue is unique (and a magnet for small children.) This is definitely one of my favorite grave markers; someone put a lot of thought and care into it. Why a bear, though? I don't know. 

Anthropologists study grave goods left behind in other cultures. I am interested in the artifacts we leave behind in our own. This grave has been lovingly tended, and quite recently. The pinwheel is new; you can tell because it is still bright blue; the pretty vase has not yet been nipped by the mowers.

Just a lovely rhododendron.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Wild Rose

Portland is called the City of Roses, and roses do indeed grow wild around here. They have more modest leaves and flowers than domestic roses, but the bushes grow quite large and pretty.

This little one grew from seeds I collected in the woods by a nearby lake a year or two ago. Its "pot" is the remains of a tree chopped down by the HOA (a curse upon them) that had contained a beehive. (I'm pretty sure it's illegal to destroy beehive without first removing the bees.)

Roses are distant cousins of blackberries, another thorny bramble that grows abundantly in the area--but "City of Blackberries" doesn't have the same ring to it.

Flowers soon...

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Pioneer Graves: Zurcher

The Zurchers have the place of honor near the Taylors, with what I assume is the most expensive stone in the graveyard. Their fence is a bit damaged, though--the gate no longer works and is propped up on the left-hand side of the photo. 

Unfortunately, I was experimenting with angles when I took this picture, and didn't capture the names and dates on the stones very well. I can make out Esther Zurcher, died in 1922, on the left-hand stone, but can't read the right-hand one, probably her husband's. 

Other Zurchers can be found elsewhere in the graveyard. Here are Marie (1876-1937) and Andrew (1866-1935.)

They are buried near a rather pretty rhododendron that showers the dead babies section of the graveyard.

Fred Zurcher's stone (1869-1936) doesn't quite match the rest of the family's, but the metal plaque may hold up well over the years.

The middle of the Depression (1935-1937) was a bad time for the Zurcher family.

Monday, July 2, 2018

A note on edibility, toxicity, and wild plants

People get concerned upon looking up a wild "edible" and finding a note that it is "potentially toxic in large quantities."

In fact, many perfectly normal plants that you heat all the time are toxic in large quantities--for example, spinach. Various leafy greens, like spinach, beet greens, and chard contain oxalic acid, which can be a problem if you try to be a gorilla and eat nothing but pure greens all day long. Luckily, no one wants to eat 7 or 8 pounds of spinach in one sitting.

Docks like curly dock and sour grass also contain oxalic acid, but like spinach and other greens, this is probably only a problem if you try to live exclusively on these plants. Many plants contain a variety of irritants (wheat, for example, contains phytates which can be irritating; potatoes have glycoalcaloids.)

If you think about matters from the plant's perspective, they don't want you to eat them or their seeds. Fruit, fine. Start nibbling on the stalks, leaves, and seeds, the plant starts to get concerned (to anthropomorphize a bit.) So these parts of the plant are often not 100% digestion friendly. (Meat, by contrast, is almost never toxic, because animals can run away from predators.)

However, "wild edibles" are generally just fine in the normal quantities people actually eat them in.

(As always, make sure you know what you are eating and confirm that it is edible and you are not allergic to it before chowing down.)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Curly Dock, Curly Dock, Let down your hair

I believe this is a young curly dock, aka Rumex crispus (yes, it is a relative of the sourgrass in the previous post; they are both in the "dock" family.)

Curly dock is poisonous to cattle, sheep, horses, and probably chickens, so if you have livestock, you'll want to eliminate this weed. Apparently it is fine for humans, however, so long as you harvest fresh leaves, not the old, tough, bitter ones. (On any plant, fresh leaves are usually best.)

As always, do your research before eating anything wild.