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Aug 04 2012

Mystery Flora: Hanging Round

I can’t wait any longer. I should really be doing the spectacular flora atop Marys Peak, but I really adore the little orange delights I found at Al Borlin Park, so they’re going up.

The park’s in Monroe, WA, along the Skykomish River. It’s dim and cool even on hot summer days, shaded by tall old trees. These little darlings seem to love the shade: I saw them mostly on the shadiest parts of the trail.

Mystery Flower I

There are banks of them, little drops of orange dangling happily from all that vivid green.

Mystery Flower II

Let me see if I can put you there with me: you’ve just got out of the hot sun. The trail has a few dapples where intrepid beams managed to sneak through, but for the most part, you’re in a realm of shade and shadow. Banks of leafy green things grow up along the trail, and while you’ll see a few blackberry brambles here and there, volunteers for the most part seem to have got rid of those, allowing native plants to flourish. They ramble around the trunks of the tall trees that shut out the sun.

And these little orange beauties just sort of hang in the void spaces between leaves.

Mystery Flower III

So you stop to take photos, and run into two issues: one, it’s rather dim and uncertain light, and your camera has a hard time with orange to begin with, so it takes a lot of effort to get a focused photo. And two, whilst you’re struggling with that, the mosquitoes are like “Ooo, the mobile buffet’s arrived!” and go absolutely to town. You’d think I’d have lived here long enough to figure out that if you’re going down near a river, you should wear bug spray. Argh.

Still. Worth every bite.

Mystery Flower IV

Click to embiggen that one. You won’t be disappointed.

Whilst you’re attempting to focus and getting feasted upon by the local insects, the birds are singing. So are the locals. There was some sort of outdoor concert going on somewhere on the other side of the river, and there were places where the music filtered through the trees. So my efforts were punctuated by a band that I assume was mostly middle-aged men singing Tom Petty and other such songs. They didn’t suck. It was actually kind of fun after a while.

Mystery Flower V

Let me get back to the birds for a moment. The forest was absolutely filled with their calls. Ringing with ‘em. And do you know how many birds I saw? One. One bloody bird that wasn’t a crow, and that one darted across the trail and into the trees so fast I might as well have never heard it at all. If it hadn’t been for the Tom Petty-and-others cover band, I would have just bloody well recorded their songs and seen what you lot could do with those. It was terribly frustrating. Luckily, I had a billion of these little orange flowers to ease my pain.

Mystery Flower VI

I quite like this park. I get bupkis for birds, but I find fantastic flowers every time I go. Okay, so I’ve only been twice, now, but the first time was when I saw Pacific Bleeding Heart in the wild for the first time, and that was happy times for Dana, lemme tell ya.

Mystery Flower VII

(And yes, that flower is mooning you. You are not wrong.)

I sometimes worry I’m going to run out of mystery flora for you. Then I come across things I’ve never seen before, and I realize this is western Washington. We have a bajillion plants that flower at all different times, and I really don’t get out that much, so I’ll probably be able to find new things for years. I’m not used to this. We don’t get this sort of variety in Arizona.

Mystery Flower VIII

There are times when the Southwest in me rebels, and is completely overwhelmed by all of this green. I lived there for nearly thirty years, from the time I was a toddler until I was in my early 30s, so I suppose five years up here won’t have erased that identity just yet.

Mystery Flower IX

I think a part of me expects this to all fade away, that we’ll return to the high desert and lush, wet green will seem like a dreaming. Just an imaginary land. Nothing like it on earth, not the earth I know. But another part of me is settling in quite nicely, and becomes upset when we go east over the Cascades and see the rain shadow. Bare rock and dry earth stretch for miles, and that little acclimated part is crying, “But it should be green!”

Mystery Flower X

That bit of me is quickly thwacked into silence by the native Southwestern bit, which is smugly asserting that this is what a landscape should look like, and the inner geologist, which is screaming with joy because there isn’t a bunch of bloody biology in the way of all the geology, while my damp-adapted nasal passages gently weep in the bone dry air.

No problem with that down by the riverside. My inner geologist hopes there’s at least a little something interesting at the river, and my native Southwestern bit looks sulkily at the flowers and allows how yeah, this isn’t bad, but it’s not home, is it? Good thing the part of me that goes gaga over flora is so enchanted it could give a flying fuck for all the other bits.

Mystery Flower XI

It really is spectacularly beautiful here. I’m glad I get the chance to share it with you, my darlings.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    Callan Bentley

    Jewelweed

    1. 1.1
      'Tis Himself

      Impatiens biflora

      If you break jewelweed’s stem and apply the juice to a fresh mosquito bite for 10 minutes, the itching stops and the bite doesn’t swell. I’m told that if you jewelweed sap to a poison ivy affected area before the rash appears, you probably won’t get the rash (I haven’t tried this).

      1. chezjake

        The juice is also effective at alleviating the sting/itch induced by nettles. In eastern PA jewelweed is also known as nettlecure.

    2. 1.2
      Heliconia

      And if you go back when they’ve got seeds, the seedpods explode when you touch them! (Another common name is touch-me-not; I tend to ignore this.)

  2. 2
    Vasha

    Until you reminded me that you’re an Arizonan, my mind was boggled that you didn’t recognize orange jewelweed a.k.a. touch-me-not. Go back there and look for fat ripe pods that will explode (sproing!) when you touch them. Seriously!

  3. 3
    Lockwood

    One of the few plants I know from both Ohio and the PNW, as others have commented, it’s good for itchy, stingy things- and tends to grow in shade, with damp feet, where mosquitoes are common. A very convenient and pretty plant.

  4. 4
    RW Ahrens

    Great pictures! Very pretty orange, and your camera did fine, from what you show here!

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