Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Where the camas bloom

In 1806, Meriwether Lewis wrote that he thought a distant field of camas (Camassia quamash) was a lake. Lewis and Clark were introduced to this important food source by the Shoshone and Nez Perce people.
First People throughout the Northwest harvested camas roots from miles of rocky prairie left after the the last ice age and its glaciers melted away. 

Along with camas, there are dozens of other wildflowers - white and yellow yarrow, purple and yellow violets, shooting stars, buttercups, and wild mustard.

Nisqually historian Cecilia Svinth Carpenter wrote about how when the red wind blows "like magic, the blue camas blooms, the berries ripen, the cedar trees grow taller, and the eagle spreads its wings to soar aloft on the early morning breeze." 

Now only about 3 percent of native prairies remain. The prairie ecosystem in South Puget Sound is among the rarest in the world. There are butterflies found only here along with Washington's only native oak - Quercus garryana - Garry oak or Oregon white oak. 

Garry oaks woodland at Scatter Creek

Early May is primetime to experience spring on the prairie. The second Saturday in May is Prairie Appreciation Day at the Glacial Heritage Preserve south of Littlerock. The preserve is only open for brief times each year. Mima Mounds Natural Area is open year-round, as is Scatter Creek Wildlife Area. Two examples of Garry oaks woodlands are preserved in DuPont's Powderwork Park and Tacoma's Oak Tree Park. To leave more, visit the South Sound prairies. I have a collection of photographs from prairie visits in the past in my South Sound Prairie gallery. I hope you'll check it out. And I hope that you'll fall in love with our prairies like I have, and will want to preserve and protect these special places.

Western bluebirds settling into nesting at the Glacial Heritage Preserve.

Osprey, commonly known as seahawks, nest on the edges of the prairie.

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