West Coast Pacific Wild Flowers
Of course, due to the size of our country, like other countries, the same trees and flowers are not found in all parts of our continent. While some species are very widely distributed, each section of the country has some which are not found elsewhere. Differences in soil and temperature, the presence or absence of high mountains, and the amount of moisture in the air are some of the reasons for these differences. To tell them all would require writing a book or two.
Taken as a whole, the wild flora of the Pacific coast is quite different from that of the other sections of the continent. While many of the plant species found in this region are the same as those found elsewhere, or are closely related to them, yet many others are quite distinct. For example, the Sequoias and the Redwood trees are found nowhere else in the world.
Within the region itself are great differences of soil and climate, and, as might be expected, the same plants do not grow in all parts of it. In the north, the climate is cool and moist, while in the south there is almost no rain. Parts of the region are between the two in some respects. Then too, the same plants do not grow upon the high mountains and on the lower lands.
I shall describe some of the more common wild flowers of the region, and the descriptions and pictures will enable you to know them when you find them.
Here are some of my favorite wild flowers in our Pacific Coast states!
The Trillium is one of the most abundant and attractive woodland flowers of early spring. The pure white of its flowers contrasts sharply with the darker background of the humus soil and decaying vegetation so characteristic of the dense coniferous forests where it grows.
Only the inner three of the showy parts of the flower are white, the outer three being green, as the wild flowers grow old, the white parts of many of them change to a reddish color.
The name Trillium, comes from a word meaning “three,” the parts of the flower being conspicuously in threes. The Trillium, common on the Pacific coast, has showy white flowers which change to reddish as they wither. It grows a foot or more high.
The plant belongs to the Lily plant family. The species that is common in the woods of the northern Pacific coast region is a foot or more tall in height, has three large leaves a short distance below the flower, and grows from a short stout rootstock situated rather deep in the soil.
Note: This species is found from Alaska to California to Idaho
Dog-Tooth Violet That Is Not Really A Violet
The Dog-tooth Violet is another beautiful flower of the Lily plant family. It is readily distinguished from the Trillium, by both its flowers and its leaves.
All six of its outer flower parts are alike, and its two leaves are borne at the surface of the soil.
The color of the flower varies, being white, yellowish, purplish, or pink in different species.
The color of the leaves also varies, being green in some and mottled in others. The plant grows from a very short thick rounded stem situated deep in the soil.
The name alludes to the fancied resemblance of the outer flower parts to the teeth of the dog. The name violet is somewhat deceptive, since the plant is not closely related to the true violets.
A large species which is abundant on prairies and the borders of open woods from Vancouver Island to Oregon has yellowish flowers and brown-mottled leaves.
At the base of the plant, there are numerous long slender tough leaves. Farther up, the stem of the leaves are shorter and less abundant.
The leaves have been used by Native Americans for making baskets and the plant is often called Indian Basket Grass. Today, Bear Grass is often added to wedding bouquets, flower arrangements, and corsages. It is a perennial plant growing from a thick woody underground stem.
It forms a striking feature of the flora of meadows and open woods on mountains, but is not found at lower levels.
Note: It is found from British Columbia to California, to Montana.
Two Orchids — Calypso And Rattlesnake Plantain
The Calypso, or Cytherea, is a small delicate orchid found in early spring in mossy woods from Alaska to Labrador and south to California, Michigan and Maine.
The stem is erect, and grows from a whitish solid bulb, which also produces a single green leaf separate from the stem. Each stem bears a single flower at its summit, and has usually three bracts, the upper one being a slender purple structure, erect near the flower, and thus rather showy.
The flower is purple or lavender in color and is showy. Its lower portion has the sac-like form that is characteristic of orchids. This and the five slender upward pointing portions at its top readily distinguish it.
The Rattlesnake Plantain also belongs to the Orchid plant family, but is better known by its leaves than by its flowers. Its leaves are evergreen and grow close to the round in a rosette. They have numerous whitish lines extending both lengthwise and crosswise of the leaf, contrasting sharply with the green of the rest of the leaf and giving it a mottled appearance. The leaves are not very numerous and are about four inches long.
In summer, the plant has small whitish flowers along the upper portion of an erect and somewhat hairy or glandular stem often a foot tall.
Note: It is common in mossy woods and is found form British Columbia to Quebec and south to California and New York.
Miner’s Lettuce, Which Is Sometimes Eaten
Miner’s Lettuce is a low herb with very succulent leaves and stems, and numerous white or pinkish flowers with red veins in the petals. It gets its name from the fact that its stems and leaves are sometimes used for greens where other plants are not available. Some of the leaves grow from the base of the plant and have long leaf-stalks, but a single pair of leaves without stalks grows on the stem a short distance below the flower.
It belongs to the Purslane plant family and is closely related to the Spring Beauty of the central and eastern United States.
Note: It is abundant in open woods and is found from Alaska to California and Idaho.
Two Saxifrages — Youth-On-Age And Fringed Cup
Youth-on-age is common in rich woods, and is easily recognized by the fact that many of the leaves have clusters of young leaves on the older ones at the point where the leaf-stalk joins the blade. As these leaves come in contact with the soil, roots are formed, and new plants thus originate from the old ones.
The stems are from one to two feet tall, and the flowers are loosely distributed along its upper part. Some of the leaves are borne around the base of the stem at the surface of the soil and some farther up the stem.
The outer part of the flower is purple. The plant is perennial, and the leaves remain green all winter in some places.
An interesting historical note is that this plant was first collected by Archibald Menzies, who was the surgeon and naturalist with Vancouver during his exploration from 1790 to 1975. It belongs to the Saxifrage plant family. (Note: Scottish surgeon and naturalist, Archibald Menzies, while unheard of by many Americans, was one of the early explorers to our Pacific coastlines in 1786, on board the Prince of Wales. Aside from his duties as surgeon and physician, he also collected new plants on this and subsequent voyages to both our Pacific mainland and Hawaiian Islands.)
The Fringed Cup receives its name from the fact that the colored parts of its flowers are fringed on the edges. Its stems are hairy and are from one to three feet tall. The flowers, which are at first red or purple, are loosely borne along the upper part of the stems.
It is an attractive flower, common in moist woods. Its underground parts live through the winter, and its stems, leaves, and flowers grow rapidly in spring. The flowers and flower-stalks have glands. The leaves are somewhat heart-shaped and are toothed at the margin.
Like Youth-on-Age, it belongs to the Saxifrage plant family and was also first collected by Menzies.
Note: It is found from Alaska to California.
Western Anemone - A Flower Of The Mountains
The Western Anemone is a plant of the Crowfoot plant family and closely resembles the Pasque flower of Midwestern United States. It is, however, much larger than the Pasque flower. It grows in high mountains near the snow, while the Pasque flower grows on prairies and dry hills. The Western Anemone has large lavender flowers, which come earlier than the leaves.
Many fruits develop from each flower. Each fruit has a long feathery appendage, giving the whole head many narrow divisions, and are borne on the erect stem some distance below the head of the fruits. The plant has a striking appearance, especially when in fruit.