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Wild Plants of Greater Seattle - Luke McGuff

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October 31st, 2012


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09:00 am - Wild Plants of Greater Seattle

Wild Plants of Greater Seattle 2ND Edition
by Arthur Lee Jacobson
Second Edition, 2008

If Pojar is a forest steward’s main reference for botanizing, then Jacobson (as it’s called) is the other reference. Whereas Pojar is focused strictly on native plants (with a few endemic weeds, like Himalayan blackberry), Jacobson attempts to catalog, as completely as possible, any and all plants that might be commonly found growing wild in Seattle, whether native or introduced.

What is a native plant, after all? What is a “weed”? Jacobson spends some time discussing this. A weed can be any plant in a place you don’t want it to be. Or, a weed can be a plant that colonizes disturbed areas, or has an aggressive growth pattern, or attempts to establish a monoculture. These characteristics have little to do with whether a plant was in this region (the Puget Trough) before 1850 (European colonization), the common definition of “native” plant. Strictly speaking the Port Orford cedar in North Beach Park is a nonnative, even though it comes from the coastal temperate rain forest. When does a plant become a “native”? Some introduced plants play well with others, so to speak. They provide food and habitat, and don’t attempt to establish a monoculture. Still, there are weeds and introduced plants at ever level of the forest canopy. Some are higher priority (ivy) than others (European ash).

“Wild Plants of Greater Seattle” is organized following the standard classification for general plant books — from coniferous trees down to ferns and horsetails. Each plant is explained in detail on the left-side page, with an accompanying line illustration on the right-side page. Identification notes are given, descriptions of the flowers and the months it’s likely to bloom. Edibility or medicinal uses of the plant are mentioned if important, although the ethnobotanical notes are not quite as complete as in Pojar.

Plants are indexed by common names only; when a plant has several common names, they’re all listed. The latin names are given after the common names. One section of the book that particularly appeals to me is “Where the Wild Plants Are: 21 habitats and their typical plants.” The habitats listed include “cracks, nooks, crannies in streets, sidewalks, and by buildings;” “heavy industry warehouse districts, freight yards;” “railroad track margins;” and the more-expected “Woods — coniferous; usually dominated by native groundcovers.” When I first read that, I thought it would be a great project to explore the city, and photograph native plants in very unexpected places. (I still do, but if it sparks your interest, feel free to go ahead.) Pineapple weed in a sidewalk crack is the very idea of nature intruding where we don’t expect it.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


 


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