Continuing my guerrilla seeding of our lost Collomia grandiflora here in Seattle

Photo © 2004 Ben Legler

About nineteen years ago, when I found Arthur Lee Jacobson’s checklist with all of the species, native or alien, that had ever been found growing wild in the greater Seattle area, I got the idea that I would work to bring back all of the species he had listed as “extirpated”, that is considered native to the greater Seattle area, but now were estimated to be lost from the Seattle area because it had not been recorded here for decades.

Among the locally lost species that I had found, that I was able to bring back to Seattle, was Collomia grandiflora – Large-flowered Collomia. It is a winter annual species, with beautiful reddish stems, reddish undersides of its leaves and attractive pastel orange flowers, with unusual blue pollen. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A New Season of Phantom Orchid Pollination by Toothpicks

Lincoln Park hImage result for Cephalanthera austiniaeas a population of unique plants, they are orchids, not often found around here, and not often found anywhere else for that matter. It is the Phantom Orchid – Cephalanthera austiniae (formerly Eburophyton austiniae), with no leaves, and no chlorophyll, and nothing showing above ground to indicate their presence when there is no flower stalk that would produce flowers, then possibly seed pods, if the flowers get pollinated. As they may not flower every year, they may not even show anything above ground some years at usual bloom time, only to reappear after some indefinite number of years of not having been seen. They have been recorded disappearing up to 16 years, only to have their nearly all white forms rise above the ground, seemingly out of nowhere, on the 17th year, adding to their “phantom”-like character. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Stewart on KING 5 TV finding Camp Long’s Salamanders for reporter Dan Cassuto, for some school kids, and for KING 5’s viewers, and teaching about them!

Here is the link to a very cute 2 minute video of Stewart on KING 5 TV finding Camp Long’s Salamanders for reporter Dan Cassuto, for some school kids, and for KING 5’s viewers, and teaching about them!  (Aired on the local news January 19th, 2017, and again on KING TV’s Evening Magazine on Sunday, January 22nd).  Everyone who has seen it has loved it!

Many have complimented the still shots in that piece.  I coached the reporter very carefully on those, after he started taking his first picture from the side, I taught him that the strongest photos of a salamander include a good shot of the face and eyes, and he got the all of the shots of the Ensatina he used for the piece that way.  He started to take the Western Red-backed Salamander on a dirt surface, and I suggested we put him on a mossy log for a richer, more beautiful, and much better contrasting background.  I learned these things from my naturalist older brother Doug who is a nature photographer, who was always an incredible naturalist-teacher for me, both as I was growing up, and beyond.

Posted in Stewart in the media | 2 Comments

Six Seattle Salamanders

While almost everyone is familiar with lizards, many are not familiar with the amphibians that are roughly the same shape as a lizard, with skin like a frog. These are the salamanders.

Why are they not more familiar to us?  Salamanders are not generally active above ground during daytime where people can easily see them.  They can be seen during the day if you know where to look, but not very many people know where to look. I know where to look, and am leading walks to show them to you on Saturday, February 11th (2017) and another walk on Saturday, February 18th 2017 , when (after about February 15th) a new batch of eggs should be in the pond.  I am also available to lead such walks for groups (or individuals) on request.

by brian gratwicke via Flickr Creative Commons

Ensatina by brian gratwicke via Flickr Creative Commons

Like amphibians around the world, salamander populations have been in decline in Seattle.  These incredible creatures are extra sensitive to pollutants, diseases and habitat degradation and fragmentation.  While there are relatively few salamanders left in Seattle and the ones left reside in just a few remaining spots, six species may still make Seattle their home.  They are the Ensatina, the Western Red-backed Salamander, the Northwestern Salamander, the Long-toed Salamander, the Rough-skinned Newt and possibly the Pacific Giant Salamander Continue reading

Posted in native plant stories, nature outings | Tagged | 22 Comments

Letting Mother Nature Do Most of the Planting, While We Help Her Recover Her Natural Beauty and Wealth

Many of us now think of native plants as the good ones, so shouldn’t we plant more of them? But there may be one problem with this, the “we plant”. If a plant is planted by a human, can we call it “wild”? If an area is filled with plants that humans planted can we call it a “natural area”? What is the definition of “natural”? Isn’t it something that came to be, without being made or altered by humans, at least by those of us of the post-agricultural culture?  Wasn’t “agriculture”, humans clearing of land of species they didn’t want, followed by them planting species they did want, the beginning of the end of nature itself, and the beginning of the decline of the diversity of our local communities of native plants, and the decline of the communities of animals and fungi that they were co-adapted with?

Consider this case of a plant that is rare for the Seattle area, Collomia heterophylla – the Varied Leaf Collomia (which I have dubbed “Fuzzy Little Collomia”). This annual plant hadn’t been recorded in the Seattle area for some decades when I found some growing in West Seattle’s Orchard St Ravine in about 2003, after we had removed some Himalayan Blackberries from above the soil where their seeds were. They were waiting for some unknown number of years for enough sun to spur germination.

After I found those “Fuzzy Little Collomias”, those doing native plantings started covering the ground with wood chips, and the species of trees and shrubs they considered “native” and were readily available to those doing the plantings.  If I hadn’t moved seed from what may have been the first local generation in decades of Fuzzy Little Collomias, the wood chips, and the shade from the planted trees and shrubs, may have prevented another generation of Collomias from germinating in at least the near future.  But since I moved seed from that one generation of Collomias that did get the sun they needed to germinate, I was able to start new local Collomia populations, after I found some promising similar microhabitats where I brought their seed or seedlings.  I had helped spread this species in my area again, while recovering the locally adapted gene stock that might have otherwise been lost.

If instead of clearing areas of weedy invasive plants then covering that surface area of ground with native plants species that we can easily find (not to mention covering the surface area with wood chips that discourage most new wild growth), why not focus on clearing weeds away from our least common remaining wild and native plants, in our best remaining natural areas, and let those wild native plants cover that adjacent surface area, while watching what additional native plants come in on their own that we didn’t know might move in or sprout up. We would then be assisting Mother Nature with her planting, Continue reading

Posted in native plant stories | 2 Comments

“Learn the Mosses our Wildflowers Thrive in” Program Adds New Stewardship Element to “Stewardship Adventures”

For all of the years I have been doing “Stewardship Adventures”, I had never made any of my “adventures” as much about “stewardship” as I really wanted, but now with my “Learn the Mosses our Wildflowers Thrive in as We Help Them Both Re-cover the Earth” program I think I have a program that will incorporate stewardship like no program I have offered before. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

See my article: Return of the Phantom Orchid (to Lincoln Park)

See my new article: Return of the Phantom Orchid on the Friends of Lincoln Park blog.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on See my article: Return of the Phantom Orchid (to Lincoln Park)

Artificial Insemination of our Phantom Orchids Attempted

Phantom Orchid Gowlland-Tod2.jpgThe following is part of a continued saga of a planned and attempted artificial insemination of the Cephalanthera austiniae – Phantom Orchids in and around Lincoln Park, West Seattle, here goes the detailed continuation:

For those who might want their own Phantom Orchid, be aware that the orchid is attached to a fungus that gives it all of it’s energy.  The fungus is in turn probably attached to the roots of one or more adjacent trees or shrubs that the fungus has a Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A highly skilled naturalist / teacher for your group or yourself

Let Stewart share his incredible passion for, and possibly unsurpassed knowledge of, the whole Puget Trough lowland plant-animal-fungus community with you and your group! Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Dramatic Start to Spring in Lincoln Park!

With the first striking group of Trilliums up by March 9th, some birds now nesting, and early migrants now arriving, and butterflies and other bugs are now winging. Spring is now in full swing! You can learn their special spots, the tricks to recognizing them and learn their fascinating stories in my upcoming Saturday, March 29th Lincoln Park Spring: Blooms, Nests, Migrants, Butterflies 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My First Butterfly for 2014 – Milbert’s Tortoiseshell

On Friday, February 28th I saw my first butterfly of 2014 , in Lincoln Park, in the early afternoon of an incredibly beautiful, sunny, short sleeve day. The Milbert’s Tortoiseshell is one of the butterflies in the Nymphalini Tribe of the Nymphalid Family (Nymphalidae) butterflies.  This tribe of butterflies spends the winter in the adult stage, rather than as either egg, caterpillar (larva), or pupa.  In part because they are Continue reading

Posted in critters | 1 Comment