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Hydrophyllum tenuipes “Pacific Waterleaf” Hydrophyllaceae/Boraginaceae

Olympic National Park, WA
June 5, 2013
Robert Niese

While we’re on the topic of Hydrophyllaceaous plants, here’s another from the low, wet forests of the coastal PNW. Like most members of this pseudo-family, these flowers exhibit unmistakable exerted stamens. These plants are endemic to the PNW and can be found anywhere west of the Cascades, usually near rivers or streams. It’s also interesting to note, like the other Hydrophylls I’ve been posting lately, these plants produce flowers whose color varies from cream to deep violet. A quick google image search suggests that most individuals are white, but all the images I have collected personally are purple. Perhaps I tend to only encounter the purple varieties, but it seems far more likely that I simply prefer to photograph purple plants over white ones. It’s interesting that this unconscious bias may have influenced my perhaps unfounded perception of these populations being predominantly purple.

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Oemleria cerasiformis “Indian Plum” Rosaceae

Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA
May 9, 2016
Robert Niese

Oemleria is a PNW endemic and is one of the first plants to leaf-out and bloom in spring. Later in the summer Oemleria will begin to bear ripe fruits which are purple with a large pit, giving them the name Indian Plums. Opinions vary on the palatability of these fruits. Some find them to be among the best in the PNW, while others find them too bitter. Generally, their astringency can be reduced through cooking and, as such, Oemleria fruits tend to be most commonly prepared in jams and pie fillings. Also, their bark is thought to be a mild aphrodisiac. Someone should try chewing on a few twigs and report back to us all.

Rosa gymnocarpa “Baldhip Rose” Rosaceae

Weir Hot Springs, Clearwater National Forest, ID
June 8, 2015
Robert Niese

This is one of North America’s smallest rose species and, as such, it is often nicknamed the “dwarf rose.” I prefer the name “baldhip” though. Not only does it sound wonderfully silly, but it also is a direct translation (more or less) of the species epithet, “gymnocarpa.” Well, gymnocarpa really means “naked fruit,” but their fruits are hips and these hips are indeed bald. When the flower is fertilized, its petals and sepals fall off, leaving behind the growing fruit. Most roses hang on to their sepals as their hips mature, making this a reliable feature for identifying R. gymnocarpa. Look for these small shrubs in low- to mid-elevation moist forests throughout the PNW. This little corner of western Montana is their eastern-most range edge!

Anatis rathvoni “Rathvon’s Giant Lady Beetle” Coccinellidae

Great Burn, Lolo National Forest, MT
July 10, 2015
Robert Niese

These massive (10mm) ladybugs are endemic to the PNW and are normally found in pines and other conifers where they voraciously consume aphids, caterpillars, and other small, fleshy-bodied herbivores. Their elytra vary in color from yellow, pale brown, to brown-red, darkening with age. Rathvon’s Giant Ladybird Beetles are named for a relatively obscure 19th century entomologist, S. S. Rathvon from Pennsylvania, who was one of North America’s first entomologists dedicated to educating the public about their local beneficial and pest-insects. Learn more about his life here.

Anemone piperi “Piper’s Anemone” Ranunculaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

Piper’s Anemone doesn’t look much like other common PNW anemones. It tends to have glabrous, trifoliate bracts that look exactly like leaves, while other anemones would have highly dissected, not-very-leafy bracts such as these here. And instead of having five white petaloid sepals it can have up to eight, as you can see in this photo. Apparently, the genetic and developmental mechanisms that determine which floral parts will be sepals, petals, or stamens are easily changed, allowing flowers with loads of stamens (like roses, buttercups, cherry blossoms, anemones, larkspurs, etc.) to produce a few extra petals instead. This is how we get the ornamental varieties of many Ranunculaceae and Rosaceae flowers (their wild versions should have five petals). Piper’s Anemone is a PNW endemic and is uncommonly found in moist coniferous forests from the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon and southwestern Washington, through central Idaho, west to the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana.

Misumena vatia “Goldenrod Crab Spider” Thomisidae on
Cymopterus glaucus “Waxy Spring Parsley” Apiaceae

Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot Mountains, MT
May 10, 2015
Robert Niese

Goldenrod Crab Spiders are inordinately abundant in spring blooms all around the PNW. They can be differentiated from their cousins in the genus Misumenoides by the lack of a faint white ridge on their face between their lower eyes and their jaws. But far more interesting than this lurking ambush predator is the fact that this image of Cymopterus glaucus is the first to grace the internet. And all because I thought I was taking a picture of a cool spider. You can see more photos of this plant below. C. glaucus is endemic to Idaho and western Montana where it is locally common on sandy or gravely slopes in dry Ponderosa Pinelands. I’m so confounded by the lack of images of this plant online that I’ll be checking out the UM herbarium later to verify that this is indeed C. glaucus. Any suggestions to the contrary would be much appreciated.