Maianthemum racemosum “False Lily of the Valley” Liliaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

These lilies are found abundantly in almost all moist-to-wet forests in North America. Here in the PNW, they are the largest of three species in this genus which all share the common name “false lily of the valley.” These plants are edible, but, when young, look nearly identical to False Hellebore which is very poisonous. Their shoots are said to taste like asparagus and their berries apparently taste like treacle. The plant has also been used at one point or another to treat every sort of ailment you can imagine. All parts of the plant, however, have strong to mild laxative effects and should be consumed cautiously. Learn more here.

Linum lewisii “Lewis’s Prairie Flax” Linaceae

Drinking Horse Mountain, Bozeman, MT
June 3, 2015
Robert Niese

Prairie Flax is native to western North America where it grows in dry open areas east of the Cascades and west of the Mississippi. This species was first collected on the Lewis and Clark expedition on July 9, 1806, although there is some debate as to whether it was collected by Meriwether himself or by Captain Clark. After the species was formally described by Frederick Pursh in 1814, the original specimen was lost for nearly a century along with many other historic records. Flax (L. usitatissimum) is among the oldest of all cultivated plants and has been utilized by humans for at least 30,000 years. Here in the Northwest, native peoples used fibers from the stems of L. lewisii to create cordage, string, and textiles and used its seeds to treat all manner of dietary problems, to reduce swelling in wounds and boils, and to remove small, irritating particles from the eye. Learn more about the edible and medicinal uses for L. lewisii here, and learn more about its discovery and discussion in the Lewis and Clark expedition here!

Speyeria hydaspe “Hydaspe Fritillary” Nymphalidae
on Agastache urticifolia “Nettle-leaf Giant Hyssop” Lamiaceae

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

Fritillaries are a common, large butterfly here in the PNW east of the Cascades. There are several species that are regularly found in our area. Learn more about them here. This particular fritillary is feeding on the nectar of a very interesting and quite common local plant. Its Latin name, Agastache, is Greek for “many spikes” and, as you might guess, its inflorescence looks like a giant spike ball. Like many other members of the mint family, giant hyssop is commonly used in herbal teas and poultices for a variety of medicinal purposes. In particular, the leaves can be used to induce sweating and as a vasodilator. This particular species is quite abundant in the PNW east of the Cascades and is a favorite food source for many ungulates like deer, elk, cows, and moose.

Lonicera involucrata “Twinberry” Caprifoliaceae

Beachside State Park, OR
June 11, 2015
Robert Niese

Twinberry is a common coastal shrub in the PNW. It tends to produce flowers in pairs that are regularly defended by Rufous Hummingbirds. These flowers usually develop into a pair of inedible berries. Many coastal native peoples held taboos against eating these berries. Some said that they were the food of monsters and the dead. Others believed that you would be unable to speak after consuming them. Instead the berries were often used as a hair dye and to prevent graying.

Lonicera involucrata “Twinberry” Caprifoliaceae

Beachside State Park, OR
June 11, 2015
Robert Niese

Twinberry is a common coastal shrub in the PNW. It tends to produce flowers in pairs that are regularly defended by Rufous Hummingbirds. These flowers usually develop into a pair of inedible berries, but in this sad bush, most of the berries had lost their twins. Many coastal native peoples held taboos against eating these berries. Some said that they were the food of monsters and the dead. Others believed that you would be unable to speak after consuming them. Instead the berries were often used as a hair dye and to prevent graying.

Rhamnus purshiana “Cascara” Rhamnaceae

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

Cascara is a Pacific Northwest endemic famous for the laxative properties of its bark. In fact, the bark of this species is in such high demand that the plant has been eradicated from some parts of its range. Regardless of its medicinal uses, Cascara is one of my favorite PNW trees because of its unmistakable, heavily veined leaves and its adorable, teensy-tiny flowers! These are only a few millimeters across!