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You’ve no doubt heard of bird watchers who enjoy birding but do you know that there are folks who botanize? Folks that will spend hours kneeling on the ground, looking at tiny plants and referring to big books with small print in hopes of keying the individual plant out to its species? I took a botany class sponsored by the Methow Conservancy this winter in hopes of at least being able to figure out the genus of plants I find in the wild. For me to determine the species on my own is often too much to expect. Making it even more difficult is the ‘powers that be’ in the botany world recently reorganized the plant families, moving them around in a manner that doesn’t even seem to make much sense to the local experts in the field. So any field guides that are now in hand are out of date with the current information. This happens in the bird world also. Whenever a new birding field guide comes out, the species are in a different order and some species are split and some are lumped. With flowers, there are so many more species to learn that it becomes an even greater challenge.

All that being said, our botany class went on a field trip this past weekend to the lower Grand Coulee area. It’s a little warmer down there although it did not feel like it on Saturday and it gets less snow so the flowers are ahead of what we are seeing here in the Methow Valley. It is an area of dramatic basalt coulees dotted with many lakes and seeps. The habitat is primarily shrub-steppe with sagebrush being the dominant plant. We stopped first at Dry Falls to look at plants of the lithosol (thin rocky soil) habitat. Then we went to Lake Lenore Caves and also Sun Lakes State Park to see a dry vernal pond and to observe the Hooker’s Balsamroot.

I have named these plants to the best of my abilities. There may be errors in spelling and species.

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