Monday, May 21, 2007

A Spring Walk on the Latah Trail.

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UPDATED with plant identification help from Gerry Queener, of Troy, ID - many thanks! See his information in the comments following the post.
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I've been battling a nasty bug that's been making me cough and sound hoarse for days, with limited results. But on Monday, I decided a breath of fresh air and some good Palousian scenery was just the medicine to set me right - so I drove eight miles east from my house to Troy, Idaho, to walk on the stretch of the Latah Trail beginning at the city park, in the roughly northwesterly direction towards Moscow.


I couldn't have hoped for a better day. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, and it was about 68 degrees. Woodpeckers, magpies and many other birds were all over. There were butterflies - blue, orange, yellow, white; and many dragonflies, which made me recall Gerard Manley Hopkins: As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame. (Forced reading way back in junior college.)

This wildflower really caught my eye. UPDATE: Thanks to the anonymous reader who helped me identify this as trillium (see the comment at the bottom of the post); also known as wakerobin. vvvvvvvvvvvADDED 5/25: Carol Gosseen of Pasco wrote: "Your picture of the trillium has a pink flower because it has been in bloom for a long time. When they first come out, it is the most pristine white, sitting on the brightest dark green. They knock your socks off. I transplanted mine from my sisters yard in Marysville, WA about 35 years ago and they mulitlplied some, and are still blooming. I was told that if you pick the bloom, it would not bloom again for years."vvvvvvvvvvvvvv



Gerry Queener identified this plant as Woolly Mullein (Verbasum thapsus), "an introduced "weed" from Europe, but now common over most of temperate N.A. In times past, the leaves of this plant were gathered for the skin softening chemicals used in lotions and medicines to sooth inflamed tissues. Small birds utilize the small seeds in winter."

Lichens, mosses, horsetails and more; and I also spotted little striped shoots in the soft spring grass, looking a little like skinny raccoon tails. UPDATE: I've been told that these are, indeed, young horsetail shoots. As they get older they develop their distinctive feathery green leaves (fronds? what are they called?)vvvvvvv


When I stopped a little after one mile, I looked out over a lush meadow and out toward a distant mountain.



On this walk I saw two chipmunks, and some little critters. This beetle is a common sight, but for some reason, this particular one impressed me with its shiny black surface and a stalwart scuttle along the pavement.


I was just thrilled to see this little woolly worm! My son and I were chatting just recently about how we hadn't seen any of these in quite a while. There's some folklore associated with this worm - the size of the orange band on its body, when observed in the fall, is supposed to be a weather predictor.

From the Green Line: "The woolly worms of winter weather forecasting fame are black at each end with a reddish brown band in the middle. The size of the brown band is said to be an indicator of winter's severity. The narrower the band, the harsher the winter. If woolly worms are more brown than black and the middle band tends toward orange, that indicates the winter will be mild. Well, that's a fun bit of folk wisdom, but it's simply not true."

So there!

On closer inspection, I see that my little specimen has a different order of colors than stated in the Green Line, so maybe it's something other than a woolly worm. Any entomologists care to share some information?

When I reached the two mile point up the Troy side of the trail (or 9 miles from Moscow, as the opposite side of the marker indicates, in the picture) and walked a little bit further before I decided to head back down. What a great way to clear my lungs, get some sun and recharge my batteries to start a new week.

If you've never walked, run, biked, scootered or roller bladed on the Latah Trail, you're really missing out on a wonderful resource. Get on the trail anywhere between Moscow and Troy, and celebrate the beauty of the Palouse.

Gerry Queener corrected me on the yellow flowers pictured below: NOT arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), but Heart-leaf Arnica(Arnica cordifolia).

They look very similar; I should've paid more attention to the leaves - in this picture you can clearly see they are heart-shaped. Gerry says, "you may find Arrowleaf Balsam-root along the trail. The latter grows in a clump and has wooly leaves. Arnica prefers shade. Another medicinal, but these two are native. The French sell Arnica based salves for muscle aches. They work well."

Many thanks, Gerry! I'll need some of that arnica for my muscle aches and pains soon, after working on my garden!

P.S. Still some plants and critters in this post need identification, so if you can help, please share! Meantime, here's are two very informative sites: one on Palousian flora, and another on wildflowers of north Idaho.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The first flower you like is a Trillium, beautiful wild flowers that pop up in the early spring. They start out white and gradually turn violet purple. As a trail rider (horses), these beauties are some of my faves as well.

Gillian Coldsnow said...

Thanks so much! There were quite a lot of them on the trail. Little splashes of wildflower colors are one of the best things about spring, aren't they?

Jim Pounder said...

Hi Gillian!!

Thank you for the stroll in the woods!! Your observations remind me of a saying, "if eyes are meant for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being". And you see beauty wherever you look. That's wonderful.

Thank you!!

Gillian Coldsnow said...

Jim, the pleasure is all mine. Yesterday I walked up another gorgeous spot on the Palouse - Kamiak Butte, where the unusual abundance of wildflowers was breathtaking! Unfortunately, I left my camera in the office, so I'll want to make that hike again soon to capture that - spring beauty can be fleeting.

Gerry Queener said...

The "skunk cabbage" is Wooly Mullein (Verbasum thapsus), introduce "weed" from Europe, but now common over most of temperate N.A. In times past, the leaves of this plant were gathered for the skin softening chemicals used in lotions and medicines to sooth inflamed tissues. Small birds utilize the small seeds in winter.

The sunflower is Heart-leaf Arnica (Arnica cordifolia), though you may find Arrowleaf Balsam-root along the trail. The latter grows in a clump and has wooly leaves. Arnica prefers shade. Another medicinal, but these two are native. The French sell Arnica based salves for muscle aches. they work well.

Not familar with the "wooly worm" (You attracted to wooly critters?), but I do know the wildflowers of N. Idaho and live east of Troy near the Troy to Arrow Junction section of the trail. I had a 2 month display of wildflowers of the Latah Trail up at the Moscow Food Coop this winter. We have most of these wildflowers on our place. Any time you need ID, I can help.

My wife's brother is Verne Windham, music director of KPBX, but we listen and donate to KWSU as well.

Keep up the good work.

Gerry (& Elaine) Queener
Troy

Gillian Coldsnow said...

Gerry, your information was immensely helpful, and I appreciate it so much. I will indeed turn to you for more wildflower help in the future. (Can you e-mail me your contact info?) Do you happen to know what those little striped shoots are?

I didn't recognize your name at first, but once you mentioned your exhibit at the Moscow Food Co-op I immediately remembered. Many happy lunch hours this winter were spent gazing wistfully at your pictures in the deli, and got me thinking ahead to spring - so I thank you for the inspiration to get my camera out on the trail.

Thanks also for supporting the station, and spreading the public radio love around!

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