Rare pygmy saxifrage found

October 30th, 2015 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

Each new monitoring season, Washington Rare Plant Care and Conservation is delighted by a few unexpected discoveries. This year, these finds include a single pygmy saxifrage (Saxifraga hyperborea) high up near a rocky mountain summit.

pygmy saxifrage, image by Brenda Cunningham

When the species was documented at the site in 1979, “an occasional lone plant” was noted. From 2010 to 2013, Rare Care volunteers searched diligently in an effort to relocate the occurrence. But after three unsuccessful attempts, Rare Care removed it from the monitoring list in order to focus on other rare plant occurrences. So how did our volunteers happen to find it this year?

They were looking for something else!

A US Forest Service botanist asked Rare Care to monitor Tisch’s saxifrage (Saxifraga tischii) at the same site. Two volunteers who had searched the summit previously for S. hyperborea accepted the S. tischii assignment; they were already familiar with the area. They found five Tisch’s saxifrage plants and set to work recording data, including physical site characteristics, associated species and phenology. And then there it was, a stone’s throw away – one pygmy saxifrage – fairly safe from threats, just tricky to find in a rocky habitat riddled with crevices and overhangs. A double reward for their monitoring trip.

sagebrush mariposal-lily, image by Sarah Walker

Also this year, rare plant monitoring volunteers found new sites of the endangered sagebrush mariposa-lily (Calochortus macrocarpus var. maculosus), the threatened Washington polemonium (Polemonium pectinatum) and the sensitive common bluecup (Githopsis specularioides). Wenatchee larkspur (Delphinium viridescens) wasn’t spotted where it had been previously documented, but it was found nearby in two new sites – a result of searching a wider area and holding the image of the species in mind while approaching and departing the site.

And one of The Mountaineers instructors who provides navigation training to Rare Care volunteers each year asked if he could assist in monitoring! He teamed up with a Rare Care volunteer to search some steep slopes on Orcas Island, and together they counted 51 arctic aster (Eurybia merita) that had not been found during a previous search in 2012.

arctic aster, image by Richard Ramsden

Article adapted from Rare Plant Press, Fall/Winter 2015, Vol X No 2. Other articles in the issue include “Showy stickseed exploits environments with low competition” and “Surveys for gray crptantha yield positive results.”

US Forest Service honors Rare Care for monitoring rare species

June 27th, 2015 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

Trifolium thompsonii (image by Julia Bent)The US Forest Service recognized Washington Rare Plant Care and Conservation – including hundreds of trained volunteers from all parts of the state who, in the past 14 years, have participated in the rare plant monitoring citizen science project – by awarding Rare Care its Regional Volunteer Award for Citizen Stewardship & Partnerships.

When Lauri Malmquist, district botanist with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, nominated Rare Care, she wrote, “As staffing and funding to the Botany/Ecology Program on the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF continue to decline, [Rare Care’s] rare plant monitoring program has played a vital role in continuing the monitoring necessary to provide critically needed information on the status of Washington State’s rare plant species. . . . Many rare plant populations have not been visited in a decade or more due to diminishing Federal funding and capacity. The scarcity of updated information on these plants puts them at risk of extirpation as a result of development, invasive species competition and other threats. All USFS Forests in Washington State have benefitted from this volunteer effort. . .”

Toward the end of each year, Rare Care consults with federal, state and other public land managers across the state to develop a list of the most urgent monitoring priorities for the coming year. Then each volunteer chooses an assignment and sets off at the proper season in search of one of Washington’s 3,500 rare plant populations. Finally, Rare Care compiles their data, maps and sketches and distributes them to the appropriate land managers and the Washington Natural Heritage Program (WNHP). Land managers use the data in making land use decisions. The WNHP maintains the state’s rare plant database and determines the status of each species.

Gentiana glauca (image by Brenda Cunningham) & Iliamna longisepala (image by Gail Roberts)This year, Rare Care volunteers are searching in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest for the threatened Thompson’s clover (Trifolium thompsonii) and the sensitive obscure paintbrush (Castilleja cryptantha), longsepal globemallow (Iliamna longisepala) and Seely’s silene (Silene seelyi), among other species. To prepare for their field visits, they pore over previous reports, maps and other documentation. But there’s a catch. The documentation comes in many degrees of specificity! Plus, things change over the years. Roads are decommissioned. Trails are rerouted. Invasive species crowd out native species. Native vegetation grows into tangles of underbrush. Logging operations and fires change the face of the landscape.

Last year in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, with only vague location information to go on and crossing snowfields and camping along the way, three volunteers relocated a two-square-meter population of glaucous gentian (Gentiana glauca) that hadn’t been documented since 1966. Two years ago, two volunteers traipsed through underbrush in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to find a single Wenatchee larkspur (Delphinium viridescens) remaining at a site that had grown into a young forest since the population was previously observed.

Rare Care is delighted to receive this US Forest Service Award in recognition of these dedicated volunteers and their substantial achievements.

Delphinium viridescens (image by Betty Swift) and Silene seelyi (image by Rod Gilbert)

One weekend, two dozen rare plant surveys

November 3rd, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

by Wendy Gibble [edited for the web; see complete article on page 3 of the Rare Plant Press]

Twenty-five volunteers, agency partners and Rare Care staff gathered in Klickitat County in mid-June to monitor known populations of rare plants in the Klickitat Wildlife Area, Conboy National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding areas. We knew from the outset that our survey plans had to be adjusted. Late wet spring conditions caused as much as a one-month delay in the onset of flowering for many species. We were too early to catch the long-bearded sego lily (Calochortus longebarbatus var. longebarbatus) in bloom. But we caught the tail end of Baker’s linanthus (Leptosiphon bolanderi), a tiny spring annual that normally blooms in April and May. Our timing was perfect for finding Pulsifer’s monkey-flower (Mimulus pulsiferae), another tiny annual found in seasonally moist areas that seemed to have benefited from the spring moisture.  

Barrett's beardtongue, photo by Janka Hobbs

Barrett's beardtongue closeup, photo by Betty Swift

Klickitat County was an ideal location for Rare Care’s fifth annual monitoring weekend. It’s at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge, a region that hosts some of the state’s most diverse flora. The Gorge is one of the few places in the northwest where moist Pacific air meets dry Columbia Basin air near sea level, providing a corridor for migration and a refuge for relict populations from previous glacial and interglacial periods. The Columbia River system also provides a significant corridor for species movement from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountain ecoregion of British Columbia, through the Okanogan highlands, Columbia Basin shrub-steppe, and east Cascades, and out to the wetter ecoregion of the west Cascades. The convergence of these topographic features is likely a major factor in the high number of endemic species found in the vicinity.

Keying rare plants on a steep slope, photo by Julie Bresnan

Gooseberry-leaved alumroot, photo by Julie Bresnan

Twenty-four surveys were completed over the three-day campout, including new populations of rare plants such as oblong bluecurls (Trichostema oblongum), western ladies-tresses (Spiranthes porrifolia) and common bluecup (Githopsis specularioides). Regional endemics such as Barrett’s penstemon (Penstemon barrettiae), gooseberry-leaved alumroot (Heuchera grossulariifolia var. tenuifolia), and Suksdorf’s lomatium (Lomatium suksdorfii) are locally common on the cliffs and steep slopes of the Klickitat River. We monitored several populations of each and documented several new sites while surveying for other rare plant populations. We also monitored blue-flowered diffuse stickseed (Hackelia diffusa var. diffusa) and the very rare Ames’ milk-vetch (Astragalus pulsiferae var. suksdorfii), found in Washington only from an area around Conboy National Wildlife Refuge.

Diffuse stickseed, photo by Julie Bresnan

Identifying rare plants in a cool June, photo by Bev Linde

Although we accomplished so much in the short three days we had, we wrapped up the monitoring weekend with the impression that there is still much ground to cover in the region. We look forward to more explorations in the basalt canyons and pine woodlands in the coming years.

Images from top left:

  • Barrett’s penstemon, photo by Janka Hobbs
  • Barrett’s penstemon, photo by Betty Swift
  • Keying gooseberry-leaved alumroot on a steep slope, photo by Julie Bresnan
  • Gooseberry-leaved alumroot, photo by Julie Bresnan
  • Diffuse stickseed, photo by Julie Bresnan
  • Monitoring rare plants in a cool June, photo by Bev Linde

You may view additional photos on Rare Care’s page on Facebook.



2012 Cuba Tour Rule #1: Keep a good journal

October 18th, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

“We were…amazed at how much we did in such a short time. At the end of the trip we were trying to remember our first full day and it seemed like months, rather than weeks, had passed.” So wrote Dr. Sarah Reichard, director of UW Botanic Gardens, shortly after returning from her 2011 Chile tour.

Dr. Reichard’s upcoming Cuba tour (Feb. 22 to Mar. 4, 2012) will feature equally outstanding opportunities to observe indigenous flora and fauna, view enticing gardens, experience Cuba’s unique culture, and learn from local experts. So be forewarned! Keep a good journal, Cuba by Barbara Wright - iSustainand you’ll be telling firsthand stories of this unusual destination for years to come.

Your walking tour of Havana Vieja with a professor of architecture will help put everything into context and inform you about historical restoration projects. You’ll learn of recent research on invasive species and ecosystems of the area with Botanic Researcher Dr. Ramona Oviedo and curators of the National Museum of Natural History. You’ll investigate horticultural practices at Alamar Organoponic Gardens, unique Cuban gardens with 160 cooperative owners. You’ll meet elementary school students, and you’ll attend a presentation by members of the National Institute for Research on Tropical Agriculture and the Cuban Association of Crop and Forestry Professionals.

And that’s just the first two days! What were we saying about keeping a good journal?

Despite revolution and economic hardship, Cuba is alive with private and botanic gardens and agricultural innovation. The ecologically protected area of Mil Cumbres, orchid gardens, and Zapata Peninsula’s 1,000 plant species await you! Contact Holbrook Travel at 800.451.7111 to reserve your space today!

Flyer with detailed itinerary

Reservation form and terms

Holbrook Travel logo




Photos courtesy of Barbara Wright of iSustain (click to enlarge).

Tour Cuba’s gardens with Director Reichard

September 22nd, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

Cuba imageThe UW Botanic Gardens has just been issued a license by the US Department of Treasury so that Executive Director Sarah Reichard may lead a tour group through Cuba Feb. 22 to Mar. 4, 2012! This is a spectacular opportunity to learn about Cuba’s ecosystems, endemic and endangered species, organic farms and reforestation projects, as well as Cuban history and current events.

Everywhere you go, you’ll enjoy special opportunities to learn firsthand from local experts. You’ll meet curators of the Museum of Natural History, Havana Botanical Society members, professors, a Cuban agronomist, a local naturalist, a tobacco farmer and the owners of a unique Botanic and Herb Garden. You’ll visit the National Botanical Garden, the University of Pinar del Rio’s Orchid Garden, the Ecologically Protected Area of Mil Cumbres with hundreds of Cuba and local endemics, and Zapata Park with 1,000 plant species, 65% of Cuba’s bird species, and the Cuba crocodile.

Arrangements are being handled by Holbrook Travel, who so ably handled the details of Dr. Reichard’s and Dan Hinkley’s Chile Garden Tour early this year. The tour serves as a fundraiser for the UW Botanic Gardens.

Contact Holbrook Travel at 800.451.7111 or travel@holbrooktravel.com to reserve your place in the tour.

Holbrook Travel logo




Photos courtesy of Barbara Wright of iSustain (click to enlarge).

UW Student Reports on Stormwater Planting at CUH

September 14th, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator
Rain garden at CUH

Proud students admiring their hard work planting up the rain garden.

The Arboretum has its bog garden. The Center for Urban Horticulture (CUH) has its rain garden. A new rain garden is part of a larger project designed by Berger Partnership to direct rainwater from the roofs of Merrill and Isaacson Halls to the existing roof garden, an as-yet undeveloped hillside garden, and collection bins (rain gardens). When funding is found to complete the project, the CUH will present a completely integrated water system which collects rain, delivers it to the gardens, and drains to Lake Washington.

Lisa Haglund, a recent graduate with a degree Community, Environment, and Planning  in the UW College of Built Environments, created the planting plan for the rain garden with guidance from the UW Botanic Gardens’ Dr. Kern Ewing, David Zuckerman and Barbara Selemon. In May, students from Maggie Rose’s Ingraham High School science classes prepared the site with Haglund and Patrick Mulligan, after Selemon arranged for Haglund to give a presentation on stormwater at their school. Ingraham currently has no available site for rain garden construction, so the Ingraham students’ trip to the CUH was funded through GROW, a program designed to engage high school students with the UW Botanic Gardens.

Lisa describes her experience working with high school students:

From the first field trip to the last, I saw an awakening interest in plants, planting, maintenance techniques, and natural systems take root in many of these young people. Through experiential learning students gained knowledge of how plants and soils act to capture and filter out the contaminants in runoff, the value of freshwater and freshwater ecosystems, and how each of them can make a difference by implementing Low Impact Development  projects at their homes and schools.

Lisa’s complete LHaglund_Stormwater_GROWProgram with photos. Visit Lisa on LinkedIn.


Learn field sketching and botanical watercolor

August 24th, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

Koi Rock by Suzanne FerrisIn a single, all-day Plein Air Field Sketching workshop Sept. 24, botanical artist Suzanne Ferris will get you started indoors by drawing basic shapes and then head outdoors to discover the same shapes in trees and shrubs. You’ll consider “value veils” for creating depth, one- and two-point perspective, point of view and the process of seeing by mark making, while working in sumi and walnut ink as well as soft graphite. Register by Sept. 12to secure the Early Bird Price of $75. Suzanne’s work is pictured at right.

In Beginning Botanical Watercolor, botanical artist and instructor Kathleen McKeehen will show you how the application of controlled washes and the dry-brush technique produce images that are three-dimensional and aesthetically appealing. Five weekly classes meet at the Center for Urban Horticulture 7:00-9:30 PM beginning Sept. 28. Register by Sept. 16 to secure the Early Bird Price of $170.

Pacific Connections Update: Cascadia Bog Development

July 21st, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator
new Cascadia bog

The new Cascadia bog is a perfect solution for a wet spot.

When the Cascadia section of the Pacific Connections Garden was under construction, a natural depression appeared. Recognizing the potential for this poorly-draining area, Jason Henry of the Berger Partnership incorporated a Cascadian bog into the design. Pacific Connections Gardener Kyle Henegar explains, “Creating the bog is a long-term process as the soil conditions mature, the plants are phased in, and as Roy Farrow and I continue to procure and stage snags and rocks to create a more realistic-looking garden. I suggest visitors come visit the bog frequently to see how it ages over time and develops the beautiful patina of a native bog.”

An irrigation system will keep the soil soggy during dry months. Vegetation includes Andromeda polifolia, Ledum glandulosum and Rhododendron occidentale grown from seed collected in the Siskiyou Mountains by Collections Manager Randall Hitchin, and Darlingtonia californica from the UW Botany Greenhouse. Native plants such as huckleberry and maidenhair fern are serving as placeholders while bog plants are being phased in. In addition, the Cascadian Focal Forest contains a Siskiyou seep area along the east side of the first stairway. It too is being phased in and is currently full of container-grown native plants and plants grown from wild-collected seed.

Darlingtonia californica

Darlingtonia californica from the UW Botany Greenhouse

Rhododendron occitentale

Rhododendron occidentale grown from seed collected in the Siskiyou Mountains by Collections Manager Randall Hitchin

Foster Island spider appears to be new species

February 16th, 2011 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

You may recall that last spring’s BioBlitz in the Washington Park Arboretum resulted in some interesting finds, thanks to the efforts of more than 100 citizen scientists, university students and professionals. Here’s an update on one of those discoveries.

Foster Island Philodromus spiderRod Crawford, Curator of Arachnids at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, reports, “I just finished fully curating the spiders from last May’s Foster Island bioblitz. The unusual Philodromus crab spider from the Waterside Trail, is not P. imbecillus nor is it P. insperatus (only member of the imbecillus group known from Washington). It is very similar to an Atlantic-states species Philodromus marxi, but is more likely to be an altogether new species. Full confirmation will have to await more specimens including males, but we can tentatively consider it new.”

The Foster Island female spider’s reproductive organs don’t match those of Philodromus insperatus, a spider found in this state but mainly in sagebrush country. And the Atlantic states’ P. marxi’s body coloration is metallic, very different from that of the spider found on Foster Island. And so the research continues.

Rod Crawford maintains a website called The Spider Myths Site. Interestingly, two of the myths are “Spiders are easy to identify” and “The spider you found has to be a species you’ve already heard of.”

Photograph by Rod Crawford

Chile news is good news!

October 21st, 2010 by Jennifer Youngman, Program Coordinator

Monkey Puzzle tree photo“Uno, dos, tres, cut!” cried Paige Miller, the Arboretum Foundation’s executive director. Armed with garden shears, dignitaries clipped the bamboo ribbon, officially opening the Gateway to Chile in Washington Park Arboretum’s Pacific Connections Garden. Bathed in sunshine, and on the heels of the Chilean miners’ safe return above ground, the Oct. 17 Gateway to Chile celebration was triply joyous. Watch a 2 1/4-minute video.

Can’t wait until the monkey puzzle trees and other fascinating plants mature so you can stand immersed in a Chilean forest? Join Dr. Sarah Reichard, professor at UW Botanic Gardens, and Plantsman Dan Hinkley for a breathtaking tour of Chile’s national botanical gardens, parks, nurseries and private estate gardens Jan. 15-30, 2011.