Lewis River, Part II

I'm finally getting around to the second post I meant to do on my Lewis River hike. I've been procrastinating on it because I knew it would be a long one and I haven't really felt like doing a long post. I'm choosing to blame my recent laziness on the smoke from all the wildfires that have cropped up in the Northwest this summer. The air was thick and hazy this morning. It's making my allergies and asthma go haywire, giving me headaches and making me lethargic. The heat hasn't been helping, either. I'm so glad it's cooled down to the 80s this week.

While I sit inside with soaker hoses and sprinklers needing only occasional relocation, I suppose I can tackle this post. In the first post on this hike, which you can see here, I focused mainly on scenery. This time, I'm moving in closer to look at plants in detail.

Linnaea borealis (twin flower) is one of my favorite native groundcovers. I love the scientific name, which roles off the tongue (at least I think it does). The dainty little flowers are lovely and the glossy foliage is always attractive. I need to remember to add some of this to my garden. As it can be found in moist to rather dry woods under conifers, I have lots of places it should grow happily.

Two more favorites growing intertwine. The green leaves belong to Clintonia uniflora, commonly called queen's cup. Their small, white, six-petaled flowers turn into shiny dark blue fruit. These individuals apparently hadn't bloomed this year and the ones that had still had green fruit, or I would certainly have included a photo. The white arches interlaced with the green belong to Monotropa uniflora, or Indian pipes, a mycotrophic plant lacking chlorophyll. Believe it or not, this plant is related to rhododendrons, madrones, and arctostaphylos. Mycophytes gain their nutrients through fungi that decompose organic matter. Some sources claim that they tap into the mycorrhizal networks of other plants. Both are probably true and depend on the species of mycophyte. Then again, I'm just making claims based on minimal research, so if someone knows otherwise, please speak up.

I love nurse logs. They are probably one of my favorite things about the forest. This one was covered in a carpet of Oxalis oregana, with a few Tiarella trifoliata blooms poking up here and there.

The larger, darker green leaves in this photo belong to Achlys triphylla, or vanilla leaf. According to Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon, the dried leaves smell like vanilla and were used by the Saanich people and possibly others as an insect repellent, hanging bunches of dried leaves in the house to keep flies and mosquitoes away. The fern is Gymnocarpium dryopteris, or oak fern. In some places this fern can make an almost solid carpet over large areas and makes a beautiful ground cover. I seem to be looking at ground covers a lot.

Hedge nettle is a fairly common plant with attractive, rosy pink flowers. I'm not sure on the exact species, but then neither are the experts.

One of my favorite native flowers, though the photo isn't the best: Scouler's harebell, Campanula scouleri, grows in moist to dry sites and blooms with delicate icy blue flowers in early to mid summer.

Aruncus dioicus, or goat's beard, is a large herbaceous perennial member of the rose family. Here, it's growing on the top of the upturned rootball of a tree that fell and is stretching up towards the dappled sunlight. It's a common sight along the roads through any of the mountain passes in Washington, where it grows to perfection with sun to open shade and unlimited water with sharp drainage from snow melt and springs draining through rocky slopes.

Smilacina racemosa, or false Solomon's seal, can be seen here growing on the burly base of a bigleaf maple (Ah, alliteration!) covered in thick moss.

One of the last Anemone deltoidea (three-leaved anemone) to bloom along this trail for the season. The one inch-wide flowers seem to float above the trifoliate leaves, supported by nearly invisible stems.

Columbian tiber lilies, Lilium columbianum, were just beginning to bloom. I didn't see many, but I bet if I had come back in another week or two they would have been everywhere.

This nurse log ran along the trail like a wall, covered in moss. At some point, it split into an upper and lower half, leaving the moss to dangle like a green curtain from the upper portion. This particular moss is called step moss (Hylocomium splendens) and is one of my favorites. Each segment looks like a 2-3 inch fern frond, with another frond growing at some point along it and another out of that one in stair step fashion, creating long dangling chains when they grow over a log like this or around the mouth of Ape Caves. It's a bit crispy this year, as everything is. When it's wet, it's one of the lushest mosses I know.

Gooseberry bushes (Ribes sp.) were abundant, though gooseberries were not. I don't think I've ever tried them, so they weren't missed.

I believe the foamflower carpeting this log is Tiarella trifoliata var. unifoliata, a variety of trifoliate foamflower that has, you guessed it, simple leaves instead of trifoliate leaves. Contradictory much?

Here we have a carpet of step moss with false lily of the valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) and some sort of false Solomon's-seal (Smilacina sp.) arching above them both.

Did I mention I love nurse logs? Usually there are a mix of many different plants from mosses all the way up to tree seedlings growing from the decaying body of a forest giant. While there were plenty of those, there were also quite a few like this one, covered almost entirely by a single species, in this case Clintonia uniflora.

New plant sightings are always exciting. This one had me puzzled until I had a chance to dig through my field guide. Meet Boykinia elata, or coast boykinia, obviously not restricted to the coast.

I rather liked the sprays of airy white flowers.

And the jaggedly serrated, lobed leaves. The entire presentation is quite nice.

Have you ever seen a trillium (Trillium ovatum) growing as an epiphyte? Well now you have! This plant was growing a little over six feet off the ground on this exceptionally mossy maple trunk. I wish I had trees that mossy.

The sun struck it perfectly, like some amazing artifact on display.

Most people probably don't realize that red huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) is evergreen and grows almost as a ground cover in its youth. Here is an excellent example of this stage, growing over a stump. After a few years, young plants send out upright shoots that start to produce the more familiar matte-green deciduous leaves. At home, the deer have kept most of the red huckleberries under a foot in height and stuck in their evergreen juvenile stage with tougher, shinier leaves. Many of the ones inside the new fence have already produced new deciduous shoots since the fence was completed.

Another shot of Linnaea borealis growing pendulously from the rootball of a fallen tree, dangling within a curtain of moss.

Another shot of this lovely native ground cover, this time blooming with the paired flowers that earned it the name, twinflower.

These little pink flowers I believe belong to Pyrola asarifolia, or pink wintergreen, another diminutive rhododendron relative. I was stumped at first because I couldn't see any leaves. Later research showed me that pyrolas can come in leafless forms, growing as mycophytes just like Monotropa uniflora.

Everyone in the Pacific Northwest is familiar with the ubiquitous salal, but did you know we have other native species of Gaultheria, too? Gaultheria ovatifolia, commonly called western teaberry or Oregon wintergreen, is a western counterpart to the more familiar wintergreen found in nurseries, which is an East Coast native. The berries have the same wintergreen flavor, too.

 Mycophytes are such fascinating plants. The largest mycophyte in the Pacific Northwest is Pterospora andromedea, or pinedrops. which can grow to a meter tall. I spotted these growing in a particularly dense section of conifers where hardly anything else grew but a thick carpet of moss. No light? No problem if you don't have chlorophyll.

A closer look at the pinedrops, so named because the flowers look like drops of pine resin. And guess what? It's another member of the family Ericaceae, like rhododendrons and salal.

Here's another Pyrola species, Pyrola picta, commonly called white-veined wintergreen for the light green to white veins on the leaves. This and pink wintergreen do not produce the compound that we know as wintergreen flavor or scent. That chemical is produced by members of the genus Gaultheria, many of which are also called wintergreen. Pyrola species are so named because, when they have leaves, those leaves stay green in the winter.

I have to confess, I'm not big on yellow daisy-type flowers, but I included this one because I don't think I've seen it before. I think this is a species of Arnica, but I didn't look closely enough to determine which one.

I'm pretty sure this vetch is the introduced weed, Lathyrus latifolius, or a similar species. I don't mind seeing it along roads, but I'd rather not see it out in wild places like this.

We stopped for lunch by the river and watched the fish swimming around. It's catch and release only here, but there was one I would have liked to have for dinner. Since I didn't even have any fishing gear with me and I've never tried it bear-style, I settled for a blurry picture through the water. It's a little easier to see if you look for both it and its shadow, like two parallel lines a bit below center in the picture.

Could you see it? No? You could't make out one greyish green blur from all the others? Ok, here's a picture of a smaller fish that I caught much closer and and in stiller water. It still has its baby stripes.

Can I have this in my garden? I'll just have to buy a blocky rock edifice and truck it in. Then set up a stream to run alongside it. The moss and devil's club would be the easy parts. On second thought, maybe I'll just enjoy it on location.

There are several native monkeys in the Pacific Northwest, the majority of which are yellow. I think this one is Mimulus guttatus, which has the extraordinarily original common name of yellow monkey-flower.

My favorite mycophyte (What? Doesn't everyone have one?) is Allotropa virgata, commonly called candystick, for their resemblance to Christmas candy canes. I'd say they are the most vibrantly-colored mycophyte we have, and one of the most colorful Northwest natives period. Red and white-striped stems bare white blooms with huge burgundy anthers. What's not to love? Maybe the fact that you can't just go to your local nursery and buy one for yourself, but that's it.

The Pacific Northwest has a number of native Rubus species, and some of them are quite ornamental like this Rubus nivalis, or dewberry. The leaves are extremely glossy and evergreen and the plant stays rambling along the ground. Unfortunately, I don't think this species transfers well to gardens unless you live at high elevations with a moist site for it to grow on.

The weirdest thing I saw on this hike was a log over the trial that seemed to have had all it's branches burned out, down through the very base of each one, leaving the trunk virtually untouched.

What could cause this? Has anyone else seen this before? My brother and I decided a wild fire pokemon must have been attacking the log to gain experience points.

And that ends my coverage of our Lewis River hike, which took even longer than expected due to a break to drive up to Mossy Rock to buy blueberries. A trip well-worth it, though. Frozen blueberries make a fantastic snack on hot summer days.


  1. Maybe I don't frequent the right places but you seem to have natural environments with a far broader range of interesting native plants than can be found down this way. The PNW is a great place to live - and hike!

    1. California has much greater diversity than Washington. You should find your way to some more wild areas. I'd love to see what you find! Maybe I just have easier access to more wild areas.

  2. Wow, long post indeed, but I'm glad you took the time to detail it all. You are a very detail oriented hiker!

    1. I'm a very detail-oriented everything! It can be exhausting!

  3. Thanks so much for taking the time to put this post together. I really enjoyed it. I love our native PNW plants, and you've highlighted quite a few I've never heard of before. I wonder if I can buy that Linnaea borealis for a spot under my Douglas firs?

    1. I think you could probably find Linnaea at a native plant nursery. Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery in Gig Harbor might be a good place to start.

  4. I am feeling like an unobservant clod, having spent much time on the Lewis River without spotting half of these. Good excuse to plan a visit though.

    1. Go enjoy a cool hike by the river!

  5. You really found a lot of different species in your hike. I'm surprised by how many mycophytes you found. I was surprised to find Red Huckleberries even in my little slice of woodland. I haven't seen any berries on them though. I saw the yellow Monkey flowers on a hike near Tillamook, and the Hedge nettles.

    1. Red Huckleberries are pretty common at low to mid elevations. I'd be more surprised if you didn't have any, unless you lived in the city. I love mycophytes. They are just so cool. Earlier in the season there probably would have been some mycophytic orchids, too.

  6. Evan, this is some post. I read it twice for its wealth of information. I can't get over how much you know about native plants: it's astonishing, and very educational for me. Since English is my second language, the expression "nurse logs" is new and exciting to learn, especially since like you, I love so much. They are a microcosm of the entire forest. The Mycophytes are so unique and ghostly as they unfurl; love that candy cane stripes!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Chav! Thank you for your kind words. Since I grew up in a rural, forested area with an outdoorsy family, I started learning about the native flora before I even started school.

  7. I grew R. nivalis for a few years (wild collected above Darrington), before finally losing it when I removed the structure that sheltered it last year. It was pretty happy, too, and was even starting to spread, though not densely. It seems to like part shade, and moist, well-drained soil. I'll probably try it again, on the north or east side of the house.

    (Funnily enough, it's not all that closely related to any of our other Rubus. Previous classifications have placed it in a subgenus with a few east-Asian species, but genetic evidence places it instead with the Southern Hemisphere and Andean Rubus, a disjunction similar to that of our common salal.)

    1. Thanks for the report on it's performance under cultivation, and for the interesting tidbits on it's relationship with the other native Rubus. I might try it with the rhododendrons, since those are the only places in my garden that stay moist.


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