Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Red-osier Dogwood

Four season color (left to right)
Spring- Curtis Clark,   Late summer- Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service,
Fall- Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service,

This week's blog highlights another of our wonderful native plant species!

Bill Cook, Michigan State University,
Red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) ranges along the Pacific coast to Alaska and the Yukon Territory, throughout the country to the eastern states, and south to Mexico, usually at mid-to-low elevations. It also occurs in northern temperate forests in Europe and Asia. 

In Chelan County, this dogwood is abundant along stream banks, and if you are down at one of our streams or rivers this time of year, you can easily distinguish it from other vegetation by its brilliant red branches contrasted beautifully against the white snow.  Though an attractive plant year round, in winter it is particularly stunning!
Here's more on the red-osier dogwood:

The origin of the name “dogwood” is unknown. One theory is based on the use of a European dogwood species in making skewers, or daggers, (referred to as “dag”,” dague”, or “dagge” in old English). Another theory is that this species was used for washing mangy dogs.

The Potawotami, (a native tribe of the northern Mid-west), were the first to construct dream catchers, and made them out of red-osier dogwood stems. 
Rob Routledge, Sault College,

A red-osier relative:
(Cornus canadensis)
Like willow, red-osier dogwood is a popular material for basket weaving.  Different colors can be obtained depending on the season in which stems are harvested.

Red-osier dogwood is a relative of bunchberry, a lovely little flower you have probably encountered if you've been out hiking in the woodlands of the northern half of North America.

The inner bark mixed with other plants or minerals can make beige, pink, red, and black dyes.
Red-osier Dogwood has an impressive tolerance to cold; in the laboratory, it could withstand temperatures as low as -320 degrees F!

As a restoration species... 

 Its extensive, fibrous root system that holds soil well, along with its tolerance to flooding makes Red-osier an excellent choice for stream bank restoration projects.

Dogwood can be propagated by “live staking”- cutting off segments of branches 18-24 inches long, and driving 75% (ideally) of their length into the ground.  In adequate growing conditions, the stems will then grow roots and shoots and a dogwood clone is created!
(If considering a live staking project, be sure to read more about the process and the "Ethics of Plant Collection" here).
Paul Wray, Iowa State University,


Red-osier dogwood is used for food and refuge by large grazing animals (deer, mountain goat, elk, and moose) a variety of song and game birds, bears, small mammals, and even cutthroat trout.

The fruit of the red-osier dogwood is low in sugar, so is less appealing to wildlife during summer/fall and is also less inclined to rot.  Consequently, the fruit stays on the plant and is a valuable food source in the winter.


As a landscaping species...   

Red-osier dogwood is an excellent choice for your garden!  It is easy to establish in a range of conditions (given adequate moisture), grows rapidly, is drought tolerant (once established), and is less palatable to deer than many ornamental shrubs.

Though it requires little care, this dogwood can be cut down (coppiced) to 2-3 inches in late fall or early spring to stimulate the growth of new stems with vivid red- burgundy color.

Red-osier dogwood is another plant offered in Cascadia's 2012 Native Plant Sale, ending February 15th!  Visit our website to find an order form and brochure or take a look at our "Cascadia Quarterly" Fall 2011 newsletter for more details on this and other available plants. 

Do you have any facts or stories about this or
 other native species?  Have you used their
 materials in a craft project?  Have you witnessed
 wildlife nesting or foraging among their branches?
Please share in the comment box below!

Would you like to learn more
about certain other native plant species? I will be
blogging a bit more on natives in the next few
months, so let me know!
Paul Henjum,

Thanks for reading!

 Your Friend in Conservation,



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reduce, Re-use and Recycle your Holiday Waste
Did you know…

 “Approximately 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in North America every year…” (EPA)
“…the 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high…” (Use Less Stuff)
“About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season…” (EPA)
 “Americans throw away 25% more trash in the Thanksgiving to New Year’s than any other time of year.  The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage…” (Use Less Stuff)

These numbers are staggering, especially when you think of all that “stuff” heading to the landfill. This week’s blog is a collection of thoughts about how to reduce these numbers, courtesy of Cascadia staff and my good friend, the Internet:
Reduce:  Bring your cloth grocery bags on your holiday shopping trips or ask for no bag if you can easily carry your purchases out without one. If you happen to forget your reusable shopping bag, ask for paper bags and then use them as wrapping paper.  Opting out of gift boxes provided by clothing stores is a great way to reduce the amount of cardboard used during the holidays.

Buy recycled-content Christmas cards, wrapping paper, and gifts.  If you’re in the market for batteries or battery-operated gadgets, buy rechargeable.  Even better, give the gift of a rechargeable-battery charger!
Save energy and increase the lifespan of your holiday lights by turning them off during the day.  If you are purchasing new lights, choose LED, they will conserve further energy and last longer too.
One of my many hobbies is sewing, and so I wrap presents in fabric from my fabric stash.  I either use pieces I don’t mind losing to a fellow "crafter", or I just simply ask for the fabric back.  The Sunday comics also serve as good wrapping material, as the ink doesn't smudge. 
Kate, a Cascadia Resource Specialist, brought up this good point about Christmas trees:

"Even though fake Christmas trees are reusable, they are often made of petroleum products and discarded after a few years (filling landfills with bulk that takes a long time to degrade). Getting a tree-cutting permit (usually $5 from the Forest Service) and making the trip to cut one from the forest is a better choice. Many of the forests in our area are overstocked with trees and reducing the amount of small trees now will help forest health in the long run. Also, live trees can be chipped and used as mulch in gardens or parks."
Learn where to harvest Christmas trees in Chelan County and good tree-cutting etiquette from the Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest Service. 

Malene Thyssen,
 Re-use:  Try not to destroy ribbons and wrapping paper- particularly on large packages or those with nice paper- so you can save and use the materials in subsequent years. 

Amanda, Cascadia’s Ed and Outreach Specialist, offers:

"The main way I re-use around Christmas is by “re-bagging.” I always keep Christmas gifts bags for use again next year. We keep a box in the closet full of Christmas bags that we get out every year  rather than buying new ones each time."
At Cascadia’s holiday party, Amanda’s white elephant gift was stolen from her (as part of the game), but she did hang on to the festive bag that it came in!
In addition to stashing away supplies for next year’s gift wrapping, there are plenty of fun, creative activities that incorporate recycled materials.  A lot are great for kids, and are a wonderful way to teach them a valuable lesson in recycling! 
Make ornaments, paper chain garlands, and gift tags out of old holiday cards and wrapping paper.

Christmas lights have that annoying habit of going into the box at the end of the season in working order, and being burned out when you take them out of the box the following year. Instead of throwing them out in a fit of frustration, get crafty!  (If you’re not so inclined, see the recycling section below for other ways to keep strings of lights out of the landfill). Use burned-out Christmas lights (and also regular light bulbs) to make ornaments. Researching this topic on the internet, I came across some really wonderful ideas for penguin, snowmen/women, and reindeer ornaments!  Make jewelry out of small Christmas lights. There are how-to articles about this online too.
If you’ve got the appropriate space, take your Christmas tree out to your yard and create some backyard bird habitat! Birds will appreciate the refuge that the downed tree provides, especially if you’ve got a birdfeeder nearby.  You can also partially submerge your tree in a backyard pond to enhance aquatic habitat.  If you have the means, grind it up and use the woodchips for mulch.

Kris De Curtis
Recycle:  There are several companies on the web (search for “recycle Christmas lights”) that will take old strands of holiday lights and recycle the parts.  In exchange, they will send you a coupon you can use to buy new ones (brand-specific). is a great resource for reducing, reusing, and recycling! Their database provides information on centers that accept all kinds of materials, from cardboard and glass to technology and industrial products.

In Chelan County, Dolco Packaging (1121 S Columbia Street, Wenatchee) is a 24-hour, free drop-off center that recycles Styrofoam.  Please note: not all Styrofoam is created equal.  You can call (509) 663-8541, or drop by and there may be signs up on site indicating which Styrofoam types they accept. 

Don’t let your tree go to waste!  That tree provided you with holiday cheer, and can now be put towards other good causes.  The Boy Scouts and the Chelan County Public Works' annual tree recycling program is also scheduled this year for Saturdays, December 31 and January 7 at four locations around Chelan County.  See their flyer for the details!
While some of these ideas might be a little too late for this year, there’s always next year!

For a great checklist of more ways to reduce your ecological footprint during the holidays, visit:

If you have other ideas, please share them in the comment box below, we’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Your Friend in Conservation,


Monday, December 19, 2011

Staying Warm and Happy: Part Two

Winter Safety
The view west from Echo Ridge, Chelan Washington  (Photo by J. Leach).

It feels like just yesterday we were enjoying nice, mild fall weather here in central Washington, and now, with our first snowstorm behind us, winter is well on its way.  This week’s blog is devoted to ways that we can all stay safe this winter.

First off, it’s confusing trying to keep track of the different types of warnings that news programs broadcast (along with dramatic scenes of weather-caused chaos) to inform you about weather that is coming your way.  Here’s an explanation of the various winter weather terms (from NOAA's National Weather Service website):

WINTER STORM WATCH: Severe winter conditions, such as heavy snow and/or ice, are possible within the next day or two. Prepare now!

WINTER STORM WARNING: Severe winter conditions have begun or are about to begin in your area. Stay indoors!
BLIZZARD WARNING: Snow and strong winds will combine to produce a blinding snow (near zero visibility), deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill.  Seek refuge immediately!
WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY: conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous. If caution is exercised, these situations should not become life- threatening. The greatest hazard is often to motorists.

FROST/FREEZE WARNING: Below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause significant damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees.

If you do venture out in stormy weather and have the misfortune of getting stuck in your vehicle…


Stay in the vehicle. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. You may become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow. Display a trouble sign by hanging a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raising the hood. Turn on the vehicle's engine for about 10 minutes each hour and run the heat to keep warm. Also, turn on the vehicle's dome light when the vehicle is running as an additional signal. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Do minor exercises to keep up circulation. Clap hands and move arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long. If more than one person is in the vehicle, take turns sleeping. For warmth, huddle together. Use newspapers, maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation. Avoid overexertion since cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a vehicle can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.

And make sure that when you do head outside– whether for snow-filled fun or just to run errands– to dress appropriately (because you just never know!)…


Wear loose-fitting, light-weight, warm clothing in several layers. Trapped air insulates. Layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and subsequent chill. Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded. Wear a hat. Half your body heat loss can be from the head. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from extreme cold. Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves. Try to stay dry. (photo by E. Boutet)

There is plenty you can do at the beginning of winter to be prepared:
  • Be sure to have an emergency kit in your house AND in your car (and also check for kits at work, your child’s daycare, etc.).  For a list of kit supplies, and much more about winter preparedness, visit these websites:
  • Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends or neighbors
  •  Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk as more people tend to enjoy and/or depend on alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Make sure all your animals have access to a good supply of non-frozen drinking water, as dehydration is one of the main dangers to animals during the winter season.,_day_of_snow
Another way to be prepared for whatever nature might throw your way (regardless of the time of year), is to create a plan for what to do if family members get separated during a disaster.  One main component of a family disaster plan is choosing an emergency contact.  This should be someone who lives out-of-area, as local lines often get tied up during an emergency. A back-up emergency contact should also be chosen and all family members should know where and how to access that person’s contact information.

Find all the information you will need to create a plan in the Red Cross “Family Disaster Plan” publication.

A word from “Picture the Wenatchee”
photo by J. Leach

Ice can be a real safety hazard.  I’ve already taken a few good falls walking down my road this year!  As you deliberate on how to deal with icy conditions this winter, please consider this:

Rock salt and similar de-icing compounds can be very detrimental to the environment, our vehicles and bridges, our gardens and lawns, our pets, even us.  These compounds, when concentrated (as they are in de-icing agents) are toxic to plants (note the brown vegetation along the highways), and stick around in soils, hindering water-uptake in plants and soil-dwelling organisms.  They seep into waterways and cause issues for aquatic animals and plants. They can seep into our groundwater supplies.  Some can be corrosive to metal, and cause burns on skin and pet paws. And if you’ve got a dog (or a child for that matter) who likes to eat everything, ingested de-icing compounds can make them miserably sick.

So, what to do?!

The best thing, of course, is to not use de-icers at all!

o   Try to keep up with snowfall, and shovel or sweep paths and driveways clear before that snow compacts and turns to ice.
o   Break up ice manually.  It’s a great workout!
o   Use sand instead.  It won’t melt the ice, but will provide traction.  Be sure to sweep and dispose of it when it is no longer needed, as sand can accumulate pollutants that can be transferred to our waterways via runoff.
o   Invest in some attachable traction devices for your shoes.  And I use the word “invest” lightly; most of these products cost $20 and under, and work amazingly well!

If you do still decide to de-ice chemically…

o   Follow the manufacturer instructions and know the maximum amount to apply to avoid over-application (start slow, you may not need nearly the amount specified).
o   Choose a product with a mixture of chemicals to minimize the accumulation of any one compound.
o   Throw down a small amount of de-icer BEFORE a significant snow fall to help reduce the amount of product needed. 
o   Once the product loosens up the ice or snow pack, shovel the area so it won’t refreeze (the snowmelt will dilute the effectiveness of the chemicals if you just let it sit). Then keep the pavement dry so you won’t need to do another application.
o   On dry days, sweep up and dispose of loose salt and de-icer to prevent the excess being washed into nearby waterways.
o   Learn more about the products you are using. There’s some great information online. (You can start by looking at the “De-icer” references at the end of this post).

Changing your de-icing habits is another way to be a watershed steward! Visit our "Picture the Wenatchee" website to learn about other things you can do to improve water quality in your watershed!

And with that, have a safe AND happy winter!

Your Friend in Conservation,


Winter Safety