Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Sunshine's first peak through the trees on a summer morning up in Entiat Meadows.

A view of some of our wonderful shrub steppe.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches it’sappropriate to think about everything that we have to be thankful for. There’s always the old, traditional choices of friends, family, good health, home, food, etc. Nothing wrong with those options of course, but what of the other options we don’t always think about? Things like trees, rivers, lakes, snow, rocks, sunshine, and mountains. All these things are a product of our environment and where we live. And it’s worth taking the time to look at them and appreciate what they offer us.
Imagine the world. Think of the variety between places. Freezing snowscapes where the snow lies as a blanket much of the year. Barren desertscapes covered in sand, the wind constantly reshaping the ground. Watery oceanscapes where you’d need gills to fully appreciate the life under the surface.
Snow lining a creek in late winter.
When you stop and think about all the options out there you realize what we have here is not something to forget and ignore. It’s something to appreciate and be thankful for. We live in an area with a great abundance and variety of natural resources. Our ecosystems range from shrub steppe to mountain to forest to alpine to freshwater. There’s a little of it all here.

What use are the rocks and the mountains you may wonder? They provide us with vistas and sceneries to ponder. Being so tall they also trap the snow. And keep it up high where it can accumulate. The snow provides us with a winter playground perfect for skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. But it also melts in the spring, filling creeks, lakes, and rivers with fresh water all year long. This water in turn provides for us in many more ways. It provides a home for the fish that we like to catch. A source for our water hungry crops, which in turn provide us with the food we enjoy eating. This water also provides us with our low cost, renewable, and relatively clean power supply.
The last vestige of snow in Cow Creek Meadows.
The trees in the forest provide for us too. They give us lumber to build our homes and fuel for our fireplaces. We get to enjoy their beauty from afar and up close. They shade us from the sun’s heat by a remote lake or creek. And perhaps most importantly they provide us with oxygen to breathe—while at the same time pulling carbon dioxide out of the air.
The sunshine is perhaps the most useful of all. For without it nothing would live here either big or small. The sun warms us with its soft, yellow rays. Though it may not seem like it on a cold winter day. Without the sun nothing could grow. For the plants need it to photosynthesize as many of you know. The sun gives us our glorious summer. But it can also burn you, which is a small bummer.

When Thursday comes round and you’re ready to eat. And you’re starting to carve your favorite roast meat. Just remember all the things that our outside around you. And maybe this year try to give thanks for them too.

Snowmelt flowing down Ingalls Creek.
Remember all that Cascadia is offering right now. There’s the Native Plant Sale that still has plenty of plants left to choose from. We’re also hosting a Native Planting 101 workshop on February 8, 2014 from 12:00 PM - 4:30 PM. It’s a perfect opportunity to learn about ways to use all the native plants you can purchase from the Plant Sale. Last, but not least, we have 2014 Picture the Wenatchee Watershed Calendars. The calendars feature winning photographs from our photo contest earlier this year. Visit our website,, and click on the links down the right side to find more information about these three things as well as order forms to order your native plants and calendars.
The beginning of the Entiat River.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christmas Trees

If you take children along to cut a tree you can get them 
to carry it, and use that moment to take a cute photo.
So you want to cut your own Christmas tree? There are two reasons that come to mind when people choose to get their own tree. Either you hate paying $40 or $50 for a tree (don’t blame you), or you enjoy going out with your family and friends to pick out a perfect tree together. Personally, I combine both reasons. I like that it’s cheaper, and I enjoy spending the day driving through the forest looking for a tree. But you can’t just go anywhere you want and cut whatever tree you want. There are rules that need to be followed. For a complete listing of the rules visit the forest service website that outlines everything for you.

However, I’m still going to give you the basics of the rules. A quick and dirty version if you will:

1)      You will need a tree permit
a.       A mere $5 at a forest service office
2)      Trees must be less than 15 feet tall.
3)      Leave at most a 6 inch stump.
4)      Try not to cut the only tree in an area.
5)      Only cut trees within national forest lands.
6)      Do not cut any tree within 150 feet of any water, flowing or still.
7)      Do not cut trees out of campgrounds or other related sites

And now for a quick rundown of tree care:

1)      Be gentle with your tree as you transport it to prevent needle and limb loss.
2)      If tying your tree to the top of a car you may wish to wrap it to prevent wind damage.
3)      Once to your home make a fresh cut on the tree base and place directly in water.
4)      Keep tree in a cool, wind free place until you take it into the house.
5)      Do not put the tree next to any sources of ignition.
6)      Properly dispose of your tree.

That should cover the basics of cutting your own tree. On top of that remember to stay safe while you’re out there. Only take vehicles that you know can handle the rapidly changing conditions of winter forest service roads. A snow storm can start and dump inches of snow in the time it takes you to track down a Christmas tree.

The beginnings of Christmas trees. 
Talking about cutting your own Christmas tree kind of ignores the first decision that must be made when choosing a tree: real or fake? There are people that argue both sides for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look.
The first reason is almost always aesthetical. It’s either you can’t tell the difference between them (those in favor of fake trees), or you’ll never beat the natural look (those in favor of a real tree). From there the argument usually dives into how you can’t beat the natural pine smell, and the other side arguing that’s a good thing. And then it turns into an argument of needles. The fake tree people say that it’s much easier to clean up, and the other side returns that it’s not so bad. Just make sure to get the right tree and they’ll hardly lose any needles. And finally you get to the cost argument. Well if you go cut your own tree it’s only $5! Yeah, well that $200 fake tree will be usable for years to come. It’ll add up. So this goes on and on for a while and neither side really bends. So who’s right? It’s really based on your own preferences.
Let’s start with the visual arguments. I personally think that a fake tree looks fake, which defeats the purpose of getting a tree in the first place. But, to be honest, it doesn’t look that bad. (Assuming of course it’s a fake green tree, and not one of the bright neon trees.)
The pine smell. This is at least half the reason I like real Christmas trees. It’s as if you get to bring the forest into your home for a month and enjoy it without having to go outdoors. I do realize that some people don’t care about the smell, or they find it offensive, and for them a fake tree may be more appropriate.
A few years old. Trees can take anywhere from 6 to 10
years to be ready for harvest.
The needles can be a pain, I agree. And there have been years that I had to vacuum almost every day just to keep my living room looking clean. But on the other hand my tree last year had next to no needle loss, and it continued to hold its needles well after I had taken it down and thrown it outside. (I should have made a note what type of tree it was, but of course I forgot.) The takeaway is that needle loss can be fairly well avoided with proper watering and tree selection.
The cost argument is usually what gets me. I hate spending $40 on a live tree. Let alone $200 or more on a fake tree. I do realize that if you do normally buy live trees for $40 or more that it quickly adds up from year to year. In that case buying an artificial tree might be cost effective. But remember when considering the cost effectiveness of buying a fake tree that you may not get all the years out of it you think you will. You may think that the tree will last you 10 or 15 years, when in reality it may only last you 5 before it gets too beat up to use anymore. And if you cut your own tree for only $5 it’s hard to argue the cost effectiveness of buying an artificial tree. (Even with factoring in $10 or $15 each year for the gas cost of getting your tree.)

Now let’s explore some environmental factors that might influence your decision. Mainly, which is more environmentally friendly? From the few studies that I could find that explored this issue neither one is that bad for the environment. Especially when compared to things such as driving to work every day. If you travel only a few miles to get a real tree than it can often be less environmentally damaging when compared to a fake tree. But that was based on a 6 year lifespan of an artificial tree. Increasing that lifespan or increasing the distance to get a real tree could flip the results around. However, it should be noted that parking your car for a week or two could offset the environmental cost of either option for any given year.

In conclusion the choice is yours. Depending on what you’re looking for you could choose a real or an artificial tree. Neither one has a huge advantage over the other. If you want to go with a live tree and want to cut it yourself remember to follow the rules and stay safe.

Make sure to tune in next week for another article.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Seed Dormancy

Some seeds have this odd thing about them. They don’t sprout at the first moment that conditions are ideal. Why would they do this? It increases the rate of their survival. These seeds are in a state of dormancy. This isn’t the same as hibernation. Hibernation is something that an organism chooses to go into. Seeds don’t choose to enter dormancy when winter is coming or the soil dries out. They have no choice. It’s something they start out in. Dormancy keeps seeds from sprouting during decent conditions because it’s forcing them to wait until a time they’d have a better chance of survival.

Do all plant species produce seeds that go through dormancy? No, because not all of them need to. A seed dropped during October isn't going to sprout. The conditions aren't ideal for germination (the point when a seed sprouts and the plant first starts growing). It’ll wait until the spring and then it will sprout up. Also, seeds from plants living in areas with a fairly constant year round climate (such as an equatorial rainforest) can often be non-dormant. The conditions on any given day are so similar to any other day that there’s no reason to go through dormancy.
However, a seed dropped in August may need dormancy. September might be a damp, warm month, and a non-dormant seed might thing it was okay to sprout. And for a few weeks or a month it might grow just fine. At least until it started to drop below freezing and started snowing. At that point the seedling would probably die. However, with dormancy the seed is prevented from sprouting during the fall. Some mechanism in the seed prevents it from sprouting until it receives a signal canceling the dormancy. The dormant seed then rides out the winter safely, and it’s not until spring that it finally sprouts and grows. Instead of having a month or two to grow in the fall, this new seedling will have six or seven months to grow. This extra growth might make all the difference in the plant’s survival.

Seed dormancy can take a variety of forms and require a variety of cues in order to be broken. These forms include physical, physiological, morphological, morphophysiological, and combination dormancy. The cues can vary wildly, anything from a period of cold to one of heat, a time of dryness to one of dampness. Let’s take a brief look at each of the different forms.
Physical dormancy is probably the simplest form. In this form water is blocked from entering the seed by the seed coat. It’s only after a period of time and environmental factors that the seed coat is made permeable (allows the passage of water). At this point the seed can germinate once favorable conditions arrive.
Physiological dormancy is caused by internal chemical suppression of germination. The environmental factors might be favorable for growth, but the cue has not come to release the stranglehold on germination. This cue (at least in our area) often takes the form of a certain time length of cold temperatures. In much hotter climates this could be reversed and require a period of high temperatures. Other seeds might require a period of darkness, one that might only occur in the short days of winter, or with snow cover.
Morphological dormancy is a product of having seeds that can’t germinate because they’re not ready yet. The plant dropped seeds that were not yet developed enough to germinate. The seeds need time on the ground just to reach the point where germination could start.
Morphophysiological dormancy is a combination of physiological and morphological dormancy. The seedling is both underdeveloped and chemically prevented from germinating. This means that one of the environmental cues must occur and then a period of time must pass before the seed will sprout.
The final form is a mix of physical and physiological dormancy. The seed has both a water impermeable seed coat and it requires environmental cues to allow germination.

Think about the work it’s taken to grow what we want, where we want, and when we want. The seeds we buy to plant in our gardens aren’t always non-dormant varieties. Many of them had their innate dormancy bred out of them by humans selecting for seeds that germinated easier. Other seeds may need to be tricked into thinking that all their environmental cues had been met. They may be dried out and put in a fridge for a few months, put in a dark room, or kept warm for a few weeks. Think of the effort it takes to trick these seeds into growing for our needs. And that’s not to say we know how to trick all plant seeds. There are still species we don’t understand which cues they need to break dormancy.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Native Plant Sale

Cascadia has started accepting orders for the 2014 Native Plant Sale. This year we’re offering 12 different native species. These 12 species can be grouped into four basic categories: coniferous trees, deciduous trees, shrubs, and ground cover. With 12 different options there is bound to be something perfect for whatever your landscaping needs may be. Native plants are ideal for creating a new native garden, restoring a damaged site, or they can just as easily be used as a compliment to an already existing garden.
What makes native plants so amazing? They know the area. Native plants evolved under our natural climate and conditions. That means that they don’t require the constant watering, fertilizing, or tending to that many ornamental plants require. Once established, native plants will flourish with very little upkeep on your part. Visit our website for more information. Order yours today!

Since we’re starting to take orders for our native plant sale, I feel it’s only appropriate to spend some time talking about the different plant species we’re offering this year. This week I’m going to cover four plants: ponderosa pine, rocky mountain maple, golden currant, and serviceberry.

Ponderosa Pine
Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) is the only conifer we’re offering this year, but it’s a good one. Ponderosas have a native range that goes from southern Canada to Mexico.  They grow in a wide range of soils provided there is enough moisture and drainage. It frequents areas receiving 14-30 inches of annual precipitation, much of this as snow in the winter. Once established it is fairly well suited at surviving periods of drought, such as the summer months. Ponderosas do not like shade. In order to properly grow they need access to direct sunlight. They work very well as an erosion control due to their quick growth and ability to grow in many soil types. They can live for several hundred years and reach heights of over 100 feet with diameters of more than 2 feet.

Rocky Mountain Maple
Rocky Mountain Maple (Acer glabrum) is one of two deciduous trees on sale this year. It covers a large range the goes from Southern Alaska all the way down to California. Rocky Mt. Maple can thrive in a variety of sites with adequate moisture, from moist lowlands to dry uplands. It tolerates shade well enough to grow as an understory species, but can also grow with full sun in exposed areas. Depending on the conditions it can grow as a shrub or tree. It can reach heights of 30 feet with adequate space.


Serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) is another of the eight shrubs offered this year. It is found throughout western North America at low to mid elevations. It grows in many site types, full sun to shade, moist to dry, and level to steep. It grows best with over 12 inches of yearly precipitation and good drainage with decent sun exposure. It works well as a stabilizer because of its large root system. It produces many white blooms in the spring and in late summer provides berries for wildlife. It grows anywhere from six to fifteen tall with similar amount of spread.

Golden Currant
Golden currant (Ribes aureum) is the one of eight shrubs up for sale this year. Its range covers an area from Canada south to Southern California or Northern Mexico. They grow in a variety of sites, from damp, brushy sites to exposed, rocky hillsides. It generally prefers good sun exposure. The flowers are bright yellow and cover the plant in the spring. Later in summer it produces small berries that are eaten by a variety of wildlife. The bush usually reaches heights and spreads around six feet.

That’s just a brief look at four of our plants offered this year. I’ll do this two more times at the beginning of December and January to finish covering all of our offered plants. If any of these plant species sound appealing, make sure to visit our website and download the brochure and order form. 

Tune in next week for another article.