A memorable or favorite plant, large or small, found on public lands.
Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.
At first thought, I wanted to write about the huge trees along the west coast that I love so much. But, after a little more digging, I decided to focus on something that surprised me and really made me smile on one of my trips to (YES, You guessed it) the Olympic Peninsula. Western Skunk Cabbage, Lysichiton americanus, is a yellow flowering plant often found in the swamps of the moist northwestern forests. These yellow delights were a surprise for me, as I didn’t really plan ahead by reading about the plants of the Olympic Peninsula.
By the time I laid eyes on one of these plants, I had already been hiking around for an entire day. I had seen some pretty pink flowers, a variety of trees and mosses, and several types of ferns. Expectations were met, and exceeded, with plant life. Little did I know what was coming - in the form of skunk cabbage. I started my trek out to the coast on the Ozette Triangle (Loop) trail and crossed the bridge. If you read last week, this is probably my favorite trail I’ve experienced on public lands. I wasn’t far along the trail, which was mostly a boardwalk, and I noticed these yellow “lily-looking” flowers in the swampy areas.
I saw a few skunk cabbage plants and moved along, feeling pleased to see something new. Every little patch of swamp, I saw more and more. They were everywhere! The yellow flower was the perfect compliment to the varying hues of green in the forest and a stark contrast to the black mud and tannin rich water. I walked on, made it to the coast, and then saw more of them on my way back to the parking lot. I made a Twitter post once back at my motel for the night and I’m pretty sure @Publiclandlvr was the one to clarify what it was for me.
I had one more day on the peninsula, and it was suggest that I visit the Quinault region. I went on the south side, through the little tourist area and then made my way to east end around the lake. I saw beautiful trees and moss, some new trees, and a few more flowers. I decided to take a walk on the Maple Glade Rain Forest Trail. I’m so glad I did, because the water flowing through the swamp and the moss covered broadleaf (leafless) maples was stunning on that misty, foggy day. I did the small loop, already elated at the first sound only to be energized even more seeing the beautiful dots of skunk cabbage among the most brilliant green plants I’ve EVER seen in person. The pictures from that day DO do it justice, because you can see the gorgeous yellow dots and the brilliancy that is the green. What a treat.
Skunk cabbage apparently has an odor, to attract certain pollinators, but I didn’t smell it. Maybe I was high on the ocean air or the misty rain forest smells, but it didn’t hit me. I know the hearty yellow flower isn’t the most IMPRESSIVE plan on public lands, by any means, but it sure is a delight among the rest and something that I have fond memories of seeing for the first time last year on my first real hiking trip to Olympic National Park. I enjoyed every plant I saw on my trip, but I’ll always be excited to visit in the spring and look for good ole skunk cabbage.