[Tweeters] On the Lone Prairie

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Mon Apr 14 21:36:19 PDT 2014

" I took the ferry to the lone prairie,

I was looking blue and the Camas was too"

- Hank Williams Gibson

( to the tune of 'Don't bury me on the lone prairie')

Yessiree, I was needin' a break from herdin' the elderly (my parents) here in Port Townsend today when I hopped in my (mostly) trusty truck and headed to the prairie.( Of course I had to put ol' trusty on a ferry to get here first, from home across the sound in Mudville, and trusty has been hitched up out in the driveway here for a few days, watching gravel).

Yup, we went to the lone prairie right here in ol' Port Townsend. Hell, I didn't even know there was one till I read all about it on the Washington Native Plant Society's Olympic chapter website.

You see, due to our squirrely topography around the general "Puget Sound Lowlands" area, we got rain shadows and such, and add a bunch of funky glacial deposits from the latest ice age, and the combined effects of all that conspire to allow the formation of prairies in the region between the soggy Olympic and Cascade Mnts. Small prairies.

Habitat afficianado's might already know of the "Tacoma Praries", and other South Sound prairies, with their Garry Oaks. Well there is some of that habitat North too, around Victoria BC, some of the San Juan Islands, ect. A short Orca swim from Port Townsend across Admiralty inlet to Whidbey Island, are remnants of the fairly large Ebey Prairie.

We should thank the "First People" (AKA Native Americans, Indians, etc.) for alot of what's left of our present prairies, because those people were pyrophilias,( I just made that word up), by which I mean they liked to use fire as a tool to improve their own environment. By the occasional set grass fire they kept the Conifer forests from taking over the little prairies. That way they got to harvest yummy (with preparation) oak acorns, but even more so, a number of edible bulbs which were important to their diet, Camas being maybe the most well known.

Anyhoo, I'd heard about and visited many of the above mentioned little prairies, but I'd never heard about Port Townsends, which was historically much more extensive than at present. A little remnant of it (nurtured by the WNPS folks) is located in the SE corner of the PT Golf Course. While puny, it is pretty cool I think. What right now initially looks to be an unmown section of lawn full of dandelions and escaped grape hyacinths, turns out on closer inspection, to be a nice selection of native flowers, the yellow being Lomatium and the blue Camas. The Camas is just getting started. A few Chocolate Lilies just beginning too.

The evidence is there that this ground really wants to be a Snowberry and Nootka Rose patch, followed by firs, but the native plant folks are keeping it open. They even (with fire dept. help), set it on fire at least once, which helped the flowers and kept them pesky shrubs and trees out.

Aiming, I guess, toward creating a bit of Oak- savannah, the folks have even planted a few young Garry Oaks. A single Savannah Sparrow singing on a rock in the prairie was giving it's blessing. Lots of different birds like prairies!

Jeff Gibson

Reporting from the prairies of
Port Townsend Wa

P.S Wish I could sing like Hank.

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