[Tweeters] March Rust

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Mon Mar 31 13:47:22 PDT 2014

I typically think of rust as being a fall color, but around wet side Washington, we got a bit of spring rust too.
Take ol' Rusty, the male Rufous Hummingbird. The first male Rufous showed up at my parents Port Townsend home on 2/28, corresponding nicely to the earliest bloom of Red-flowering currant in their yard. The numbers of these birds increased at roughly the same rate as the currant blooms did- the shrub now in it's full glory. Now they seem to be around as much as those winterized Californian Annas, that have been at the feeder all winter. It is kinda interesting that the long time native hummer here is so colorful. Is there a connection between rusty colored hummers and rain? I suppose there is probably another explanation.
Another neato bit of rust in the landscape right now, about as obscure as the hummer is flamboyant, is the humble shrub Soopollallie. Known by the higher-priced name of Shepherdia canadensis, this shrub, widespread in northern North America, has a sort of scattered distribution in western Washington. It kind of likes slightly drier locales,such as in rain shadowy areas like Port Townsend, the San Juans, etc. As a young naturalist, I first discovered it on the Chuckanut shores of Bellingham, and around Deception Pass. So check it out.
Right now in Port Townsend this shrub is just starting to open up. It's small new leaves are rusty beneath, held upright before they unfold, . and it's teeny little green flowers are blooming - only visible from a few inches away. Oh sure, it's subtle, but I consider the plant as having a lot of charisma. Something to look for when out and about in the right spot.One of those plants that makes life more interesting, if not spectacular, like the flowering currant.
Another interesting place to find the Soopollalie, is in the dry forests along the east shore of Ross Lake in the North Cascades. There, in the local rain shadow of the Picket Range, great patches of this shrub make up the shrub understory in places. The East Bank trail, along Ross Lake is a real botanical hotspot, which I'll post more on later. Birding is real good too.
So there's a little spring rust..

Jeff Gibsonjust sayin', inEverett wa

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