[Tweeters] Back on the Lone Prairie

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sat Mar 7 06:24:33 PST 2015

Last April I posted about the Kah Tai Prairie here in Port Townsend, which I "discovered" by snooping on the Washington Native Plant Society's Olympic Chapter website. It's alway nice having help in discovering things.

Anyhoo, I went there yesterday seeking Grass Widows. Now, grass widows are not women who have lost spouse's due to lawn mowing accidents, or maybe to lethal pot growing competition. No, Grass Widows is a plant . That common name is interesting, so I did a few minutes of deep research on the internet as to it's origin, and came up with vague info.
The plant is presently known to botanist's as Olsynium douglasii. I first knew it as Sisyrinchium douglasii, but since then, busy botanist's have changed the name. That's progress! Due to helpful signage at the prairie, I knew this plant was gonna be here, but I missed it last year - it's an early bloomer found in open grassy "bald's" in rain shadowy areas around these parts.
A short plant in the Iris family , it is unique (isn't everybody) with its showy six-petaled flowers. It's one of those colors that words just can't quite fence in. Botany books call it 'reddish purple', which would make it violet on a artists color chart, but it don't look violet to me. Technically, it's bright and real purdy, as we say on the prairie. You could see a bunch of em' at Kah Tai now if you wanna. A few early blooming Lomatiums were the only other prairie bloomers I noted- bright yellow.
As I noted last year, Kah Tai Prairie is a humble affair - a remnant bit of a historically larger habitat here, nurtured by Native Plant Society folks. Truth is, it looks, defined by a low slung white plastic chain fence, like an unmowed old military cemetery plot, without the white crosses - surrounded by the Port Townsend Golf Course in which its located. About the size of a couple of city home lots. Looks like a failure of golf course maintenance .
Humble, but really interesting for a naturalist - the soon to pass Grass Widows will be followed by a sequence of other native prairie flowers. As for birds, my species count for last year was 2 - Savannah Sparrow and California Quail.
As to Grass Widows, if you can't make it to Port Townsend, keep your eyes peeled and to the ground in open balds in places like Deception Pass or Washington Park in Anacortes. The flower is a real beauty. Now's the time.

Jeff Gibsonon the rangePort Townsend Wa

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