Garry Oak Meadow–May

Garry Oak Meadow–May

The meadow has become lush under the clouds and rainy weather of May. Stately great camas, Camassia leichtlinii, has a queenly presence over the smaller wildflowers. I saw a stand of it for the first time when I peeked into an ordinary looking grove of shrubby ash trees, and to my surprise and delight the purple spires grew throughout the grove, poking up through the tall grasses.

Great camas, Camasia leichtlinii, grows in shady moist areas of the meadow.
In early May, the bright yellow western buttercup intertwines itself with the deep purple spires of the great camas, for a lively mix of complementary colors. The spent petals of the great camas flowers twist around the ovary like a candy wrapper. The toughleaf iris and great camas seem to favor moist dappled shade, but buttercups will grow almost anywhere moist.
In mid-May, the bright orange columbine flowers stand out in the meadow like beacons. The blossoms of this plant are favorites of hummingbirds and butterflies.
Besides providing nectar for butterflies, like the Sylvan Hairstreak (pictured above), Columbine has medicinal properties. The pulp from the roots helped sores to heal and the chewed leaves were spat on sores by indigenous peoples.
Another plant favored by butterflies is the Nootka rose, Rosa nutkana. Both Hairstreak and Mourning Cloak (pictured above) caterpillars feed on Nootka rose leaves. Nootka rose blossoms are the most fragrant of any rose that I know of…just walking by them brings to mind the elegant scents of a Parisian perfumery.
In the intertwined ecosystem of the meadow, the tomcat clover enriches the soil by fixing nitrogen, the wild roses host butterfly larvae and the butterflies in turn pollinates the meadow plants, each part of the system is dependent on the rest.

I am chronicling the tremendous variety of botanical riches in this rare and endangered ecosystem near the lower Columbia River in Oregon. Once the Willamette Valley and many places along the Columbia River Corridor were characterized by oak savanna. Most of these meadows have been lost to development. This is one of the few left and we are not sure how long it will remain. For more information go here. Thank you for joining me on this journey. More to come soon.


  1. Angela Cox says

    These pages are exquisite, what a wonderful area it must be! It must be so worrying that it might all be lost. We have an area in the UK where they are removing ancient forests and woodlands, not to mention people’s houses in order to build a rail line which will knock precisely 20 minutes off the journey time up north! Did you draw the plants with a pencil first and then ink them? They are so lovely.

    • Hi Angela, Thank you! I draw the plants lightly and roughly in pencil first, then ink over them, refining the details as I go since these are meant to be sketches. This method enables me to work quickly, but still gives me space to refine as I go along. Fist I record the habit and general look of the plant in pencil, then fill in more of the details in ink. For me, its much less stressful than going right in with ink. Thanks for your question!

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