Garry Oak Meadow–Late Summer

Garry Oak Meadow–Late Summer

When I walked through the dry, brown meadow in late summer, it seemed barren. At closer look, I began to see the delicate beauty of the seedpods. Some were obvious to identify, like the monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus) and great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) and others brought questions to explore later.

The moisture-loving monkey flower has formed delicate pods packed with tiny seeds now that the vernal streams have dried in the summer heat.

I was delighted to find some ladies tresses orchids (Spiranthes romanzoffiana) growing alongside the old wagon trail that I use as a path. Their pure white blossoms looked surprisingly fresh in contrast to the brown grasses all around them. The orchids bloomed near a stand of trees, which gave them a bit of shade and perhaps were an indication of moisture deep in the soil. Meadow bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus pinnatus) was forming pea-like seed pods, although a few blossoms still remained. The snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) had both blossoms and berries, sometimes on the same stem. They grew in the shade of the oaks as well.

The dried grasses were brittle and broken but the great camas pods still stood stiffly to attention. When I touched the pods, I could hear the seeds rattling inside. Much to my surprise, I found some demure ladies tresses orchids blooming in the heat and drought of the meadow. Their blossoms radiate around the stem, resembling long braided hair.
I was delighted to find several stands of these white, fluffy yampah blossoms floating over the meadow, bouncing in the breeze. Yampah (Perideridia gairdneri) is also known as wild carrot, and as the name indicates, was a food source for indigenous peoples. They ground the roots to make flour, which according to Lewis and Clark, tasted “not unlike annis seed”. Many of us are familiar with the non-native Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) that grows abundantly in our fields and roadsides, but theses native wild carrots are much more delicate, lacy and fresh looking.
The stands of Oregon white oak trees gives shelter to smaller ash trees and many shrubs that fruit in the autumn, and are important food for wildlife getting ready for winter.
Western dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), saskatoon (Amelachier alnifolia) and oval-leafed viburnum (Viburnum ellipticum) all fruit this time of year in the dappled shade of the oaks.

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. Lovely, lovely sketches of your local flora. It’s an interesting time of year for plants and I love all the different seed pods. Another favourite here in the New Forest is the huge variety of fungi which have started to appear.

    • Angela, Glad you like the sketches! It’s been too dry here for fungi, but when the autumn rains start, I’ll have to keep watch for them. They would be a new area of discovery for me. Thanks for your comment!!

  2. Janene, I have just discovered your blog and am excited to review your previous posts. I also just discovered a lovely stand of ladies tresses in our pasture. What wonderful plants they are. I am attempting a go at painting them. Your art is lovely and an inspiration.
    Kind Regards

    • Robin, Thank you for your kind comment! How wonderful that you have Ladies Tresses on your property! They are such fascinating plants. I hope you enjoy painting them.

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