Facts are a Wonderful Alternative

We recently got Cable TV. For years, we have been blissfully out of touch with fear-inducing TV news stories of deadly car wrecks and mini-mart stickups. Seeking to soothe my jangled nerves, I discovered that botanical research calms me and expands my mind and horizons in a chemical-and stress-free manner.

Yesterday I decided to learn more about Henderson’s Checkermallow (Sidalcea hendersonii), also known as Marsh Hollyhock. I like to think that I know something about this perennial member of the Mallow family (Malvaceae). The flower stalks reach much higher than its basal leaves. The bright columns of pink blossoms can be over four feet tall. I know that it does well in moist to wet sunny conditions, but can also thrive in partial shade or in relatively dry soil. Full afternoon sun and sandy soil cause it to suffer – I know — I’m guilty of Checkermallow abuse—lock me up!). It seeds itself prolifically (sometimes you may have too much of a good thing). But I did not know what plants are its natural companions in the wild; I have never seen it in nature!

Though it thrives in a cultivated garden, Henderson’s Checkermallow is surprisingly rare throughout its range (SE Alaska south to Oregon’s coast). In fact , it is classed as rare in British Columbia and Oregon. Perhaps it used to be more common, before human-caused habitat destruction. It grows in a smattering of coastal locations, including at least one site on Whidbey Island, in tidal marshes and estuaries, ditches and meadows near salt water. I learned that researchers had found it growing with bulrushes and grasses, including Tufted Hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa). Also with the yellow-flowering groundcover, Pacific Silverweed (Argentina egedii), the Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) shrub and Hooker’s Willow (Salix hookeriana).

IMGP4427 SIDALCEA HENDERSONII

So there you have it! Don’t you feel better? I’ll bet you have momentarily forgotten the increasIng nuclear capabilities of North Korea, the composition of the three-drug death penalty cocktail and the danger of falling prey to a texting driver! Facts are a wonderful alternative!

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