Rain! Bears! Seeds! Colors!

It is refreshing to have the nip of Fall in the air now, to be free of the smoke that swallowed the Seattle area for so long this summer. We got ½” of rain in mid-September. Yay! That was enough to perk up the Sword Ferns (Polystichum munitum) a little bit and damp down the trail dust. I’m not sure if that first rain was enough to trigger the “first flush” phenomenon; the first rains of Autumn are a mixed blessing. They wash contaminants—chemicals and hydrocarbons—off pavements and lawns and into lakes and streams. Those of us in cities and suburbs (with lots of ‘impervious surfaces’) will have to get past this before the water clears. That is one excellent reason to keep as much water-filtering natural vegetation as possible.

More rain is in the forecast. It will take a while before the creeks start to fill their beds and the rivers rise enough to welcome the spawning salmon home to their natal beds. Aptly named Bear Creek, which flows past Tadpole Haven, hosts a relatively healthy salmon population. I don’t know if there are still enough returning salmon for their spawned-out carcasses to nourish our bears, but I’m sure the bears will appreciate whatever they can find.

Speaking of bears, you will be thrilled to know that I found more bear poop! Two mornings in a row, in the same spot: in the middle of the driveway, right in front of God, the Pope and everybody. NOT in the woods. Handy, for me, the intrepid bear-poop hunter-gatherer.  More seeds to plant!*

I still haven’t gathered seeds from the Foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata). It has produced a lot of seeds, but it just keeps on blooming! It’s been blooming since April, I think. A perennial plant, whose constellations of petite white-to-pinkish flowers reach a modest 15” height, Foamflower looks terrific when planted in multiples. A nice patch of Foamflower gives the illusion of sea foam on the waves of green. The 3-leaflet leaves usually don’t die back completely in the winter—they just flatten to the earth and wait for spring.


Foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata)

Foamflower is often found in the same habitat as Vine Maple (Acer circinatum): shade (at least partial) with good drainage. They are both often under an open canopy of large evergreen trees like Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) and Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Foamflower is part of the forest floor layer of vegetation, helping provide shelter for insects, amphibians and essential decomposers. Vine Maple, which can reach 20’ or so, fills a mid-level niche in the forest, providing cover and food for birds and small mammals.

Vine Maple in full shade tends to bow over at a certain height, creating dramatic, graceful arches. Thus the name, VINE Maple. In open areas, such as roadsides, it grows more erect, and exposure to the sun helps it develop stunning Fall color. Already, I’m seeing some beautiful colors on them: peach to orange to coral and crimson.

You can observe those gorgeous colors along Paradise Lake Road on your way to Tadpole Haven Native Plants!

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