Camassia

The neighborhood’s wealth of spring flowers has been a buoyant affair, a fulsome display of all shades of white, pink, and purple. It’s an exuberance of bringing light from shadow, an explosion of life and energy that I so missed in the long grey winter. The contrast is stark, no matter how I try to put a good spin on the cold season.

Spring and all its flowers now
joyously break their vow of silence.
It is time for
celebration, not for
lying low;
you, too –
weed out those
roots of sadness
from your heart.

Hafiz

Most years I chase after the spring wildflowers, so ephemeral, magical, and uplifting, weeding out that sadness. Finding that perfect peak moment is a moving target, just like seeing the cherry blossoms downtown. Blink and you miss them. Somehow we didn’t catch a single wildflower event in the past three years – neither the Columbia Gorge wildflowers, nor the prolific camas lilies. Too late, too early, too wet, too cold, too windy, I don’t remember anymore. But this year they’re all blooming later than average by a few weeks, which means calmer conditions for the less hardy flower fans. This is our year.

Luckily, we live near to where camas lilies grow in profusion. The 22 acre Camassia Nature Preserve, run by the Nature Conservancy, sits on a rocky bluff above the Willamette River in West Linn, just a 20 minute drive away. The 205 freeway roars below, a high school sits next door, but once in the middle, it feels like a fairy world, a natural wonderland. A boardwalk cuts through the swampier spots, and the narrow trail winds in a short loop around the preserve.

The blue-purple camas spikes shimmer in the breeze like a wave across open meadows and white oak savanna. As you get closer, the vivid yellow stamens shine in bright complement to the purple. Camas are native perennials, which I’d never heard of until I moved to the Pacific Northwest. They grow in swampy grasslands which means you’re sure to get a little muddy when you go out looking. That happened at Lacamas Park last month when we were too early for the camas. My shoes are still not cleaned up.

A passing jogger asked if we were in a photography class; she runs through the preserve everyday, and had never seen so many people with cameras. I pointed out that the flowers were at peak, had she noticed? Clearly not a nature buff. A small group from the nearby high school filed past as their teacher identified birds just from their songs. Smart teacher, I told those kids, wishing I’d had that sort of instruction way back when. Would I have listened though?

An osprey nest sits on top of a cell tower on a nearby cliff, and the osprey have been returning continually for 26 years. One circled high overhead, but that was the closest we got. Birdsong accompanied us the whole way, but the birds rarely made a showing. Alan got a few though, and beautiful bloom pics as well – check out his photoblog.

The name camas comes from a Perce Nez word meaning “sweet.” Back then the bulbs were plentiful, a rich source of food and trade for the natives. Then the abundance was lost to development, with whole prairies plowed under. Seeing these flowers in full bloom was once a common sight; now it seems like a shrine to the past, and we wander around with cameras, oohing and ahhing, looking in between for other precious blooms.

It was a satisfying immersion into color and texture, fresh air and breath. What else can I say? I hope you too get to see a profusion of wildflowers like this. It is indeed sweet.

P.S. Afterward, out of curiosity we visited nearby Clackamette Park to see where the Clackamas River empties into the Willamette. The actual point of confluence was hidden by brush and obstacles, so it was less than satisfying, but fun to see so many fishing boats out on a weekday morning.

14 thoughts on “Camassia

  1. Beautiful….and thank you….for words and photos and reminders….and the Hafiz poem…..”weeding out the roots of sadness from our hearts, breaking the silence and no lying low”…….joy and celebration…..Spring and flowers….thanks for sharing the bounty and abundance from your world Nancy…and Happy Mothers Day!

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  2. Those colors are fabulous! I’ve been wanting to head to the Gorge for a hike but it seemed to be a tad early for wildflowers and now I see this! It’s time. Definitely a whole new color palette this spring after a really long rainy season, and it’s always worth noting there might not be one without the other. Thanks for the visual and the story.ย 

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    • Thanks as always Bonnie Rae. Don’t I always forget about what glory the rain brings? Maybe these weeks of color will keep me fed through the next winter. Hopefully you’ll find wildflowers on your big trip!

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  3. I haven’t thought about a crab apple tree in like, 50 years. We had one in our backyard in Albuq. I was just there, but not in that backyard. I am so partial to white and purple/blue. Oh and yellow too. Oh okay I love bright fuschia too. Love all these flowers and love you! xoxox

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  4. Your pictures are beautiful and seeing them in the field is even more exquisite. Thank you for the nature walk and all that you saw. I too always hope that the treasures of spring and summer will sustain me through the winter, but alas, it hasn’t worked for me yet – I hope it works for you. Growing up in central Washington I’m still conditioned to expect spring sunshine in March – for sure by April, warm summers that begin early and last all summer long. Here in western Washington it seems like summer fully blossoms after the 4th of July and is gone by September when warm days remain, but summer is in the past. Maybe I have some genetic disorder that years for four seasons. ๐Ÿ™‚ Not complaining – just comparing.

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    • Yes, trying to figure out how to bottle it all up for when I need it later. Even the natives have been pissed about this year. And last year. And… oh well, spring sure is exuberant around here! Thanks for reading MJ!

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  5. Pingback: Camassia Nature Preserve, Spring 2023 – Discoveries: AlanMoses.Net

  6. Pingback: A Great Day To Be At Memaloose | Rivers and Roads PDX

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