Howard Bruner

Unido: 18.abr.2017 Última actividad: 19.abr.2021 iNaturalist

Western Oregon boasts a fat and fecund flat which lies between the Coast Range and the Cascades. The Willamette Valley is bisected by a great river nourished by many feeder streams. These snaking meanderers are recognizable from their robust gallery forests. These riparian forests are extreme in terms of tangle, ripping thorns, and poison contact plants. Before the spread of Himalayan blackberries one could find rich depositional floodplains teeming with tender lilies and rue, bleeding heart and larkspur, cow parsnip and saxifrage. Most local forests are now edged with impregnable berry hedges that are happy to fill the understory right to water's edge. These areas present a de facto wilderness where humans rarely tread.

I entered such a forest along the Marys River in search of an unusual plant that had been seen in the vicinity 31 years previously.

The air was hot and sticky as I crossed the glare of the open fields, turned and ripped through clinging and slicing brambles to reach a weak relief of dappled shade. The berry thorns are designed to respond to force by digging deeper. I picked off my new suit of blood-let vines by working to carefully back them out and feed them underfoot as I moved deeper. After breaking past the worst or the Snow White defenses, the decades of tree fall accumulation had to be reckoned with as pitfalls hidden under the matted and dried berry vines. I began to lose hope in the task as I felt these bramble accumulations were not a viable condition for a soft lacy bottomland herb community. As I worked along the river forest, I did glimpse some low wet areas that the berries did not appreciate. Where these few opportunities showed up, bleeding heart had formed its mini canopy of lace leaves with the namesake heart flowers nodding above. I tried hard to not move into or through the delicate bleeding heart. There seemed to be an increase such areas as I struggled along.

I had reached a wider spread of the riparian forest, whereas when I entered the forest, the width had been half of what I was now surrounded by. Sun hotspots lit bright hope where the herbal community was intact. Giant lilies reached arching above fuzzy basal clumps subtending delicate racemes of fringe cup, flat plates of variegated leaves were crowned with the exploded buds of white trillium, a chorus of neotropic migrants trilled and warbled from the broken, lichen festooned trees, and then I saw the prize. There ahead, where the mud and silt had formed a small basin. Where the hydric and edaphic and delivered energy all worked within very particular constraints to provide a spot in the riot of life and death for this rarely seen lifeform to thrive. As I stilled and absorbed this singular place and time the haunting drum of a pileated woodpecker echoed across the woods.

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