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Vital Botanical Missions for Bold and Intrepid Souls

Posts: 24
Location: Kettle Falls, WA
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Vital Botanical Missions for Bold and Intrepid Souls
For the Greater Good of Inland Northwest Permaculture

I am of the belief the best plants for our polycultures are localy adapted wild plants, which can't presently be bought from nurseries. Another post I made in the gardening forum made me realize I have a mental list of botanical 'missions' I'd like to make, to obtain seed from prime locations around the country. The seed could be propagated by a trusted gardener and shared. But there isn't any reason I couldn't have help with these missions. In fact, I'm sure many of you have your own missions in mind. Maybe we can help each other out. I know that we live all over, and many of us travel.

These missions, should you choose to accept one, would be of great service to permaculture in the Inland Northwest. If any of these missions interests you, I can provide information and garden space. But you wouldn't neccesarily have to work with me. And if I should suddenly die, I'll feel better knowing that other permies know about these resources. I may think of more later, but here are some missions:

Where: Pullman and Palouse, Washington
What: Remarkable Salisfy, Trogopogon mirus. This beautiful wildflower is a rare natural hybrid between widespread weedy yellow salisfy and purple salisfy, the garden vegetable that brought us ‘mammoth sandwich island’. This plant must be examined as a wild root vegetable for our polycultures. I suggest enlisting the help of a local botany professor. Get the seeds to trusted gardeners for propagation. http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection.php
When: Whenever the large dandelion-like seed heads ripen, probably in mid-summer. Watch for common yellow salisfy to ripen.

Where: Canyons of the Southeastern Oregon Desert
What: The most Northwestern wild specimens of Silver Buffaloberry, Sheperdia argentia. This is a nitrogen fixing shrub with very tasty berries. My favorite candidate for apple interplant. It is a native alternative to Russian Olive. It is desert adapted. Gather the best fruits from a diversity of the best bushes. Select types for saline soils and non-saline soils.
When: sometime in the summer, when fruits ripen.

Where: Orofino, Upper Clearwater River, Idaho area
What: The most prolific stands of wild sweet cherries I’ve seen anywhere in the region. Select for fruit quality, drought tolerance, and diverse ripening times. Also in your area, wild cherry plums, European plums, apricots, apples, blackberries.
When: Late June-July

Where: Snake River and Tributaries Upstream of Lewiston
What: We desperately need tap the botanical resources of this area. This is the epicenter of our region’s wild fruit diversity. Old World fruit trees have been naturalizing here for hundreds of years. One of these days, I’m going to float these rivers and collect seed along the way. This is probably the best way to access this extremely rugged country. Look for: mulberries, apricots, cherries, plums, cherry plums, walnuts, pears, and maybe peaches. Ideally we’d get the seed to several nursery locations around the region.
When: Late June-August, late September for walnuts

Where: Foothills of the Eastern Cascades, from Ellensburg South
What: The northernmost stands of Garry Oak in the Interior. The northernmost grove is supposedly on the Yakima River near Ellensburg. Select seed for palatability (taste them, aim for less bitter), yield at early age, drought tolerance, and cold tolerance. Collect from high and low altitudes. We need to aid the northward movement of oaks in light of accelerating climate change. Seed must be planted quickly after collection.
When: September

Where: the Black Hills, South Dakota
What: Some of the Northwesternmost Burr Oaks. Select for acorn size, palatability, yield at early age, drought tolerance, hardiness. Collect both tree and scrub forms. These may be the best food acorns for our region. Seed must be planted quickly after collection.
When: September

Where: Northern Utah, foothills
What: the northernmost stands of Gambel Oak. A good hardy, edible oak, see instructions for other oaks.

Where: Idaho?
What: find the famous Sweet Idaho Bur Oak!

Where: City of Rocks, South Central Idaho
What: The northernmost Single Leaf Pinyon Pine Forests. Select for yield at an early age. This may be one of the few food trees suited for places too dry to grow Ponderosas.
When: September, production can be geographically sporadic.

Where: Boise, Idaho
What: Giant Persimmons, desert apricots, Kentucky Coffee Tree. There is a persimmon tree as big as a ponderosa pine on 11th and Fort. It fruits abundantly and obviously does well in our climate. Wild apricots in the foothill canyons, on the road to the dump from town. An amazing arboretum east of downtown with all kinds of food trees, and a large Kentucky Coffee Tree Specimen.

What: Wild parsnips
Where: I don’t know! Wild parsnips have been documented growing in the Inland Northwest. I’m still looking for a patch. Please help me find them.

Where: The Mojave Desert/Great Basin Desert Transition, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.
What: Hybrid Oaks, hardy Prickly Pears, others. Screw Bean Mesquite? There are many great wild food plants in this region. Helping these plants move North, as the climate changes, will be to our benefit. Gambel Oaks hybridize with Live Oaks here. This hybrid is hardy and will grow with Joshua Trees in sand! The Timbisha Shoshone are the native people of the hottest driest desert on the continent, Death Valley. They have a food forest! It’s a screw bean mesquite orchard in the sand dunes of the valley floor. This is an excellent staple food. This tree might do well in the hottest, driest parts of our region, on the saline soils of the Lower Columbia.

Where: Northern New Mexico, extreme Southern Colorado, foothills
What: New Mexico Locust. All the uses of Black Locust, but smaller, and even more drought tolerant! Could probably grow in our treeless regions.
When: collect dry pods in September

Challenges for the Inland NW- Find wild reproducing stands of:
-almonds (don’t believe me? http://biology.burke.washington.edu/herbarium/imagecollection.php)-riverside grape
-interior salal
Or any of the other plants on my master list:

Missions Completed:
-I live near what I think may be the northernmost stand of Curl-Leafed Mountain Mohagany. It is very hardy desert adapted N fixing small tree. No edible uses, but wildlife browse it. Contact me for seed.
-I found a wild grove of Siberian pea shrubs, in the middle of nowhere, growing beneath a ponderosa pine canopy, I’ll try to collect seed next year.
-The biggest, most productive ginkgo tree I’ve ever found is in the Sun Lakes State Park Campground, near Soap lake Washington.
-Spokane’s Finch Arboretum has many good plants, including Cornelian Cherry, Chinese Dogwood, Italian Alder, and watercress.
-I have local sources for localy adapted fruit. I’m greedy with the seed. But I might hear an offer.

-Kyle in Kettle
Posts: 27
Location: Spokane, WA
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I would sign up for the floating the river and looking for trees trip, if you need company.

The northernmost stands of Garry Oak in the Interior. The northernmost grove is supposedly on the Yakima River near Ellensburg. Select seed for palatability (taste them, aim for less bitter).

Kyle, I'd be honored to gather acorns next fall in support of your efforts. I know of several locales. My favorite is located 40 miles west of Toppenish. The Fort Simcoe grove (pictured) includes dozens of Garry Oaks. Look deeper than the distraction of the fort and park and you'll see an awesome and sacred site, the kind where you best leave a gift of tobacco when you take your acorns.

The acorns I've gathered from this grove have been quite good to eat. High palatability fits with the social importance of the site. This locale was the southern Yakama bands' favored waypoint when returning to their overwintering grounds (near the confluence of the Snake/Columbia/Yakima rivers) en route from the rich summer hunting and gathering lands east of Mt Adams as well as from the salmon runs on the Klickitat and Columbia rivers

Check out the Garry oak distribution map at http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/olympia/silv/oak-studies/images/slide6.jpg.

The Fort Simcoe grove, and the extensive oak groves to the south and west, form the large stand alone body within Yakima county. The smaller body to the north is what you mentioned as "northernmost grove is supposedly on the Yakima River near Ellensburg". I figure the groves must be even smaller and more scattered. I'll look around the Yakima river between Cle Elum and Ellensburg, see if I can locate any.
Kyle Chamberlain
Posts: 24
Location: Kettle Falls, WA
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You just made the Garry Oak Mission so much more awsome! Thankyou for your interest in this. This kind of intimate local knowledge is just what I was hoping this thread might generate. Maybe you'd agree that there's more to a tree than it's species name. I think that where a plant comes from, and its story, are very imporant, from both a utilitarian and a poetic standpoint.

I would very much like to perpetuate these special trees you've described. And I would treasure the act even more if the seed was gathered with appropriate respect. I'll be in touch as the collection season nears, to strike a deal with you.

I have space for the seedlings on my land, but think it would be best not to put all the eggs in one basket. Perhaps others know of another good site for preserving special trees like this. My site is in a cool and relatively high rainfall area (21"). I think it would be wise to have another repository at a hotter drier site.

I am very supportive of your idea of scouting upstream for the northernmost grove. I, for one, would love to know exactly where it is. However, seed from the Simcoe grove would suit my purposes just as well. Do you think it would be worthwhile to pursue specimens from a higher altitude?

I dont' know when I'll have the time to make my botanical exploration of Snake River, but I'll need at least one fellow explorer, and I'll keep you in mind. Do you have any white-water experience? I think there are a few rapids along this stretch. I'm fairly confident with a canoe on flat water.

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