California Pitcher Sage (Lepichinia calycina) – a vignette

On a visit home to the bay area to wish grandma a great 80th birthday as well as to give my blessings to my best friend’s soon-to-be little baby, I took a walk in the hills above Palo Alto with my sister and her two daughters. I had the great fortune to come across a plant in those rolling oak meadows that I love very much – California pitcher sage. It’s a tad stinky, on edge of fetid like clary sage can be, and it also has a rich balsamic sage scent that carries the overall essence towards the pleasurable.

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It has a large, stature, with white bell like flowers on the ends of semi-herbaceous stems.

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You can grow this amazing  plant if you’re in the central California region- it’s easy to grow if you offer the conditions it loves – which include the gorgeous meadows edges along the hills encircling the bay area and likely beyond. Native Here Nursery offers plants for those of you in the East Bay – all their plants are propagated from locally collected seed, so each plant contributes to the overall genetic resilience of the species. A cousin, Lepichinia fragrans, occurs in Southern California.

I’ve never harvested it, as I’ve never found it in abundance – but the medicine I received from just a few minutes of inhaling its scent was all I needed to feel most blessed. Like its distant cousin white sage, it holds space for magic.

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Bloodroot

This at-risk Appalachian woodland plant, blood root (Sanguinaria canadensis), is easy to grow in a small pot, or place it in a shaded place in your garden, preferably under the boughs of a deciduous tree. The tree’s leaves will mulch the ground in the wintertime and keep this little baby quite happy.

This Tuesday: Crafting Luscious and Healing Creams

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Have you ever been fascinated by the alchemy of creating the perfect body cream? Join us as we demonstrate how to create a luscious rose water and shea body cream that nourishes the skin and delights the senses. All participants will take home a sample of the cream made in class.

Pre-registration through EventBrite offering sliding scale $10-$30. No one will be turned away for lack of sufficient funds.

Class takes place at The Herb Shoppe, at 3912 N. Mississippi Blvd.

A Jaunt in the Eastern Columbia River Gorge

We took a long, wet, wandering walk in the hills above the Mosier today, seeking what we wished would be epic fields of wildflowers. What a wonder we wound up in!

Beginning our ascent up the hills of basalt, serviceberry and maple blooms at our flanks.

Orobanche uniflora – a stunning patch of a this beautiful root parasite. Mark Turner writes they feed off of sedums, saxifrages, and species of the Aster family.

Collinsia grandiflora: Blue eyed Mary

Caryophyllaceae – Possibly a Silene?

With meadow as our classroom, we explored the basics of plant anatomy, botanical terminology, and plant ID.

Overlooking the Columbia river, with Castilleja (Indian Paintbrush), Balsamorrhiza careyana  (Carey’s Balsamroot), Delphinium (Larkspur), Dodecatheon (Shooting Star), and Lomatium (lomatium) in the foreground.

Meadows of Ranunculus occidentalis (Western Buttercup)

While it appeared peak bloom was still to come, the diversity we saw was incredible.

Fritillaria affinis (Chocolate Lily) – one of my favorite lilies!

Dodecatheon (Shooting star)

Delphinium (Larkspur) and Claytonia perfoliata (Miner’s lettuce)

After lunching amongst the oaks, we climbed to the top of the hill to prepare our flower essence and connect with the balsam root flowers.

Fields of Balsamorrhiza caryana (Carey’s Balsamroot) just beginning to really start to bloom!

Such a blessing to spend time with other plant lovers eager to learn all they can with and about our plant family.

Amelanchier alnifolia (Serviceberry)

Serviceberry amongst the lava spires.

Walking Amongst the Wind and Flowers

The wind whipped our spirits up high, sun and light rain mixing into an electric spring sunshine, filling us with primaveral energy, alternately exhausting and quickening, freezing gales giving way to radiant warmth that filled the bones. We adventured out east through the Columbia river gorge, crossed a bridge dedicated to the gods, and gave warm greetings to the sleepy fae folk finally peaking their heads above earth, bravely leading the way to paint the hilltops.