Devils Lake and Forest

Join us on Tuesday, June 30 for an outing hosted by the Natural History Society, the Native Plant Society and the Northwest Watershed Institute.

655Meet at Quilcene Forest Service Center before 9 am. We will visit one of the rarest forest community types in Washington — mature Douglas fir, western hemlock, evergreen huckleberry and Pacific rhododendron are the featured species. Only eight significant examples of this forest type have been identified in Washington.

791We will also spend some time at the Devils Lake fen/bog to see wetland species including a rare sedge, sundew, bog bean, bog laurel, etc.  Devils Lake is a fascinating site which has been preserved as a Natural Resources Conservation Area by the Department of Natural Resources.

Peter Bahls, Director of Northwest Watershed Institute, will also update us on the current effort to expand the Devils Lake Natural Area to protect the entirety of the rare forest at this site as well as protect the most recently discovered site of this rare forest community at Lemonds Road on the Coyle Peninsula.  Because of the sensitive nature of the fen habitat the number of participants on this field trip will be limited. Rubber boots are advised.

Contact Fred Weinmann to sign up or for further information:

Golden Paintbrush: Back from the Brink

DSC_3644 ArnettOn Monday, May 11, the JLT Natural History Society will sponsor a presentation on the biology of the golden paintbrush and the sometimes controversial process of its recovery. Two longtime champions for plant conservation will share their knowledge: Joe Arnett, rare plant botanist for the Washington Natural Heritage Program for ten years; and his botanist predecessor, Florence Caplow, who currently serves as the ministerial intern at the Quimper UU Fellowship.

What does it take to rescue an iconic plant species from extinction? Golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) once thrived on rocky shorelines and in prairie remnants from Vancouver Island to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. But by 1997 its numbers had dwindled to only a dozen small, scattered populations, and it was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

CALE2A-2007_ArnettSince then, government agencies, conservation organizations, and individuals have made enormous strides in restoring golden paintbrush throughout its historical range. Using seeds sourced from wild populations and generous funding from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, thousands of plugs have been grown and out-planted since 2002. As a result, many wild populations have flourished substantially, and new populations have been started at nearly thirty new sites.

Arnett’s recently compiled data on golden paintbrush numbers show that the species global population now stands at more than 185,000 flowering plants—a strong testimony to the success of the intensive efforts to reestablish this remarkable native plant in the Pacific Northwest.

The program begins at 7 pm in the QUUF’s sanctuary hall on San Juan Avenue, Port Townsend. This event is free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of five dollars.

The Success Story of the Golden Paintbrush

~Dixie Llewellin, Washington Native Plant Society

Golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) is the “golden”member of the genus Castilleja, commonly known as Indian paintbrush. Populations of this species once extended from coastal bluffs and islands of the Salish Sea, north to British Columbia, and south to the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The lemon yellow bracts envelope the less conspicuous greenish flowers; this gem favored our native prairies and grasslands.  Unfortunately, open space was the first choice for agricultural conversion and development. As a result, golden paintbrush is now listed on the federally threatened species list.  Only twelve native populations of C. levisecta remain within its historic range.  Like other members of this genus, golden paintbrush is partially parasitic, connecting its roots to the root systems of other plants to acquire water and nutrients. Providing the right host and conditions adds to the restoration challenge. The good news is that successful restoration efforts are underway in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.

DSC_4104 arnettHistoric records indicate two populations of C. levisecta (1890 and 1900) in Port Townsend and Port Ludlow. The Olympic Peninsula Chapter of Washington Native Plant Society was involved with a reintroduction project in 2004. Beth Lawrence, a graduate student of the Oregon State University chose Kah Tai Prairie Preserve as one of her test sites; the remainder were in Oregon.  Lawrence collected seed from six of the remaining twelve native populations.  Nursery-grown plugs were then planted at the Kah Tai Prairie Preserve since she considered it geographically closest and the most similar to the remaining populations in terms of geologic history, plant community, and climate.  Unfortunately the population declined rapidly (14 remaining plants in 2009), and only one viable, but healthy, plant remains today from the 200 plants introduced.  The origin of the seed source for our lone viable plant is the Rocky Prairie Natural Area Preserve in Thurston County, which is now managed by Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Naas/Admiralty Inlet Preserve on Whidbey Island is an example of a successful and concentrated reestablishment effort. The Preserve is owned and managed by the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and a conservation easement is held by the DNR. Extensive restoration of C. levisecta is being conducted in partnership with the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Naas Preserve includes eight acres of coastal grasslands and two-thirds of a mile of bluff shoreline on Admiralty Inlet and is located between two other existing golden paintbrush populations on separate, protected sites. In addition to site preparation and maintenance, volunteers have planted approximately 7,093 plants. The total 2014 population count for Nass Prairie/Admiralty Inlet Preserve is 2,987, which includes 658 naturally occurring plants. The reestablished population will form a genetic and pollination link between these populations, likely increasing the genetic viability of all three populations.

May Book Club Selection

HoldfastThe Natural History Society Book Club will meet at 3:30-5:00 pm on Monday, May 25, to discuss Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World, by Kathleen Dean Moore.

(From the Back Cover)

With the finely honed skills of an essayist, the heightened sensibility of a naturalist, and the carefully reasoned mind of a philosopher, Kathleen Dean Moore examines our connections to what we hold most dear. In a quest for the metaphorical holdfast – the structures at the end of seaweed strands that attach to rocks with a grip that even ocean gales cannot rend – Moore seeks to understand that which affixes her firmly to family and place. In twenty-one elegant, probing essays, she meditates on connection and separation: the sense of brotherhood fostered by communal wolf howls; the inevitability of losing our children to their own lives; her own mischievousness as she takes candy from her unwitting students on Halloween; the sublimity of life and longing in the creatures of the sea; her agonizing decision when facing her father’s death. She is joyous, playful, and mournful. As Moore travels geographically – from the Oregon shores to Alaska – and philosophically, she leaves no doubt of her virtuosity and range.

RSVP to Pat for location and directions at

Wildflower walk at Kala Point Beach and Lagoon

Indian PaintbrushJoin the Natural History Society at 1:00 pm on Monday, May 4 for an exploration of spring wildflowers at Kala Point.

Naturalists Dana Ecelberger and Coca Sanchez will first lead us through the wetter lagoon environment where we will see False Solomon’s -seal, False lily-of-the-alley, Fringecup, Foamflower, Trillium, ferns and other plants; then we will move on to the drier beach environment where we will see Sea blush, Sea-pink, small Blue-eyed Mary, Field chickweed, Harsh paintbrush, Chocolate lilies, Larkspur and many other flowers. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis will be a short walk of about three miles, but there are slight elevation changes, and the lagoon trail is wet and muddy in places. If you’d like to sign up for this walk, and for information about the meeting place and parking passes, please contact Pat at

Spring song of the Dungeness River

719The Natural History Society is honored that naturalist and poet Tim McNulty, author of Olympic National Park: A Natural History, will lead a hike on Sunday, April 19.

Our hike will be a short foray into the heart of the rainshadow  Olympics, where we’ll visit handsome old-growth fir and hemlock stands  as well as fire-influenced forest communities suggesting eastern  Washington and even the Rockies, with Rocky Mountain juniper,  lodgepole pine, and yew.  We’ll find red and blue alder, kinickinick,  manzanita, and evergreen huckleberry in the understory.  We’ll look for chocolate and fawn lilies, anglewing  butterflies, and listen to the spring song of the Dungeness in the canyon below.

518The hike is short, only about 5 miles round-trip, but steep in places with uneven terrain,  and has some elevation gains and losses, ranging between 1500 feet at  the trail head and a high point of around 3000 feet elevation.

Dress  for weather.  Bring plenty of water, lunch, and your favorite field  guide.  A sit-down pad might be handy (our lunch spot is rocky).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpace is limited, and carpools will be planned. RSVP to Pat for details at