Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Native Plant Identification

We are fortunate to live on a fairly wild native plant rich 25 acres here in Washington State.  My parents taught us about the native trees and shrubs and wildflowers.  All my siblings are familiar at least with the common names for the plants that grow in our woods.   I am constantly amazed at how little the average child knows about the plants that are native to our area.  Most can't tell the difference between a fir and a cedar.

My sister, Mona, has been visiting and we have been brainstorming a class for plant identification.  We decided that strolling the trails through the woods, touching, feeling, seeing and smelling the various plants would be better than just a lecture.  So we dug out all our plant and tree books (we found six between us) and discovered just how much we had to learn!  

By cross-referencing the books and descriptions, we came up with a class that we thought might be appropriate for 10-15 year old kids.  When we had a family gathering this past weekend, we asked the grandkids if they would like to take a walk in the woods.  (This is one of their favorite things to do when they visit, so they all quickly jumped at the chance.)
Mona pointing out the way a fir tree branches droop.
Even the little ones enjoyed gathering cones and seeing the difference between a Douglas Fir and a Cedar and a Hemlock cone.
We found several varieties of edible berries on our hike.  Red huckleberries, salmon berries, and small blackberries. Mona did a fantastic job of pointing out the differences in needles and leaves and how plants grow in the wild.  We are thinking about offering the class to the local 3rd or 4th grade class when school is back in session.