St. Patrick’s Day is all about the green — green clothes, green shamrocks, green beverages. But here in the Inland Northwest, we have no shortage of green most of year. Our wild backyard is full of it.
Just like the shamrock is iconic to Ireland, the wild Scotchmans have plenty of green to give it unique identity. In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, we at Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness wanted to highlight a few plants that give the region its own character. Information about the plants is sourced from “Plants of the Southern Interior and Inland Northwest” by Parish Coupe Lloyd.
Look out for this perennial plant about 1.5 meters tall with “numerous tiny, white flowers in a large, showy head on a long stem.” It’s abundant in mid to high elevations. The plant likely got its name from bears’ tendency to eat the fleshy leaf bases. But Native American tribes’ widespread use of the plant’s tough leaves for basket weaving inspired its other common name, Indian Basket Grass.
Yellow Glacier Lily
A frequent sight in subalpine and alpine meadows, this plant is easily identified by its single golden-yellow flower at the top of a stalk with petals curved backward. This distinctive lily serves an important role, both historically and ecologically. The Interior Salish peoples gathered bulbs from June to August, using them as a key trading item. With proper steaming or drying these bulbs become edible. It’s a process familiar to both humans and bears, who have been observed digging up glacier lilies, letting them wilt on the ground and eating them a few days later.
Who could forget the iconic fruit of the Inland Northwest? Huckleberries are beloved as a delicious and healthy part of regional cooking, and the best picking spots are often closely guarded secrets. The most common and delicious of the huckleberry shrubs is the black huckleberry, widespread at mid to high elevations. Look out for densely branched shrubs about 1.5 meters tall with thin, lance-shaped leaves.