Features of the Flora of Mount Rainier National Park
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The first of these zones begins at about an altitude of 2,000 feet, which is the altitude of the river valleys. These valleys, which radiate from the mountain, are of glacial origin. They are broad at their lower ends, but as they approach the mountain they become more narrow and their sides are more precipitous. Aside from their shape the thing that strikes the careful observer is the splendid forest of large trees and the odd forms of plant life which form the beautiful forest cover. These two conditions are nowhere seen to better advantage.

The principal tree in these valleys near the park boundary is the Douglas fir, a well known tree, as it is the most common and the most valuable tree in the Puget Sound region.1 The stranger may recognize it by its thick bark, cleft into long perpendicular furrows on the large trees, and by the leaves surrounding the branches, from which hang numerous cones with projecting bracts. The next tree in value is the white cedar, Thuja plicata. This is easily recognized by its arbor-vitae like foliage, its thin fibrous bark and spreading base. It is the only cedar or cedarlike tree in that forest until the upper limit where the Alaska cedar begins to come in. The lowland western hemlock is perhaps second in abundance. It may be recognized by its small cones and short foliage silvery white on the lower side of the branches and by its drooping plumelike top, while all the firs have erect tops. There are three true firs scattered through this forest, namely, the lovely, Abies amabilis, the silver, Abies grandis, and the noble, Abies nobilis. The lovely fir is sometimes called larch by the lumbermen, thus confusing it with a tree which does not grow on the western slope of the Cascades. The lovely fir has scaly bark somewhat like the spruce and a dome shaped top. The foliage is not white underneath; the tree has large purple cones without exserted bracts, which grow only on the top of the tree. The silver fir grows rather sparingly throughout this zone. It can be recognized by its leaves, which are of three different lengths and twisted so that they lie nearly in the same plane on opposite sides of the branch, thus giving it a flat appearance. The branches are generally silvery white underneath, hence the popular name. The bark is often white, hence sometimes called white fir. It has small green cones without exserted bracts. This tree flourishes best among alder and cottonwood where there is an abundance of moisture and extends from sea level to about 4,000 feet. The lumber is classed with hemlock by the lumbermen. The noble fir is not abundant in this zone.

1The forest trees are described in a publication entitled "Forests of Mount Rainier National Park," Which may he purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., for 20 cents.

The deciduous trees of this zone are the broad-leafed maple, the vine maple, the alder, and cottonwood. The broad-leafed maples are noted for their dense foliage. In the dense forest of tall conifers they often take on an enormous growth of moss, liverworts, lichens, and ferns, which gives them a superficial resemblance to a tropical epiphytic forest, while the vine maples, small and tough, bend over to the ground, forming many fantastical curves and tangles almost impenetrable to the experienced woodsman. These tangles are often made up of several other troublesome shrubs, such, as the devil's club, Echinopanax horridum, with its irritating spines, broad palmate leaves, and red berries. The cascara, an alderlike small tree, is noted for the medicinal qualities of its bark, which is collected in some localities and shipped in carloads to the eastern market. The willows, spiraeas, huckleberries, and the dainty little pachistima are all more or less abundant in this dense forest area.

The herbaceous plants of this region are perhaps the most interesting, because of the many odd forms. The strangest of these belong to a group of plants which live on decayed matter. They have lost all green coloring matter which is necessary for self-support and live on the products of other plants. The best known of these strange denizens of the forest is the Indian pipe or ghost plant Monotropa uniflora (fig. 1). The former common name is applied to it because of its fancied resemblance to the ordinary clay pipe, the latter because of its pearly whiteness. This plant has a wide range, extending all over the United States wherever the proper conditions are found. Nowhere is it more at home than in the woods of Washington and Oregon. There is another plant of the same genus which has several flowers on the same stem; this is popularly called the many-flowered Indian pipe, while the plant having only one flower is called the one-flowered Indian pipe. The one-flowered species grows in dense clusters, while the other has not this tendency.

FIG. 1.—Indian pipe or ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora). Color of flower, white; height of plant, 5 to 12 inches; blooms July and August. Photograph by Asahel Curtis.

The Allotropa, or barber's pole (fig. 2), is a beautiful red and white striped plant confined to the forest of the Pacific coast. It is, perhaps, the oddest of this strange group, because of its bright colors.

FIG. 2.—Barber's pole (Allotropa virgata) on left; ghost plant or Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) to right of barber's pole; many-flowered Indian pipe (Hypopitys hypopitys) on right; Hemitomes congestum, massive flower near right corner; pine drops or pine sap (Pterospora andromedea), tall plant against logs in background.

The pine sap, Pterospora andromedea (fig. 2), may be recognized by its reddish-brown stem, 3 or 4 feet high, without leaves, and by the numerous globular flowers arranged along the upper part of the stem. This plant, like the Indian pipe, has a wide range, extending across the continent. Locally it extends from about 1,000 feet above sea level to about 3,800 feet. The rarest of this leafless group is Hemitomes congestum (fig. 2). It is so rare that it has no common name. Like the one-flowered Indian pipe, it grows in dense clusters. The writer saw one bunch collected below the park entrance that filled an ordinary milk pan. Not only do these plants grow in dense masses but the flowers on each plant are also massed together, as the specific name indicates. In its prime it is a beautiful rose-pink or sometimes nearly white, but with age it turns black like nearly all of the Indian pipe family. It extends from near sea level to an altitude of about 3,200 feet. On the southeast slope of Mount Angeles, near an old deserted cabin, the writer found the five species shown on figure 2. The plants were collected and placed hurriedly on an old table and photographed with the side of the log cabin for a background.

Closely related to this leafless group is the Pyrola or wintergreen family, which is well represented and seems to be a connecting link between the Indian pipe family and that of the heath or heather family. In the old textbooks all three families are included in the heath family. The name pyrola means a little pear, from the fact that the thick shining evergreen leaves resemble those of a pear tree. These species are easily recognized in the dense forest. Pyrola secunda is known at once by its one-sided raceme of small greenish flowers or seed-pods. The wintergreen of commerce is not obtained from any of the western species, but from the false wintergreen or checkerberry of the East. This plant is more abundant in the second zone. Pyrola aphylla, as the specific name indicates without leaves, has small bracts. Pyrola bracteata has rather large round or elliptical leaves in a rosette with flowers in a raceme. This plant resembles the eastern "shin-leaf." Still another, Pyrola picta, might be added. This may be recognized by the white spots or streaks in its rather long leaves. Moneses uniflora is a beautiful little plant of this small family. It may be known from the pyrolas by its single waxy flower. Its generic name signifies "delight." It is needless to add that it is worthy of its name, as it will surely delight the heart of its finder.

To this family also belongs the prince's pine or pipsissewa, which is common in these mossy woods. It is a more robust plant than the pyrolas, with narrower oblanceolate leaves and an umbel of waxy flowers. It is common through the United States and Canada. Menzies's prince's pine is a much smaller plant with variegated leaves and is restricted to the West. This, like most of its relatives, has somewhat waxy flowers. In localities where the soil is poor the salal, a plant which is nearly always present in the fir woods, is abundant. It has leaves somewhat the shape of the trailing arbutus of the Eastern States, though the salal has a more erect habit of growth, with its zigzag stem and raceme of white urn-shaped flowers and bluish-black berries. The red, black, and blue huckleberries are also common here, especially in openings through the forest.

Present everywhere is the Canada dogwood, Cornus canadensis (fig. 3), with its creamy-white heads surrounded by four bracts which look like petals. Inside of these bracts are the real flowers, which are small. It is difficult to tell whether this plant is more beautiful in flower or in fruit. The fruit consist of a beautiful bunch of bright red berries which hang on for a long time. No plant receives more attention and praise from the tourist than does this little dogwood. In some localities in the East it is popularly called "bunchberry." On close examination its relationship to the large flowering dogwood can be plainly seen. The Canada dogwood is in bloom a second time late in the fall. Mixed with the little dogwood is the pure-white alpine beauty, Clintonia uniflora (fig. 4). This species, with its single flower of six petals, surpasses in beauty its eastern relatives. This liliaceous plant is little known to those traveling through the mountains. It belongs to the lily-of-the-valley family, as do the false solomon seals which often bloom with it in July and August. The Clintonia has three radical elliptical parallel-veined leaves and a single terminal flower. Its fruit consists of a blue berry. There are three species of the false solomon seal in this region—two species of twisted stalk and the ovate trillium—all of which belong to the lily-of-the-valley family.

FIG. 3.—Canada dogwood (Cornus canadensis). Color of flower, greenish white; height of plant, 3 to 8 inches; diameter of head, 3/4 to 1 inch; blooms June to November. Photograph by A. H. Barnes.

FIG. 4.—Alpine beauty (Clintonia uniflora). Color of flower, white; height of plant, 2 to 4 inches; blooms July and August. Photograph by J. B. Flett.

The Oregon wood sorrel, Oxalis oregona, is extremely abundant and grows with those just mentioned. It has white or pinkish-white flowers and leaves of three obcordate leaflets resembling clover. The juice of this plant is extremely sour. Visitors frequently refer to it as that "cloverlike plant in the woods." A bishop's cap, Tiarella trifoliata, has a delicate raceme of small white flowers and pubescent trifoliate leaves. This plant extends from sea level to about 2,900 feet, when its leaves appear gradually to change from their trifoliate character to unifoliate. All intermediate forms can be found. When the transition is complete it is rechristened Tiarella unifoliata. It extends in this form to the terminal moraines of the glaciers or above.

The forest anemone, Anemone deltoidea (fig. 5), forms beautiful spots here and there because of its creeping roots, which tend to intertwine and bring the slender stems together. The leaves are rhomboid serrate with trifoliate leaflets. The delicate white flowers last a long time here in the dense shade. The fruit is not conspicuous, like that of its relative, the western anemone (figs. 6, 7, and 8), in the grassy meadows.

FIG. 5.—Forest anemone (Anemone deltoidea). Color of flower, white; height of plant, 6 to 14 inches; blooms June to August. Photograph by A. H. Barnes.

FIG. 6.—Seed pods of anemone. Color of flower, lavender; height of plant, S to 20 inches; blooms July and August. Photograph by Asahel Curtis.

FIG. 7.—Western anemone (Anemone occidentalis). Photograph by Asahel Curtis.

FIG. 8.—Western anemone (Anemone occidentalis.) Color of flower, lavender; height of plan, 8 to 20 inches; blooms July and August. Photograph by Ashael Curtis.

The orchid family also has several members. Perhaps none are more common among the moss than the twayblades. These plants can be recognized by their odd-shaped small green flowers and their slender stalks bearing two opposite cordate parallel-veined leaves. The coral root has a brownish leafless stalk rising from a coral-like mass for a root. These plants grow in clusters. One species, Corallorhiza striata, has striped petals and no spur, and the other, Corallorhiza multiflora, has spots on the petals and conspicuous spurs. The most popular plant of this family is the lady slipper, Qytherca bulbosa or Calypso borealis. This plant blooms a little too early to be in its prime at the rush of tourist travel to the park. It is, however, often found and admired in the early part of July or later. This is considered rare in the Eastern States, but grows abundantly here in the mossy woods. Bikukulla formosa, a western form of the dutchman's breeches, is not at all rare. Its near relative, the wild bleeding heart, Capnoides scouleri, is very abundant and vies with the bracken in size. It is well known to the children of the neighborhood, who amuse themselves by touching the mature seed pods, which "pop" and scatter the seeds in all directions. It has pink flowers and large triangular leaves.

Neatly interwoven through the green mossy carpet is the long trailing Lycopodium clavatum. This often has a length of 20 feet with many side branches. It has received a number of popular names such as Christmas wreath, ground pine, and staghorn moss. It is often collected in the foothills of the mountains before Christmas and shipped to the cities for decorative purposes. Sometimes it is stained or dyed after the manner of the so-called "air plants" of the Japanese, and woven around pillars or strung from one place to another. The artificial color will last longer than the natural. There is also a shorter and more erect species often growing with the above called L. lucidulum. The slope of the Tatoosh Range near the trail leading down into Stevens Canyon is thickly interwoven with the former species. There is a marked difference between that grown in the dense woods and that on an exposed slope.

No plants contribute more to the beauty of the shady part of the park than the ferns. Everyone in this vicinity is familiar with the sword fern, which reaches its highest development in the rich soil of these shady retreats. The deer fern, Struthiopteris spicant, which is more slender than the sword fern, is also abundant. It has two kinds of fronds; one grows erect from the center and bears the spores for reproductive purposes, while the other, which spreads out in radiate form, is much broader and greener and is well adapted to perform the vegetative functions. The latter fronds are evergreen, while the contracted spore-bearing fronds die down at the close of the season. The licorice fern, Polypodium occidentale, grows embedded in moss-covered trees and sometimes on old logs, while the maidenhair fern selects waterfalls and moist cliffs.

The common brake grows abundantly all through the lower zone and sometimes forms thickets with other vegetation. The western form of the lady fern sends up its tall broad fronds in tufts here and there, generally where there is an abundance of moisture. Somewhat resembling the lady fern is Dryopteris spinulosa dilatata, which generally grows in similar localities. The lady fern is smoother than Dryopteris spinulosa dilatata and has kidney-shaped fruit dots on the back of the frond, while the fruit dots on the latter are round. The dainty oak fern, Phegopteris dryopteris, is everywhere present among the moss. It has a dark-colored stem and triangular frond. It is much smaller than the two last mentioned and extends into the higher portions of the park.

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Last Updated: 15-May-2007