To paraphrase an old song -- "the flowers that bloom in the spring have nothing to do with the case". For this is winter (and judging from the heavy snowfalls we have been having for the past three months it should be spelled WINTER); yet there are quite a few plants that remain green throughout the year and add interest and contrast to the snowy winter trails.
There is the familiar Salal whose glossy green leaves are as bright and fresh looking as on any spring or summer day. An interesting plant - the Salal - but one which often falls short of the interest it deserves due to its abundance. Familarity, it is said, breeds contempt and so it often seems in regard to this plant which adds so much color and life to the forest floor at all seasons of the year. It bears pinkish blossoms in the summer and large, blue-black berries in the fall which were utilized as food by the northwest Indians in days gone by. Then, if your understand Greek you will catch the meaning of "Chimaphila" - generic term of the Pipsissewa, or Prince's pine - which signifies "winter loving". And so it is. Even minus the attractive waxy, pink flowers this plant is well worth a second glance at this season.
The Honey suckle Family has a hardy representative on the slopes of "The Mountain" in the Twinflower. This one, probably because of its delicate perfume and small, beautiful flowers was a favorite of the great Swedish botanist Carl von Linnaea, and so its generic title is appropriately Linnaea. At this season, with its more showy competitors awaiting the more favored season, the manner in which long, trailing stems and numerous glossy evergreen leaves cloth unsightly rocks and rotting logs its latent beauty is more generally appreciated.
Here and there through the snowdrifts where the wind has swept the ground clean we see the harsh, compact tufts of long linear leaves which we know as the Bear Grass or Indian Basket Grass. Oregon Grape is also much in evidence, its holly-like leaves being very conspicuous. But it is no relative of the holly, rather it claims allegiance to the Barberry Family which is probably best known by the fact that it also contains the plant which is responsible for the dissemination of the black stem rust of wheat.
Kinnikinic or Bear Berry is also found where the snow is not too deep. It, like the Salal, belongs to the Heath family and so numbers among its relatives the Rhododendron, the Madrona - a very beautiful and distinctive tree of the Pacific Northwest - the heathers, the huckleberry and others of that illustrious group.
Among the ferns most conspicuous at this season are the Deer Fern with its widespreading fronds lying flat on the ground. These are the vegetative fronds -- the reproductive fronds being developed later with the advent of the summer months. The beautiful Sword Fern, which receives its name due to the large, saw-like pinnae, is probably the most conspicuous of the ferns during the winter season - the compact clumps forming a pleasing note on the moist, snowy forest floor.
There are man others but those named are the most easily seen at this season and a hike along the lower woodland trails which are not so generally overlaid by our customary blanket of snow is evidence of the fact that the seeker for botanical beauty in Mount Rainier National Park need not depart disappointed. Mosses, liverworts and many of the lesser plants complete the picture. The silvery beauty of winter, here, is contrasted with the verdant splendor of the dormant forest.
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