Nature Notes

Mount Rainier National Park

Vol. IV August 18, 1926 No. 8

Issued weekly during the summer season; monthly during the winter months, by the Mount Rainier Nat'l Park Nature Guide Service.
By: F. W. Schmoe. Park Naturalist.

By: F. A. Warren

Many of the visitors to the park ask us, "What was the bush of red berries that I saw?" This is difficult to answer as there are several plants that have red berries and grow within the park boundaries.

The red elderberry (Sambucus callicarpa) is frequently found in the higher altitudes although it is more commonly found in the lower portions of the park, in the open lands such as old burns. The plant grows from three feet to eight and ten feet in height. It usually sends out several sheets from the base of the plant. The leaves as many of our visitors say, resemble those of the mountain ash, but they are longer, have larger leaflets and not so many of them as the mountain ash. The berries grow in a spreading pyramidal cluster and are round of a bright red color.

The devil's club (Oplanax horridum) is a plant of the swampy lands at lower elevations. The plants average about 6 feet in height and the stems which are covered with numerous spines are about a half inch long and poisonous. It has large maple-like leaves, which are often 15 inches across. The stalk that produce the berries are upright. The cluster of berries are somewhat pyramidal in outline, and the berries are heart shaped, flattened and bright in color.

Another plant commonly seen at this time of the year is the Canadian dogwood, or as it is called in the East, the bunch berry (Cornus canadensis). It is very frequently seen along the roadsides in the deeper woods of the park. The plant grows from six to ten inches high and has several simple leaves in a cluster near the top of the stem. The berries are found at the tip of the stem, dull red in color and are round-elongated. There are usually four to six berries at the tip of the stem. This plant blooms twice during the season.

One of the most conspicuous berries at present is the mountain ash (Pyrus sitchensis). It is quite abundant on some of the hillsides of the upper slopes. It grows from three feet to eight and ten feet in height and readily distinguished by its leaves. Each leaf has about ten leaflets on a side and one at the tip of the leaf stem, and each leaflet has several notches at its tip. The berries are about the size of a large pea and look like very small apples. They are bright red and grow in flatened bunches.

There are several other plants of the park that have red berries such as the red huckleberry, (Vaccinium parvifolium), which grow in the forests of the lower slopes. The berries hang from the lower side of the branch. The baneberry (Actaea arguta) a plant of the lower zone of the mountain is very noticeable at this time of year and several people have told me that the leaves resemble those of salmonberry. It has a long leaf stem with many leaflets and the berries are found at the tip of the stem quite crowded together appearing as dull red coffee beans. The false solomon's seal (Smilacina amplexicaulis), is another plant that has red berries. At this time of the year it will average three or four feet in length, the leaves being parallel veined. The berries are at the tip of the stem and bright red in color. The twisted-stalk (Streptopus amplexifolius), has a branched stalk with leaves very much like the Solomon's seal. The berries are a scarlet red and grow on the under side of the plant, attached to the base of the leaves.

So one can readily see that with the number of red berried plants found within the park, and the meager descriptions very often given by the questioner, it is quite hard sometimes to name the red berries that they have seen.

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