Native Plant sales are around the corner!

Conservation district native plant sales are just around the corner. These are some of the best sources of native trees and understory plants around. Stock is sold bare-root, which means you’ll need to be familiar with planting that. Check out Forterra’s plant installation video (bare-roots are specifically mentioned in slide 9).

Planting season is winding down! New plants should ideally be in the ground before dry weather hits, especially if watering is limited. Bare root plants need to be picked up from the sale and planted promptly.

Pre-order deadlines for the conservation district sales are mostly over by now, but you can still take advantage of the walk-up sale.

King County:

March 2 & 3, 2012

Pierce County (volunteers wanted the week of 2/27! free plants, coffee and doughnuts!):

March 3, 2012

Snohomish County/Camano Island:

March 2 & 3, 2012

Skagit County (pre-order open until 3/2/2012):

March 23 & 34 and April 14, 2012

Whidbey Island:

March 2 and 3, 2012

Stinging Nettle

Urtica dioica

Photo by Greg Rabourn

Stinging nettle can be quite the nuisance during an afternoon hike through the Pacific Northwest. This weedy species loves to inhabit stream banks and open forests often growing in disturbed habitats forming thickets. The reason this plant can become a nuisance is because of the irritation it can cause your skin. The stinging nettle features many hollow hairs that grow from the stem called trichomes. The trichomes extend from glands containing formic acid which when broken will result in secretion that irritates the skin. The irritation can last up to a couple of days for some people depending on the exposure to nettle. A common forest remedy that is said to relieve the irritation is to rub the nettle sting with the underside of a fern. The sori from fern leaves is said to help soothe the itch. Most commonly bracken fern and sword fern are the native ferns that are often associated with this method. This temporary remedy tends to vary with people so just in case always remember to pack an anti-itch cream!

As annoying as the sting can be though nettle is known to be very nutritious! Nettle is high in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. When cooked the nettle has a similar flavor to spinach which has earned it the name Indian spinach. The robust taste of nettle makes it a fantastic substitute for any recipe that includes spinach, my personal favorites being pasta recipes. The best time to harvest nettle is in late March and April, the rule of thumb being that if a nettle plant has begun to flower then it is no good for harvesting. Leather gloves, long sleeves, and plastic bags are a must when headed out for a harvesting excursion. When preparing the nettle for cooking be sure to separate leaves from the stalk and let leaves sit in warm water for 10 minutes to rid them of their noxious itch. Using these tips you can make wholesome and healthy foods from plants grown right in the backyard! Bon Appétite!

Two of my favorite recipes: Nettle Soup and Nettle Pasta

“If they would drink nettles in March,

And eat mugwort in May,

So many fine maidens,

Would not go to clay.”

Show your love for your favorite urban greenspace

Happy Valentine’s Day! Here at Green Cities, we’re celebrating by remembering all the things we love about our parks and natural areas. Going for a walk or a run on a trail gets your heart pumping. Volunteering in your community gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling of giving back. Keeping our natural areas healthy is an important part of our overall urban environmental health. Work parties are great opportunities to meet someone new, or spend time with someone special you already know. And trees, well, they’re so good to hug. What’s not to love?

Tell us about a park or natural area that has a special place in your heart. And then spend some quality time together at an upcoming work party!

After the storm

This guest post comes from Kevin Zobrist, WSU Area Extension Educator, Forest Stewardship serving Snohomish, Skagit, King, and Island Counties.

This is an excerpt from the January 2012 WSU Extension Puget Sound Forest Stewardship E-Newsletter. Sign up to get great news like this from Kevin every month in your inbox!

One of the most pressing issues for trees as we start the new year is the impact from January storms. Between snow loads, freezing rain, and wind, area forests got beat up pretty good. Right now many people are dealing with downed or damaged trees.

As you begin to assess damage, my first word of advice is to not panic. With so much damage, lengthy power outages, etc., people tend to react to storms like this based on frustration, fear, and other emotions, and end up doing more damage to their property (and enjoyment thereof) than needed to reasonable address risks and hazards.

Please be safe and do not ever approach downed lines of any kind (don’t ever assume it’s just a communication or otherwise non-energized line…) or the “target zone” of any suspended tree or limb that appears in imminent danger of falling. Meanwhile, take a deep breath and do a careful clean-up and assessment. If you need to hire someone to assess, apply first aid, or remove a storm-damaged tree, please choose an ISA-certified arborist (but keep in mind that those folks are stretched thin for the immediate future). There are plenty of “services” running around with chainsaws out there that may not meet your needs.

Helpful links:

Tree first aid information from the Oregon Department of Forestry, via WA DNR

Assessing damaged trees

ISA website with a directory of certified arborists

Storm damage like this is natural and is part of the ecology of our forests. This doesn’t make the damage less difficult to deal with, though, and the damage almost always conflicts with management objectives. Keeping these objectives at the forefront of your mind (aesthetics, enjoyment, habitat, etc.) will help you make proactive (rather than reactive) decisions about your woodland as you steward its recovery. The good news is that nature is resilient (and you are, too!). It is OK to grieve a little in the meantime, though.