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Pennsylvania Raisins

March 20, 2011 Tags: , , , , , Blog No comments

What are Pennsylvania Raisins? Well, my cousin, Jere White, could tell you all about them! Jere and his family live in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, about three hours North of Lancaster County.

Every year after Thanksgiving the hunters in my family take a trip up there to visit ‘The White House’ for some family time, as well as whitetail deer hunting! An ongoing joke between our families is that the Pennsylvania Raisins refer to the scat of the whitetail deer, commonly found in woodland all around our area! Well, let’s say I have still been finding these ‘raisins’ quite numerous in the Washington area as well!

Many homeowners, especially near wooded areas, are commonly concerned with damage to their landscape plants done by the whitetail deer browsing in the PA region. Here, in WA there is a similar culprit, the Blacktail deer! They are very similar and closely related to the whitetail deer, but their tails are not as large, or as white as the white tail (they have more black on the backside of the tail) and their body size is generally smaller. These deer can be found in all areas of Port Townsend, WA! The crazy thing is that I have seen them comfortably browsing in someone’s yard in the middle of town and in the middle of the day! I know whitetail deer are known to do the same, but they seem to be more nocturnal and afraid of humans than these blacktail. Some areas are worse than others, but a safe way to assure that the deer won’t damage your plants is to be deer-resistant ones. Of course, there are many plants we love to have in our gardens that deer love to eat. Many people in this area have fences that enclose a majority of their garden space.  There are many types of attractive fencing systems used here and they serve many purposes!  Many have dogs, cats and children which they wish to contain in an area, not to mention the common blacktail deer as a pest, as well as raccoons, which seem to be a problem here in the PT area.

The properties in this area are generally smaller than I am used to in Lancaster County.  Two other things that I have also noticed are that the lawn spaces seem to be smaller, and the garden space seems to be larger! (Than in SE PA, that is).  It is very neat to see how people use the small spaces that they have to create comfortable and attractive garden areas.  This also allows people to fence in larger majorities of their property to keep out pests, sometimes even their whole property!  This form of enclosure can increase ways to create those unique garden spaces and also to screen out views that are undesirable.  Keeping out the deer and having an attractive barrier seem to be important here.  It doesn’t seem that too many people rely on other technique to keep the deer away, aside from fencing in individual trees and shrubs to avoid deer damage.

Deer will try many things at least once, and as they get older, their food palette becomes more specific and they may not nibble on things as they have in the past, and in the gardens that we install and maintain here, there are a lot more geophytes (bulbs) planted, which many are a favorite to deer, especially tulips.

Below are a few pictures that I took while venturing into a nearby ravine this afternoon.  I first ventured into the depression to get a closer view of a rapid flowing stream and great salmon habitat (for my next blog).  But, as I got deeper into the wooded ravine, I realized there were many other potential blog pictures to post!

The ravine consisted of mostly Pseudotsuga menzesii (Douglas fir) Thuja plicata (Western red cedar) and Alnus rubra (Red alder) for the trees.  The common, woodland, spring-blooming shrub 0emleria cerasiformis (Indian-Plum) was also present!  It is currently blooming in the woodlands in this area and is very beautiful!  I recently learned this plant and saw someone pick and eat one of the flowers.  I hadn’t learned that they were edible!  So, I looked it up in my book, Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon.  I read that the flowers have an unusual fragrance, something between watermelon rind and cat urine, ha!  Needless to say, I didn’t try it.  But, I did smell it and I would say the books description is accurate!

Thuja plicata

Oemleria cerasiformis

Another sweet plant that stood out was Lysichiton americanum (Skunk cabbage, or swamp lantern)!  This plant was abundant in the low, swampy areas.  I had to trudge through some serious mud to get a close shot!  Thankfully, I was prepared with my new 8” high, water-proof Labonville boots!  These plants are known as, thermogenic plants.  Thermogenic plants undergo a process known as thermogenesis, a common to aroids, or plants in the Araceae family.  Thermogenesis is the process where a plant can produce its own heat!  Plants in the Araceae family are also known to have a spathe and spadix as their sexual flower structures.  The plants produce their own heat, and in turn can emerge late in winter and even melt snow!  They mostly do this to attract pollinators to a source of heat so they can pollinate!  Skunk cabbage commonly attracts flies to pollinate them.  The leaves of these plants were used by Native Americans for berry baskets/berry drying and as a famine food in early spring, before salmon could be caught for food!

Lysichiton americanum

One thing common to the west coast are Lichens (the fuzzy grey/green growth in the picture below).  There are more than a thousand different kinds of lichens that make their home in Washington, Oregon, B.C. and Alaska.  Lichens are common in this area because of the moisture in the air and the air circulation from the nearby bodies of water.  The richest habitats for lichens include rocky headlands, ventilated forests and the alpine areas.  Lichens are within the fungal kingdom, but instead of invading and scavenging like other fungi (moulds, mildews, mushrooms) they cultivate algae within themselves and will photosynthesize to supply their own carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins.  Lichens have a symbiotic relationship with the algae since they provide them within protection from the elements and they do not harm the host trees in which they seem to take over!  There are many different forms of this fungi, but remember it as the fuzzy, flaky green, grey or bluish growth on the bark of trees and shrubs in woodlands.  Here it grows on trees and shrubs in all parts of the landscape.  You will commonly see them on the East coast too!

So, there is a little bit of information on the pest situation here, and a few native attractions in the woodlands!  I will be posting information and pictures on the installations we complete for our clients, as well as my visits to local wild areas and the vegetation that is native to this region!  My next post will be on the life of PNW salmon and their habitat!  I will also be posting information about salmon habitat restoration in riparian areas, which I have been involved in volunteering on the weekends!  Thanks for reading, please comment if you would like!

Below are some pictures after I first arrived, and of some cool sites that I was able to take pictures of…

The hood canal bridge.. longest floating bridge in the country, 1 mile long!

Matthew Berberich.  We were checking out a site for a potential rain garden… he’s like this a lot…

A view of the Olympics!

The beach, downtown PT

I have seen a few sweet rainbows while I’ve been here!  Common because of the moisture content in the air. : ]

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