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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Home is where the plants are

I just returned from visiting my family in Oregon. It included a couple of quick visits to some old haunts in the valley and up the Siskiyous. May is the tail end of spring and it's heralded by roses, iris and rhododendrons.

My goal for this trip was to get out in the mountains and just breathe. I miss the perfume of the forest, the sponginess of the moss, the waft of whatever is flowering, the quick flash of fish jumping. The Rogue Valley where I grew up is nestled between the Cascade and Siskiyou mountains, with a mix of environs and plants. There was still snow on the peaks but the spring flooding was over so the water was completely clear.

I was home.

Or was I?

I couldn't help but think of the south marveling at the Antitrichia curtipendula moss growing on a Douglas fir that leaned over Applegate Lake. Even though it's a completely different plant than Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides.) Then my mind went down THAT rabbit hole making me think of the ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata) that grows on the Live Oaks here in Austin.

Down by the dam, (Applegate river has an earthen reservoir to form the lake) the white quartz and orange shale reminded me of the yellow limestone here in Hill Country.

Of course the water in this lake was blue, not the interesting brown that you find in Austin.

Back down in the valley, I dragged Mom down Hanley Road to see if the strawberries were ripe (they were) and to stop in at the Southern Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station and Jackson County Extension service. They are always doing interesting plant trials. I was totally captivated by their cover crop mix featuring blue tansy (Phacelia tanacetifolia), purple vetch, rye grass, and volunteer wheat. The staff invited me to pick a bouquet. So I did.
As a kid I would tromp through the pasture and pick grasses and weeds for bouquets. Alpine meadows were another special place where I just reveled in all the plants jammed into small areas. I guess that's why I love Texas and the prairie ecosystem, and those wildflowers! 

Unfortunately, I was between wildflower seasons during my visit. The woodland flowers like Trilliums were done, and the late spring flowers like Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon hendersonii) and lilacs (Ceanothus) had a few more weeks to go. But luckily one of my favorites made an appearance by the trail.  Calochortus elegans, or "kitty ears" as we always called them, were delightful. You can't go by one of these without petting the long hairs along the petals.

But, I do the same thing with wine cup - a plant I couldn't grow to save my life in Oregon, but one that appears everywhere here in Central Texas.

I have to ask myself. Where is home? The mountains of Oregon with the perfume of respiring trees?

Or Texas?

Grasses or trees?

Kitty or doggy ears?

I don't know anymore. 


  1. Maybe both -- and maybe that changes over time? I've been in Austin long enough that I no longer think of South Carolina, where I grew up, as home. But its landscape still has resonance for me. It's where I first loved nature, and first love sticks with you, even when you find a truer love later on.

  2. I'll always be a mountain girl at heart but I'm warming up to Austin more and more as time goes by.

  3. Both! To varying degrees. For example Spokane will always be home, but Portland is home now too. You need both parts of your whole.

  4. I knew I was an Austin girl right away. I need to have trees. As soon as I moved here from Phoenix, it was immediately home. My sister is moving back to Phoenix from Seattle after almost 15 years, and never called Seattle home. It is interesting how that works.

    Lovely Pictures!