Promising Rhododendrons

Pacific Rhododendron

The arrival of spring means it's time to start planning for rhododendron season.  Again this year, I will be photographing the native Pacific Rhododendrons in Deception Pass State Park.  Also known as the Coast Rhododendron, and California Rhododendron (R. macrophyllum), this is the official Washington State Flower.  Yesterday, I went over to hike the "Rhododendron Trail" to see how things look.  I saw several buds swelling, even on this small bush right next to the trail.

The Rhododendron Trail

The trails are also looking good, although some spots are a bit muddy right now.  What I have dubbed the "Rhododendron Trail" is actually a network of Deception Pass trails.  There are two large groves, one at Goose Rock and a second in the Hoypus Forest.  I visited the Goose Rock grove yesterday.  I plan to check out the Hoypus grove next week.

Bob Matchett Memorial Bridge Wetlands

This year, I will be adding the Park Office Trail and the Bob Matchett bog bridge wetlands to the Goose Rock hikes.  This will introduce a very different ecosystem to the dry forest trails of Goose Rock.  The bog bridge was built last year making these wetlands accessible, while keeping feet dry.

Yellow Skunk Cabbage
Yellow Skunk Cabbage

Yellow Skunk Cabbage
Yellow Skunk Cabbage

Yellow Skunk Cabbage a.k.a. Swamp Lantern is already putting on a show in the bogs.  These plants might be waist high by summer.  I am eager to discover the wetland flora this newly opened section of the park has in store.

Douglas Squirrel Midden
Pileated Woodpecker Wood Chips

I spotted signs of wildlife, although the critters themselves stayed out of sight.  Later, when they have young to feed, they are more likely to be seen out foraging along the trails.  I did hear the sounds of Bald Eagles, Ravens, several songbirds, Canada Geese, and Pileated Woodpeckers.

Left:  Douglas Squirrel midden on the Discovery Trail.
Right:  Evidence of a Pileated Woodpecker's drilling under a snag along the Park Office Trail.

Salmon Berry

I spotted the first Salmonberry blossoms of the season on the Discovery Trail.

Red-flowering Currant

The blooming of Red-flowering Currant is well underway.  Here, I have a confession to make.  I saw several currants blooming in the park, but was unable to get a decent shot.  So, I took this photo in my backyard after I got home as a substitute.  This is not a nursery plant, however, it's a native Red-flowering Currant that came up on its own.  Because of this, it is one of my favorite shrubs in the garden.

The usual peak bloom season for R. macrophyllum is late April through mid-May at Deception Pass.  If you would like to join me on one of my rhododendron hikes, send me an email, and we can get something scheduled.  Besides rhododendrons, there are many more wildflowers to see in the park.  The hikes are easy to moderate in difficulty.  Allow two to three hours.

Once again, Mother Nature is promising rhododendrons.  This will be my fifth year photographing the plants at Deception Pass.  I've been an avid rhododendron gardener for forty years, so visiting these native shrubs is like a pilgrimage.  I always look forward to this time of year.