Bodacious Botany: Wicked

We found two versions of wicked botanical denizens of the Pacific Northwest when we walked the Old Snoqualmie Pass Wagon Road Trail (the trail is shorter than its name) on Saturday. That trail makes a nice loop out of the Franklin Falls hike: it doesn’t add much distance to your trip, and you get to see the forest. Which is full of fallen trees, and sliced up by streamlets, and makes you think that having to run a wagon trail through there must have been a ginormous pain in the arse.

I wouldn’t even have known about it if it wasn’t for Evelyn. She sent me 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Seattle for Christmas. B and I have been putting it to excellent use. The authors didn’t know rocks – they’re description of Franklin Falls is “gray and reddish rocks…” “black and reddish rocks…” and there they give up. I don’t blame them, necessarily. Those rocks are bloody hard to sort out if you’re not a professional: I’ve been at it all day, trying to figure out just what, precisely, we’re dealing with. I mean, it’s all well and good to know the black and reddish rocks are hornfels, but what kind? I know the gray rocks are Snoqualmie Batholith granodiorite, but what’s its story, morning glory? And now I’m getting punch-drunk from searching through dozens of sources. And – oh, my, where was I?

Oh. Right. Wandering through the woods with B and book.

A huge hunka hornfels ripped up by a root ball. Evelyn's very useful giftie for scale.
A huge hunka hornfels ripped up by a root ball. Evelyn’s very useful giftie for scale.

That enormous rock ripped up with the root ball is hornfels, by the way. I found a smaller hand sample of the same stuff to bring home and break. I’ll show you it when I write up the geology of Franklin Falls.

As we were bopping through the forest like Little Bunny Foo Foo* (only we were bopping rocks, not mice), we came across a pretty wicked plant.

Mystery plant I
Mystery plant I

In Arizona, it wouldn’t have earned a second glance. Plants with billions of thorns on them are weeds there: you can’t go six inches without something trying to stab you. But an old-growth PNW forest doesn’t have much outside of berry brambles that has thorns. Our wild roses do, and I suppose this could be one, but it looks different from the roses I photographed budding out a few months ago. Then again, we’re at 2,600 feet. Maybe the roses are different.

Mystery plant II
Mystery plant II

You see here, it has impaled a cone of some sort. It’s the badass of the forest.

Mystery plant III
Mystery plant III

This botany is bothering B, so hopefully you’ll be able to identify it. I know it won’t be easy – all you’ve got is thorns and buds. But I have faith in you lot.

Further along the old wagon road, we came across two rocks that looked like the Wicked Witch of the West. Same vivid green:

Wicked Rock I
Wicked Rock I

Made me laugh, that did. I’m not sure what’s causing it – some sort of lichen, I suspect – but the effect is awesome. I’ll even forgive it for covering up the geology.

Wicked Rock II
Wicked Rock II

The moss makes it look like they’re morphing into Swamp Thing, doesn’t it? I love stuff like this. Mosses and lichens and fungi are interesting little things, and they make the world more colorful. And just think: you never would have seen this without Evelyn. Loving this book. I’m delighted she sent it, and trying to think of a suitably useful giftie for her, and hoping the summer stretches on so that we can cover as many of the hikes in here as possible. Get yourself a copy if you find yourself in Seattle with some hiking time to spare.


*My first encounter with the “Little Bunny Foo Foo” song was in Roman Dirge’s Lenore. I’m delighted to discover there’s an animation of it (caution – autoplays) that will allow you to share the very fucked-up experience.

Bodacious Botany: Wicked

8 thoughts on “Bodacious Botany: Wicked

  1. rq

    That is a plant totally foreign to me, so I’m going to agree with everyone that it’s a devil’s club. The name does look appropriate.
    The green colour on the rock could be just plain algae, not lichen, but I’m mostly saying that because lichen doesn’t tend to get slimy in my (limited) experience. Rainforests is rainforests, though, and some algae deal well with drying out and moistening repeatedly.

  2. 4

    Late to the party again, but at least I knew it was Devil’s Club. Love the “horridus” appellation! It’ll have huge leaves before long.

  3. 5


    I slipped and grabbed a Devil’s Club in a thimbleberry thicket. Nasty stuff disguised as harmless, and even friendly thimbleberries. Wicked!

    I got a few spines in my hand. They really hurt, and then festered. Extremely painful!

  4. 7

    As for the green rocks, I have a suspicion. The long explanation requires several slides of moss life cycles and a brief lecture. The short explanation is: some mosses produce lots and lots of single-cell-wide filaments (protonema; macroscopically, it looks like green slime, microscopically, it looks like a generic filamentous alga), skip the whole “leafy” stuff that you’re used to thinking of as “moss”, and then produce some sporophytes (spore capsules plus the stalk; the only diploid portion in the moss life cycle). That’s what this looks like to me.

    The moss I know of that does this is the genus Buxbaumia, a.k.a. “bug-on-a-stick moss”. There may be others with which I’m not familiar. Anyways, that’s my suspicion. Moss, but protonemal.

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