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About Time - May 2012

Native Banana slug. Ariolimax columbianus.
Native Banana slug. Ariolimax columbianus.

I know summer is close because the sun shines in our north windows. A sunny morning is a good time to go turtle watching in the Delta Ponds. They line up on anchored logs in early morning. The warm weather brings the cottonwood trees into final stages of bud burst. Inside the leaf buds — but not the flower buds — is a resin that smells very sweet. It is the American source of Balm of Gilead.

By the end of May the Oregon oak trees will finally have their leaves fully expanded. The last of the native trees to leaf out, they are genetically predisposed to avoid late season snow damage. The wild cucumber is growing fast, extending grasping tendrils upwards. All the early flowers are male. These are the ones on stalks. The female flowers appear later, singly in the angle between leaf stalk and stem.

Mowing and weeding, I love the smell of plants cut and torn off. I wonder if I am an instinctive gatherer, rather than hunter, with a sap lust instead of blood lust? Slugs are afoot these days, eating their way through the lilies and primroses. If you want to pick one up to toss away, you had better use a leaf or other wrap because they produce an alarm slime when disturbed. It is amazingly sticky and won’t wash off with soap and water.

The Wildflower Festival at Mount Pisgah Arboretum is Sunday, May 20. Please join me for a plant walk at 1 pm.