Eugene Weekly : It’s About Time : 4.1.10

By David Wagner

Small Camas. Camassia quamash.

What is it about the call of a chickadee on a sunny morning that makes the heart sing? Love is in the air! How wonderful it is that these birds reside in town with us. I can’t imagine having to live in a city neighborhood without chickadees and robins. It is good to pause and give thanks for winged joy.

With the equinox behind us, rapidly lengthening days have us roaring headlong towards summer. Spring is just getting up to full steam and it will be over before you know it. The long dry period that characterizes our late summer has crowded the main flowering season into the next two months. It’s time to dust off those field guides and polish the hand lenses.

Camas will be blooming by the end of the month. We have two kinds in this area, the giant camas of upland seepy slopes and the small camas of wetlands with standing water in winter. Camas was an important food source for the original inhabitants of the area. Roasted in pit ovens, it is sweet and nourishing. Boiled, however, it has the consistency of library paste.

Pay attention to your surroundings when hiking on the edges of civilization, you may see more wildlife than you expect. Cougars are being seen close to town more frequently. So far, no confrontations have occurred in our area. If you do encounter a cougar, do not turn and run. Open wide your jacket to make yourself look big and YELL.

David Wagner is a botanist who has lived in Eugene for more than 30 years. He teaches mosses and leads plant walks. He may be reached at