Eugene Weekly : It’s About Time : 8.13.09

By David Wagner

Elephant’s Head. pedicularis groenlandica

August is a berry nice month. Marionberries, boysenberries and the cultivated blueberries pass their prime early. Wild berries come into supremacy later. In the valleys the invasive, poorly named Himalayan blackberry (originally from Armenia) has juicy berries reaching perfection mid to late August. The mountain huckleberries get good toward the end of the month.

If you have planted zucchini in your garden, you should be rich. A half dozen vines is like a flock of chickens; every morning you can pick three or four which are no bigger than twice the size of your thumb. If you let zucchini get too big, chop them up and freeze them. They will thicken a late winter soup.

Watch for baby garter snakes. Unlike most reptiles, momma garter snakes retain their eggs internally and bear live young. They are ready to begin hunting for tasty bugs from day one.

If you camp in the woods seeking peace and quiet, expect only the former. When well away from the sounds of civilization and sitting very still, you will perceive the background hum of millions of insects. True silence in the woods won’t return until the rainy season gets under way.

Plan now for camping in the high country. After Labor Day elephant’s head still blooms in mountain meadows. Avoid the weekend opening of the high Cascade hunt Sept. 12. The issue is not danger from hunters; it’s that all wilderness camp sites will be occupied. The Three Sisters Wilderness will be crowded!


David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for more than 30 years. He teaches mosses and is president of the Eugene Natural History Society. He may be reached at