Eugene Weekly : It’s About Time : 5.7.09

By David Wagner

Calypso orchid (aka lady slipper), Calypso bulbosa

Hooray for May! when wildflower blooming reaches its peak in the Willamette Valley. The annual wildflower show at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum in Buford Park celebrates this flush on the Sunday after Mother’s Day.

A couple of hot days in April caused a surge in blooming, but things are still behind schedule. Cool weather in May will keep things coming out gradually. Calypso orchids will stay lovely longer than usual. The cloudy, drippy days are good for planting vegetables out in the garden. Their roots will be well established for productive growth when the weather warms up in July and August.

A sunny day makes the air warm. Moist fragrances arise when tramping on yerba buena in the woods. Nice fragrances. But then I notice the headless elk carcass that’s been thrown over the edge of the road, only 25 yards past the “No Dumping” sign. Bad fragrances. Curse the SOBs who did that. I have to turn my attention to birds busily making nests and feeding nestlings; it brings back the pleasure of being outdoors.

 Oak woodlands have an array of flowers that are not seen anywhere else. Getting out into the oak woods means watching out for poison oak. Its leaves are just unfurling so they are barely noticeable but as virulent now as any time of the year. An alert is also needed for those allergic to grass pollen. The count starts to climb toward the end of this month, peaking in June.


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