Bruce and I went out one morning on the hunt for the elusive wild strawberry. We had seen evidence of them in the woods, with the plants and blossoms, but had never seen any fruit. Since there were blossoms in late April, I figured now was the time to find those berries! We headed out from the house and walked straight into the woods. We found a large patch of strawberry plants near the creek, but no fruit. We knew there were more up by the road, so we headed up there. On the way, we found a number of interesting things.
Deer skull and antlers; lizard
The roses are blooming all over; Yellow parentucellia
Oregon checker mallow; Richardson’s geranium
Henderson’s stars (Triteleia hendersonii) (rare); Meadow death camas (poisonous), with Ornate Checkered beetle
Chalcedona checkerspot; Western tiger swallowtail;
The Ornate Checkered beetle (Trichodes ornatus) is found only in North America. Its worm-like larvae live mostly in bee nests of the Megachilidae family species, or Mason bees. They are parasitic and in the nest they feed on bee larvae or pollen. As adults, they feed on yarrow, milkweed or other yellow-flowered plants. Since we have Mason bees and they are very beneficial to the garden and orchard, it was good that we found this insect and can take steps to manage it. We have to remove the bee nesting materials from the orchard shortly before and immediately after the end of the nesting period and store them away from other nesting bees. Commercial traps are available, consisting of a plastic container with a pheromone-impregnated capsule that attracts the beetles during the bee nesting period.
Livestock farmers know all too well the havoc Meadow death camas can inflict. It’s a favorite among sheep. Death camas, or Zigadenus venenosus, are native to western parts of North America. The toxic alkaloid zygadenine (considered by some to be more potent than strychnine) is present in all parts of the plant and can cause some serious consequences when ingested. Elaine Nelson McIntosh, a dietitian and food historian, suspects death camas may have been to blame for the illnesses that plagued the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. Food was scarce and the group was suffering from malnutrition. The Nez Perce tribe offered the travelers fish and bulbs of a plant they believed were blue camas. At the time, the plant wasn’t in bloom, making it hard to differentiate between it and its evil cousin. Soon after, the group fell violently ill for weeks. They ate their dogs to sustain themselves for the rest of the expedition.
After a short hike we came upon the second patch of strawberry plants and oh boy, we found the berries! There were two and they were red and very small, but not very sweet. That was disappointing and a lot of work for no reward. I think we’ll leave them for the deer and other animals.