A Savannah sparrow uses lupine blossoms as a perch in the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A Savannah sparrow uses lupine blossoms as a perch in the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Pixie eyes, lupine and iris: Wildflowers bloom in Juneau

Of Wildflowers and Bears.

On a day of filtered sunlight alternating with rain showers, Parks and Rec hikers headed up the Dan Moller trail. Many of the boards on this trail are rotten, broken, unstable or missing altogether, necessitating detours into the meadows, destroying vegetation. On the plus side, the flower show of bog rosemary made a pink, pointillist impressionistic picture, punctuated with the deeper pink of bog laurel and Jeffrey’s shooting star. Another plus was hearing the so-distinctive song (quick, three beers!) of the olive-sided flycatcher.

[Antique tools, a juried art show, a look at canning in Southeast: Here’s what’s going on for First Friday]

Other flower shows are on their way, too. Common shooting stars in Cowee Meadows made a bright pink blanket, soon to be overcome by the purple and blue of lupine and iris. Above the tram on Mount Roberts, cream-colored narcissus-flowered anemones dominated the subalpine zone but did not entirely obscure the little pink wedge-leaf primroses (“pixie-eyes”), yellow sibbaldias and avens and three kinds of violets.

Surrounded by wildflowers, Kate McKelvey, left, and Mary Boas Hayes exercise Koa in the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Surrounded by wildflowers, Kate McKelvey, left, and Mary Boas Hayes exercise Koa in the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Although some gardeners may complain about the rain, if it interferes with their planting activities, I was pleased indeed that the rains came. My home pond is almost full again and maybe some streams are recovering a little from their sorry, almost-dry condition. However, Dredge Creek and its ponds are still extremely low. Without a steady supply of snow-melt from the mountains (where there was little snow this year), the salmon streams depend on rain to fill their channels and make fish passage possible. And without salmon, the bears will be very hungry and no doubt cranky.

[Spruce up a classic: Locally foraged spruce tips make great rice krispie topper]

A few days ago, a friend and I were working in the Dredge Lake area, checking the protective cages that guard a few of the trailside cottonwoods from beaver chewing. We were enjoying the songs of northern water thrushes and warbling vireos as we walked along the old dike near Moose Lake, when we heard a sharp Snap! — a branch breaking. Then another Snap! Hmmm — somebody’s out there … but it wasn’t the thrashing of branches that an annoyed bear can make. Then a third Snap! OK, let’s go look. Peering up into the canopy, we spotted a large black lump wedged against the trunk, very high in a big cottonwood tree. Snap! And down came a branch. Aha! The bear is harvesting cottonwood seed pods. Some years ago, we often observed such behavior near the visitor center: bears way up in the trees, eating first the catkins on the male trees and then the pods from the female trees. Some of the trees in that area still show signs of that activity — broken branch stubs not yet concealed by new growth. I was glad to see this bear in action that day; there have been fewer observations of such activity near the visitor center in recent years.


• Mary F. Willson is a retired professor of ecology. “On The Trails” is a weekly column that appears every Friday. Her essays can be found online at onthetrailsjuneau.wordpress.com.


More in News

It's a police car until you look closely. The eye shies away, the . (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, July 23, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The Teal Street Center, shown here in concept, is a combined social services hub located next to the new Glory Hall and expected to break ground this autumn. (Courtesy art / United Human Services)
Combined social services center receives major funding grant

The center, located next to the new Glory Hall, breaks ground this autumn.

It's a police car until you look closely. The eye shies away, the . (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, July 22, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Cathy Mendoza sits in the driver's seat of her ice cream truck on July 18. She recently launched the ice cream truck business in Juneau. She said that despite the concept being new to Juneau, sales have been brisk. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)
The scoop on Juneau’s new ice cream truck

New addition brings joy to the streets

City and Borough of Juneau City Manager Rorie Watt holds up a chart showing the increase in the size of cruise ships during a meeting of the Tourism Industry Task Force in the Assembly chambers on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. At Monday’s meeting, members of the City Assembly’s Committee of the Whole discussed three of the committee’s recommendations-a discussion that was sidelined by COVID-19. (Michael Penn /Juneau Empire File)
City turns to tourism management ahead of short cruise season

Community survey coming, new tourism job being considered

This December 2020 photo shows a CCFR vehicle. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Man arrested on charges related to vehicle fire

No injuries were reported in the early morning fire.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, July 21, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

1
Wild Shots: Photos of Mother Nature in Alaska

Reader-submitted photos of Southeast Alaska.

Most Read