by Charlene Simpson, ILC resident
Monitoring stations in the Cascades report the lowest mountain snowpack levels on record. Spring has emerged from an unusually warm winter (Hill, 2015). Does winter weather affect the bloom time of Goodpasture Island native spring wildflowers? Likely, not much. Native plants evolved here and are adapted to just about everything Mother Nature dishes up. However, some of my Native Plant Society friends believe flowering is early this year.
The Oregon Flora Project at Oregon State University defines a native plant as one that existed before Euro-American settlement (OFP website). Most native plants on Goodpasture Island have been extirpated by conversion of suitable habitat to farms and development. However, you can still find native plants in scattered remnants of the pre-settlement landscape along the Willamette River and its sloughs. Patches of native vegetation persist in the Delta Pond area, as well.
Maple Woods is a small preserve located between Goodpasture Island Loop Road and the Willamette River. In the mid-1990s four acres were set aside by developers of Valley River Village, removing lucrative home sites from the project (Bishoff, 1995). This action was not without controversy. Developers dreamed dollars; conservationists envisioned a Willamette Greenway. Ed Alverson (2000) wrote in Eugene 1945-2000: Decisions That Made a Community, “This small oasis of original riparian forest teams with spring wildflowers and songbirds, a reminder of the character of the Willamette River bottomlands in an earlier time.”
Towering over the preserve are big leaf maples. Indian plum, vine maple and elderberry form a middle canopy.
The blue blossoms of tall larkspur and the giant leaves of cow parsnip with huge umbels of creamy white flowers are seen at the preserve’s south border along Goodpasture Island Loop Road. Giant trillium and bleeding heart nestle in shady moist places.
Learning about the natural history of our area enriches our lives and contributes to our sense of place.
Alverson, Ed. 2000. “The Changing Natural Environment” in Holt, Kathleen & Cheri Brooks, eds. Eugene 1945-2000: Decisions That Made a Community. The City Club of Eugene. Xlibris Corporation.
Bishoff, Don. April 5, 1995. “Seeking to stay developer’s ax.” The Eugene Register-Guard.
Hill, Christian. March 29, 2015. “Difficult choices: Meager snowpack complicates Oregon’s water balancing act.” The Eugene Register-Guard.