Nativica: Questions and Answers

by Heidi Hansen, October 18, 2016.  Art and text copyrighted. Permission required to reproduce.


Q: What is Nativica?

A: Nativica is a place where children woodswalk through native plant art and learn to identify the native plants of the northwest, how native plants help the animals of northwest habitats, and how they, as persons, are an important part of this ecosystem. Nativica is a place created through northwest botanical art that will inspire children to be conscious and careful woodswalkers. To observe the details and nuances of native plants, and themselves in that experience, to curate and conserve their own carbon footprint in northwest nature.aaa1nativicanativicagarden

Here are a few examples of the native plants you will experience in a northwest woodswalk:


Q: What is this plant and can people eat the berries?

A: Kinnikinnik is a sturdy evergreen groundcover that is commonly used to landscape along parking lots and city sidewalks. The berries are toxic to humans but nourish birds nicely through winter.


Q: Why is this called Tall Oregon Grape?

A: There are three types of Oregon Grape. This Tall Oregon Grape grows uupward like a shrub, the other two stay low and creep along the ground. Tall Oregon Grape is evergreen, with sharp leaves. The sky-blue berries are very tart and early pioneers had to use lots of sugar to make them into jams.


Q: Where is this watery place? Can I go there?

A: Ellsworth Springs is just that, a natural springs located in SW Vancouver, Washington. It is surrounded by a large evergreen forest and a terrific place to woodswalk. In this painting of the springs, you will see Western Red Cedar dipping its roots in the water, a bright yellow Skunk Cabbage right in the water, Vine Maple trees, Sword Fern, and Pacific Ninebark. All of these thrive right at Ellsworth Springs!


Q: Why does this leaf have so many colors?

A: This is a Vine Maple leaf just beginning to turn its colors in the month of October. Vine Maple leaves can turn bright red at high altitudes or a glowing orange at lower levels.


Q: Why don’t I see this flower very often?

A: Our native Irises are small in their flower, and not commercial showy types of flowers. But, they are very precious and beautiful and so surprising when you see them there. This is Oregon Iris, which blooms in June, and is pale lavendar and delicate blooms.


Q: Are native Iris fragile?

A: No. Like most native plants, they are strong, rugged, and adapted to survive many changes in environment. This is Iris tenax, larger and more deeply purple than the Oregon Iris, and has an extensive root system that holds it firmly in place.


Q: How do ants and Trilliums help each other out?

A: In the very middle of the white flower part of the Trillium is a sac of sticky sweet liquid that ants love to eat! They get it all over themselves, and the pollen of the flower sticks to it. When ants travel back home, they leave a trail of the pollen that starts new Trilliums in new places.


Q: Is it true that if you pick a Trillium, it will die and never grow back?

A: No. Deer eat Trillium tops all the time, and moles even nibble at the rhyzomes (which helps Trilliums sprout new flowers out of the same rhysome). If the Trillium is healthy, the flower will come back the nnext year. If it is weak, or not in a good spot, it might take a couple off years to flower again, but it will not die. Trillium rhyzomes have a robust underground life!


Q: Why is the Garry (or, White) Oak tree so important?

A: Our native Western Grey Squirrel and our native Scrub Jay depend on the acorns of this tree as a main meal. Our native White Tailed Deer eats the bark. Garry Oaks take a long time to grow and are very rugged but in the last 20 years have had a blight that reduced its population, which hurt our native animal populations.


Q: Why is there green on this tree bark?

A: A Scrub Jay is bursting out of a fall-colored Big Leaf Maple. Big Leaf Maple loves wet forests and so moss ggrows on its moist bark, as well as lichen and these provide rich beds for little licorce fern to grow on. The leaves of BIg Leaf Maple are yellow in Fall.


Q: What kind of tree is this Western Gray Squirrel eating on?

A: Garry Oak, of course — you can tell by the leaves — they have rounded edges. You will see here that an Oak in a moist woods will grow moss and fern like the Big Leaf Maple, although Oaks really like dry areas, too.


Q: How do native plants help our Salmon runs?

A: Red Osier Dogwood, seen here with its blue-ish berries, grow near river banks and help keep the banks from eroding. Also, their roots grow down into the water and when the water swooshes by it, churns up oxygen bubbles. This oxygen and root shield nourishes and protects salmon eggs when they spawn. Paper WIllow trees and Ginger and Strawberry help riverbanks stay strong.


Q: Why is Common Camas such an important native flower?

A: Although the flower is a lovely light blue color, and prized for it’s simple beauty, in the history of First Nation Peoples of the northwest — in particular the Nez Perce Tribe — Camas bulbs provided a major food staple. The bulb was dug up using a specialized paddle. These native tribes knew how to dig up the Common Camas, not it’s toxic twin named “Death Camas.” They had culinary techniques for mashing the starchy Camas bulbs and cooking them into hearty loaves. When Sacagawea guided the hungry and fatigued Lewis and Clark expedition west over the Rocky Mountains, they were greeted with luscious flowing fields of beautiful blue Camas flowers. For Sacagawea, this meant home. For the Lewis and Clark party, it meant a food source that would help them survive their journey in an unknown land.


Q: How is Pacific Dogwood different than Red Osier Dogwood?

A: They are cousins, but Red Osier is a low-growing shrub and Pacific is a tree. Pacific Dogwood attracts bees and butterflies like crazy! Look closely and you’ll see that Pacific Dogwood flowers out in three skinny branches, like fingers, from the main branch. And the flower petals have a distinct curl that makes a ballet dance when they catch a summer breeze.


Q: Why don’t I ever see Fairy Slipper in the woods?

A: You may not have your nose to the ground. Fairy Slipper, Calypso bulbosa, is our unique native NW orchid and she is tiny and grows in the mossy root base of big Douglas Fir trees. She is no faint of heart! Our native orchid is the first flower to bloom in spring, and that means in early February when there is still snow on the ground!




Q: How can I help keep our ecosytem healthy?

A: By enjoying it. By being gentle with it, keeping it clean and safe for the plants and animals that grow there, including yourself. Walking and biking instead of driving, inventing new ways of using old things, and planting native plants (in this painting you will see Orange Honeysuckle that attracts hummingbirds, and Blue Heron that eat the fish in the river. Can you find the dragonfly?).

_______________What’s next in Nativica?  The origin story!  How Zeke Worthy braves a vacuus storm to look for a solution and finds Nativica and the magic of an Attic Keeper’s sketchbook.  But, it’s his woodswalk that becomes heroic, and it begins with a poem about ferns.


Nativica art,  text and brand is copyrighted to Heidi D. Hansen, all rights reserved, reproduction requires permission and possibly purchase.  Email Heidi at to talk about it.

















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