By Sarah Schrock
This coming weekend is an exciting one for Twisp, with the finish line of the Sunflower Classic at the Doran Ranch followed by the Trashion Show, Twisp’s notorious springtime party.
Alongside the Trashion Show, there’s another party getting underway. These next few weeks are the most exiting in the floral world as all the wildflowers start showing up to party in full bloom.
This year’s Sunflower Classic had an exceptional number of registrants, so Methow Trails created a staggered start to ease the crowded trails a bit. As word about the beauty of the scenery and quality of the trails along this route has spread, the race has grown in popularity.
A little reminiscence: Some of you may remember when the Sunflower was a relay-team-only event. The rules were that you had to have a co-ed mixed age team. If I am not mistaken, teams were required to have someone under 16, someone over 40, and a mix of women and men.
It was always a challenge scrounging up the mix to make a team. Then, if someone got hurt or injured you had to find a replacement who met the same criteria so the team would be eligible. In fact, that is how I got on a team — I replaced someone who was injured. That team included Taylor Woodruff as our under-16 runner and was the ringer. I think he ran his 6-mile leg in something like 28 minutes.
As the name implies, the race is timed so that the sunflowers will be out. Most years, by the time the runner’s hit Twisp, the sunflowers, or arrowleaf balsamroot flowers, have given way to lupines. Cold temperatures this spring have held back the blooms and the timing will be perfect here in town for the “sunflowers.” Up in Mazama, I don’t have the intel, but my guess is that they are still enjoying the spring beauties, buttercups and a few bluebells are making an appearance.
Shooting stars emerge, waterleafs pop, and geraniums burst, as they start showing up but the wildflower I want to showcase this week is the brown biscuitroot, or fern-leaved desert parsley (Lomatium dissectum). While we relish in the cornucopia of colorful blossoms that arrive in waves, this plant is often overlooked as a flower. The brown umbel-shaped blossoms of the desert parsley are peculiar because, well, they are brown. As a brown flower, it is therefore sometimes referred to as “chocolate tips.” And brown flowers are just not all that bright, so no wonder it shows up early — it’s got to make statement.
All lomatiums are in the same family as carrots and they are edible like our orange friends. But it’s this desert parsley I want to showcase because it, perhaps more than any other plant, is not given proper credit for its contribution at the party for the spring green up.
It is an eager plant that shows up early to the party to get a good seat. It’s a plant whose life cycle colors our hills in a dramatic metamorphosis. It sprouts from the earth, fills out, blooms,and perishes in manner of weeks. When it grows, it graces the hills with a blanket of vibrant green. By June, green gives way to yellow and then a rust-colored bronze, smearing the hills in a mosaic of browns and yellows until it dries up and disappears, seemingly weedy and unsightly. By July, the land is brown as the desert parsley retreats undergrown until next spring. So, while this plant gets a little unwieldy in its old age, dried and shriveled — without its early emergence, the hills just simply would not be as green without its attendance at the spring fling.