Lakeridge Park, Renton, WA. 13:30.
Before this trip, I had never visited Lakeridge Park. In fact, I have only visited Renton a handful of times in my life despite being a natural-born Washingtonian. The park was certainly difficult to find. I drove past the entrance three times before realizing I was even close to being in the right place. Even the employees of a local pizza restaurant (which was only three blocks away from the park's entrance) had no idea what Lakeridge Park was when I asked for directions. That being said, I am quite glad that the park is on the road-less-traveled. It is an oasis in a desert of steel and concrete.
Serene. As soon as I walked into the park from the north entrance It felt as if time itself had stopped. Immediately all of my senses were steeped in the essence of the forest, and I loved every second. My eyes strained to feast upon the opulent greenery in front of me. Streambed rocks could be heard resisting the movement of the waters around them. The scent of fresh, crisp and clean air filled my lungs. The feel of grit and muck encroached upon my shoe from muddy puddles. I was ready.
I began my journey with a copy of Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast by Pojar and Mackinnon in hand, two pencils, a black pen, and my field notebook for sketching. I planned my trip starting at the north end of the park. Upon entering the park I would check out Taylor Creek, which runs through the middle of the valley. Next, I would head south until I reached the end of the park. Then I would double back to the northern entrance again, where I would hike to the top of the valley's west side along a second trail to look for more species.
My first thought: The plant density here is astounding. Off of the beaten path of the valley you cannot see the earth, only the swaying fronds of endless Western Sword Ferns (Polystichum minutum) interspersed with a swath of crimson and gold Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis). Though ferns are the dominant component of the understory, there are a great number of other plants that simultaneously compete for ground cover as well. Surfeits of Skunk Cabbages (Lysichiton americanus) and herds of Horsetails (Equisetum hyemale) flock to the forest's ample puddles for water. Creeping Buttercups (Ranunculus repens) make their way onto dead logs and out of the shade (some of which had some sort of bug infestation/parasite/disease in the form of yellow fuzzy bulbs on their leaves). Patches of White Clover (Trifolium repens) lay strewn about on the highest edges of the valley, enjoying the sun and enticing insects with their sweet scent. Further muddling the mixture, Trailing Blackberry (Rubus Ursinus) attempts to criss-cross the terrain in every-which-way. Unfortunately, all that they yield are clinging spines that snag clothes and tear skin. They do not yet have delicious fruits, but the Rubus spectabilis has more than made up for that!
There was also a large amount of Fowl Bluegrass (Poa palustris) near the stream in the middle of the valley. In addition, I was able to find a nice patch of healthy, seven-lobed Palmate Coltsfoot (Petasites palmatus) near one of the larger puddles at the base of the valley. I also found two patches of Salal (Gaultheria shallon). One patch was to the eastern side of the valley up a small path, and the other was on top of a Cedar stump in the middle of Taylor Creek. I found it while looking for other species near the water when I was halfway through the valley.
In addition to the Salal, I found three slugs, all of which were found near the stream. There was a small blue one which I identified as Zacoleus idahoensis on an online dichotomous key. One was brown with a black head and had an orange fringe to its foot. This was a European Red Slug (Arion rufus), which I learned about after doing a bit of online research. According to the HistoryLink.com article titled: California naturalist collects non-native European slugs in Seattle on June 24, 1933, I should have immediately killed this slug. They are apparently invasive, terrorize gardens, and are a general blight to our ecology.
The last slug that I found was the European Black Slug (Arion ater). It is also apparently highly invasive and destructive. I remember salting my garden as a kid in order to keep these slugs away from our plants. It is quite interesting that I saw more invasive slugs than domestic ones. Perhaps they are kicking the less aggressive native slugs out of their home-territory?
Other less common species of plants that I saw were three Herb-Robert plants (Geranium robertianum) and two Pacific Rhododendrons (Rhododendron macrophyllum). I found six Dull Oregon-grapes (Mahonia nervosa) in the valley, but no Tall Oregon-grape plants. This is likely due to how moist Lakeridge Park is (According to Pojar, Mahonia aquifolium prefers a dry environment). There were only three Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) plants that I could find. This was fewer than I had expected to find, and only one had a flower on it! I was also fortunate enough to find a Deer Fern (Blechnum spicant) just off of the trail halfway into the park.
The main tree species in the region are Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) and Bigleaf Maple (Acer Macrophyllum), with the maples far exceeding the amount of cedars. There are also a few Alders (Alnus rubra) and some Douglas Firs (Pseudosuga menziesii), but there is little in the way of diversity outside of those four species.
I was fortunate enough to find some fungi in the valley as well. There was a bit of Hypoxylon on a dead Bigleaf Maple trunk, a single Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) on a stump, two Fairy-Rings (Marasmius oreades) on a log in the middle of the creek, a few shelf fungi that looked like Artist's Conk (Ganoderma applanatum) on some dead conifers, and a blanket of white/clear slime mold on a dead Western Red Cedar stump. I really would like to identify the slime mold soon. Perhaps Joe Amminati will be able to help me out.
I saw several birds in the park, including a Pacific Wren (Troglodytes pacificus), an American Robin (Turdus Migratorius), and a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana). Unfortunately, they were too fast for me to capture on camera, but it was still interesting to watch them from afar tweeting to other birds within their own species. It would be nice if my ears were a bit more attuned to the calls of the various other species in the forest, but I cannot verify what birds I cannot see (except for robins). There was also definitely at least one Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) in the area recently as well. I found a stump with several large woodpecker holes in it that were very characteristic of the Pileated Woodpecker.
While I did not see any mammals today other than the woman's dog, there was a log that had scratchings that looked like the markings of the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). It was very similar to what we were shown in the mammals presentation in class, although I suppose other species do that as well.
At the top of the valley I found a single Madrone (Arbutus menziesii), a Foxglove plant (Digitalis purpurea), a Pacific Ninebark shrub (Physocarpus capitatus), an Agrocybe Praecox and a form of Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris). I did not see any of these species elsewhere in the park.
Near my car on my way out of the park I saw an English Holly bush (Ilex aquifolium). It is interesting that this is the only Holly bush that I found, because when I was upstream I found a holly leaf that was partially decayed, but no holly bush was in sight. Hopefully volunteers will be able to keep this species out of Lakeridge Park!
For me, it is a rarity to feel separated from the city...especially when it is less than a mile away. Here, it is easy for me to feel separated from the rest of society altogether, and to be honest, that can be a nice feeling. This is the kind of place that I could see every day and never become tired of. It is a shrine of Gaea. A bastion of nature in an industrialized landscape.
Plants & Shrubs: