Of plants, birds and the coming of spring

The relationship between plants and birds is anything but accidental or a one-way street - Contributed photo
The relationship between plants and birds is anything but accidental or a one-way street
— image credit: Contributed photo

Take a peek at the calendar and you’ll notice that spring isn’t set to begin for about another week.

DodecatheonBut don’t waste your breath telling that to the satin flowers, crocus or hummingbirds; they’re already in full swing. And so is the San Juan Islands chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society, for that matter.

Members of the local Native Plant Society, and guests, gathered in modest numbers in Friday Harbor back on March 1, to get their house shipshape and their collective “ducks in a row” for the coming of the warmer months and growing season ahead. While the local chapter still may be finding its footing after stalling several years back, chapter Chairman Kevin Sloan, an arborist by trade and seed collector at heart, says the membership remains well-stocked with expertise about local plants and is motivated to share that knowledge.

“We’ve got botanists among us and we can send someone out who can help people identify what kind of plants they have on their property,” Sloan said.

In the meantime, the society with newly elected officers at the helm, is preparing to reach out and make connections, and to partner with other like-minded organizations to make the most out of its shoe-string budget, fulfill its mission and make its presence known. From the Trails Committee to the National Monument, from the Land Bank to Washington State Parks, or the National Parks annual Bloom Week, opportunities abound (the annual Native Plant Sale, sponsored by WSU Master Gardeners and San Juan Islands Conservation District is March 29, on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan islands; see pg. 20).Quail

And while native plants may be the namesake, back at the group’s March 1 annual meeting it was birds that thrive on those plants, as well as others, that earned top bill. Whether in the San Juans or anywhere else on the globe, the relationship between plants and birds is anything but accidental or a one-way street, according to San Juan Island author, scientist and conservationist Thor Hanson, one of two guest speakers at the March 1 society get together.

“The relationship between plants and birds is both ancient and reciprocal,” Hanson said, “with one very much influencing the other. The bird community and the plant community very clearly are linked and have evolved together.”

Example? Well, Hanson will point to Honeysuckle and to the Christmas cactus, and how the flowers of each are a perfect fit for the beak of the hummingbird. They adapted and evolved in unison.

Garry OakGuest speaker No.2, Barb Jensen, president of the local chapter of the Audubon Society, said the best way to attract birds to your yard is by the decisions you make about plants. Birds of a feather, one might say.

“How do I bring birds to my backyard?” she asks. “It’s all about the plants that are in your yard. For birds it’s all about habitat, habitat, habitat.”

For more about the San Juan Islands chapter of Washington Native Plant Society go to


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