Saturday, September 30, 2023

Opuntia columbiana

While on a field work venture along the Yakima River in central Washington I came across a patch of what I believe to be Opuntia columbia. I felt fortunate to have seen this patch before I walked into it as I was wearing light shoes. I was once no so fortunate while traversing an area above the Okanogan River.     

Patch of cactus on a high gravel bar above the river

I determined that the patch was broad enough and populated enough that it would be ok to extract a paddle.

Long thorns of Opuntia columbia?

I am nowhere near enough of a botanist to know if this cactus is Opuntia columbia, hence, my tentative identification. That said, I am pretty confident based on my review of Burke HerbariumDesert Northwest provides a nice discussion of the various cacti species in Washington and discusses the botanical debates, but also comes down on this likely being Opuntia columbia

I enjoy seeing cacti in Washington State. Cacti do not have much of a presence in Washington even in the dry areas. This patch was growing on a cobble/gravel bar elevated above the river. The site is high enough that flooding must be very rare as there were some large ponderosa pines on the bar. The cobbles and gravel add to the dryness and have kept competition down just enough to allow the patch to thrive.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Phytoplankton, Puyallup River and Mount Rainier

I previously posted on phytoplankton-in-commencement-bay based on a set of oblique aerials I came across on the Washington Coastal Atlas. On a recent trip I got to see the phenomena myself including very good views of the source of sediment that feed the bloom in the bay.

Phytoplankton bloom in Commencement Bay

Puyallup River sediment discharge into the bay

Puyallup River on lower left with the source of sediment looming in the distance
The combination of andesite magma and grinding glaciers provides an abundant source of phosphorus to the bay via the Puyallup River.

Dirty late summer glacial ice extending down the lower flanks of Mount Rainier

Summit of the big mountain