Red Alder (Alnus rubra)

The red alder (Alnus rubra) is a deciduous tree native to the U.S. Pacific Northwest that has proven important to both Native Americans and wildlife in the region. Its range extends from southeastern Alaska to southern California, generally within 125 miles of the ocean.

This tree is a pioneer species that establishes rapidly in openings created by forest disturbance, including landslides, logging or fire. It is a host to nitrogen fixing mycorrhizae that lives on its roots. This association allows alder to enrich nitrogen-poor soils which enhances the growth of other trees such as Douglas-fir.

Red alder is one of many trees in the U.S. Pacific Northwest used by Native Americans. The bark was used for dyeing basket material, wood, wool, feathers, human hair, and skin.

The wood is low in pitch, which makes it a good wood for smoking meat. Native Americans also used the bark to treat many health problems from insect bites to lymphatic disorders.

For wildlife, red alder provides an important deciduous component in the predominantly coniferous forests found in the region. Most of the seeds remain on the tree well into the fall and winter months, providing valuable resources for birds, insects, and mammals when other foods are scarce.

Beavers eat the bark and build dams and lodges with the stems. Red alder trees also provide valuable nesting for birds and thermal cover for black-tailed deer and other wildlife.

Coyote (photo courtesy of ODFW)

Where did you first learn about coyotes? It may have been through children’s cartoons. The characters ‘Wile E. Coyote’ and the ‘Road Runner’ cartoons recreated the relationship between predators in a humorous way. Unfortunately, the representation is not very accurate.

Coyotes are North America’s oldest indigenous species. The oldest modern coyote fossils date to 0.74–0.85 Ma (million years) and can be found in Hamilton Cave, West Virginia. Coyotes are thought to have originated near Yellowstone three million years ago!

Habitat

Coyotes are found throughout Oregon. Their territory stretches south to Central America and north through much of Canada.

There are 19 different subspecies of coyotes inhabiting different areas. They look similar in that they are medium in size with multi-colored coat, and bushy tail.

Coyotes are part of the Canidae family which include wolves (typically larger) and foxes (typically smaller). These three species avoid using the same territory at the same time.  

Conflicts

As populations flourish, are they a nuisance? Conflicts between humans and coyotes usually occur as a result of human errors, often related to making food available.  And, because of the cartoon, we all know that the coyote is always hungry and looking for its next meal.

See Living with Coyotes fact sheet from the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (link in References).

Diet

Coyotes will eat just about anything and will shift their diet seasonally and based on availability. If they have to eat grasshoppers to survive, they will. On better days they will be looking for mammals (such as rabbits, porcupines, rodents, squirrels, deer, goat, mice, etc.), fish, amphibians, , and reptiles, fruit and vegetables, and in times of food shortages invertebrates (like grasshoppers), farm animals (like chickens) and even pets. Coyotes also hunt in packs, usually for larger prey.

Communication

Unlike the cartoon, coyotes are intelligent and adaptable, and use a highly developed communication system to maintain long-term social and family relationships, and identify territory. Coyotes are considered to be the most vocal of all [wild] North American mammals.

Their howl, or group howls, are easily recognizable. They will also vocalize greetings, which can include a group yip howl.  Sounds can also include agonistic/alarm, and contact which may be made through woofs, growls, huffs, barks, yelps, and high frequency whines. Yelps are a sign of submission.

Vocalizations are also important, and often heard, during breeding season (generally between late January and March). Coyotes form strong pair bonds for several years and are generally monogamous.

These vocalizations always include some body language such as tail wagging, muzzle nibbling, and posture. An aggressive coyote will arch its back and lower its tail, head moving side to side, with spins and dives. Aggression is a normal behavior in a pack and fights are often silent.

Folklore

Native American folklore contains many references to coyotes. Coyotes may take the form of a trickster, skin walker, or in military/hero symbols, often as savvy and cunning. In Mesoamerica, the Coyote appears in several codices as the god of dance, music and carnality (sometimes as a womanizer). The Coyote also has parts in many creation stories from several native cultures.

Coyotes are an evolutionary success story. Their cunning, adaptability, communications, and ability to understand human behavior makes them stand out both in folklore and in modern times.

REFERENCES:
–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/coyotes-wolves-and-foxes, https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/coyotes.asp)
–National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/c/coyote/)
–Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coyote, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_and_Furry-ous)
–The Howling: Why You’re Hearing Coyotes This Month (https://blog.nature.org/science/2019/02/13/the-howling-why-youre-hearing-coyotes-this-month/)
–Singing Coyote – the Ultimate Adapter (http://followingdeercreek.com/coyote/)

Varieties of Yellow Pond-lilies can be found across the US.

Why is it possible to drown a common house plant and yet there are plants that grow gleefully in water?

The common Yellow Pond-lily has a beautiful bloom and large, heart-shaped floating leaves (nearly 18-inches in length). The bloom is nearly 4-inches and held just above the water surface in spring through early fall.

Survival

The Yellow Pond-lily has developed a specialized type of underwater tissue that helps it survive. This tissue, called aerenchyma, facilitates the underwater movement of large amounts of oxygen and other gasses. This tissue holds eight times the amount of oxygen, compared to a house plant.

Respiration in water lily-type plants is anaerobic (meaning the process occurs without oxygen). Many ponds and slow-moving waters where it grows are often low oxygen. This respiration process creates ethanol (a type of alcohol) within the plant’s cells.

This alcohol is poisonous to the plant. To get rid of the alcohol quickly, the plant evaporates it up through the aerenchyma cells and bloom. The pretty yellow blooms smell strongly of alcohol which attract pollinating flies, and create a small bottle-shaped tuber to store sugars in (explains the common European name of ‘Bandy-bottle’).

Medicine

Yellow Pond lilies have been used in traditional medicines remedies. There are warnings related to tannins and selecting materials from a clean water source (see the Natural Medicinal Herbs website at http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/n/nuphar-lutea=yellow-water-lily.php). Note: Not all varieties or parts of the Yellow Pond-lily are edible or appropriate for use.

The Edible Wild Food website (http://www.ediblewildfood.com/yellow-water-lily.aspx) reports that the Yellow Pond-lily was a common food source for many Native people. Natives leached the rootstocks collected in the spring and winter of tannins and boiled or roasted for flour. Seeds were often cooked like popcorn. Flowers can make a refreshing drink.

The National Park Service reports Yellow-Pond lily species ‘Nuphar polysepalum’ growing in the Denali National Park/Preserve lowlands in Alaska. When cooked, this variety is also tasty (see Denali National Park, Alaska, https://www.nps.gov/dena/learn/nature/pondlily.htm).

Where to find it

Yellow Pond Lilies grow in a wide variety of aquatic habitats as far south as Baja California, and north into Alaska. Habitat ranges from hot desert ponds to ponds frozen more than half of the year!

Want it?

Propagate Yellow Pond Lilies through seed or division and will grows in containers!

For more information, see Plants for a Future at https://pfaf.org/user/Default.aspx. Image is Royalty free from free-images.com.