By Jeanette Oliver.
On the morning of Saturday August 2016, fourteen of us met at the home of Jeanette Oliver. After a brief discussion about birds of the area, we walked along a narrow strip of OSNA that lies on Leisure Island. Our emphasis was on lowland and floodplain vegetation.
The lowland forest is dominated by black cottonwood and white spruce. Native shrubs included chokecherry, alder, rose, and others. In the understory, we saw Oregon grape, and Calamagrostis. Invaders included Japanese barberry, common barberry, and Daphne, which get carried in by wind and animals from where they are grown as ornamental plants. In the east end of the strip, thistles and hound’s tongue are largely controlled, but farther west they are not. What a contrast!!
North of Leisure Island is a branch of the Stillwater River that partially dries after spring runoff. The “Big Island” portion of the OSNA is located across this branch. In the dry riverbed we saw early colonizers including sedges, rushes, grasses, sneezeweed, white dogbane sandbar willow, and black cottonwood. On islands in the adjacent braided channel of the Flathead River successive stages of sandbar succession could be seen.
Upon crossing the partly dry branch of the Stillwater, we entered the “Big Island”. Here we saw much of the vegetation we had seen on Leisure Island. Additionally we saw red stemmed dogwood. In one area at the margin of the Island there was an assortment of sedges, rushes, and horsetails. We observed Sagittaria cuneate, commonly called wapato, in a narrow channel of water that is present in this area. It is an interesting water plant bearing white flowers and leaves resembling arrowheads.
We returned to Leisure Island Shortly after noon. The adventure appears to have been enjoyable. One participant emailed later saying, “Thanks again for a most friendly and informative, ‘thistlely’ walkabout and the chance to meet many like-minded companions.”