Native Plants Tour
March 30, 2004

From left to right: Rachelle Giesy, Frank Kanawha Lake, Johnny Means, Bob Zybach, and Rodney Slattum.

This website report documents the Native Plants Tour that took place on March 30, 2004. It is included as part of the Oregon Websites and Watersheds Project, Inc (ORWW) Bald Hill 2004 website. Philomath High School students Johnny Means and Rachelle Giesy participated in the tour as part of their senior project requirements. Tour hosts included Frank Kenawha Lake, an ethnobotanist with the US Forest Service, and Rodney Slattum, a prescribed fire and reforestation expert from Phoenix Reforestation, Inc. A second tour, for the purpose of building a pit oven to bake camas, was hosted by Frank Lake and Don Todt, and took place in Ashland, Oregon on May 30, 2004. The website report on the Ashland Camas Bake includes pictures and videos of a traditional--and nearly universal--cooking method used for millenia to prepare native foods for eating.

The purpose of this report is to document information and knowledge gained during these tours, and to make it available to students, teachers, and interested public. As part of that effort, this website is being designed and completed by Nana Lapham for partial credit for an Oregon State University (OSU) Ethnic Studies project course under the guidance of Kurt Peters and Bob Zybach.

This tour was made possible through a collaboration of people and organizations. All texts, photos, and video clips may be reproduced for educational or research purposes. Please cite Nana Lapham and Bob Zybach as principal report authors, most photographs to N. Lapham, videoclips to B. Zybach, and all direct quotes to the speaker being recorded, and the date and location of the recording. Exceptions to these citations (for example, photographs from other sources) will be noted in the text.

The following is a documentary report on the Bald Hill tour. Of the 17 stops, 16 have links to video footage taken that day. Most videos are 2 to 3 minutes in length and include specific information about native plants and traditional uses of fire.

Wetland Plants

The wetlands are located along the bike path on the north side of Bald Hill. Indians used cattails for fuel when starting fires and as absorbent filler for baby diapers. The rhizomes are starchy and were baked and eaten. Roses and rose hips are rich in vitamin C and were ground into powder, which could then be used as tea. Willow shoots were used for fire drills and for basketry.

Wetland Plants Video.mpg13.0 mbs.

Willow for Basketry
Long straight shoots of willow can be stripped clean of their bark and are ideal for weaving into baskets, traps, and baby carriers. The straighter shoots are often found on plants that have been pruned and have not been shaded out by other species.

Willows for Basketry Video.mpg 9.3 mbs.

Flowering Trees
The many flowering trees on Bald Hill include crabapple and hawthorn. Hawthorn berries are dry and mealy and were rarely eaten, except in times of famine. The thorns were used for fish hooks and other tools.

Flowering Trees Video.mpg 5.5 mbs.

Spring Cleansing
The Indians used cascara buckthorn (or chittum) to cleanse their bodies in the spring time after eating lots of smoked and preserved foods over the winter months. They would then replenish themselves with nourishing plants, such as stinging nettles.

Spring Cleansing Video.mpg 4.4 mbs.

Digging Brodia
Brodia have small starchy bulbs, kind of like tiny potatoes. Their red tipped leaves are distinctive, although thin and easily overlooked to the untrained eye. Historically, fields of brodia would have been regularly harvested. This would assure an abundance of bulbs and soft, loose soil; ideal for harvesting.

Digging Brodia Video.mpg 11.0 mbs.

First Bulb
Johnny uses the traditional digging stick to dig up his first brodia bulb.

First Bulb Video.mpg 2.5 mbs.

Licorice Fern
Licorice fern grows in folds of bark and in moist areas; often on the trunks and limbs of bigleaf maple trees. Its rhizome was used for sore throats and coughs. It can be chewed fresh or dried and pounded into powder for tea.

Licorice Fern Video.mpg. 7.5 mbs.

Miner’s Lettuce
Miner’s lettuce is juicy and crunchy, although slightly bitter with an aftertaste. It contains lots of vitamins and was regularly eaten by Indians.

Miner's Lettuce Video.mpg 6.0 mbs.

Digging Camas
Rachelle uses a digging stick to dig up camas near a willow tree on the north side of Bald Hill.

Camas Powerpoint Slideshow.pps

Chocolate Lily
Starchy chocolate lily bulbs were eaten fresh or dried, powdered, and stored. From a conservation standpoint in this particular area, they are being threatened by encroaching chittum and leaf litter. They thrive in burned areas.

Chocolate Lily Video.mpg 5.8 mbs.

Old-growth Madrone
A patch of old-growth madrone on the north side of Bald Hill is unique to the area. Reflecting on Frank’s "hardware, supermarket, and pharmacy" analogy, it is likely that Indians managed this grove for specific uses. The leaves were chewed or used in a mouthwash for healthy gums, the bark was used for skin rashes, and the vitamin C-rich berries were eaten.

Old-growth Madrone Video.mpg 6.9 mbs.

Cat’s Ears
Cat’s ears bulbs are crunchy and slightly sweet and can be eaten fresh or cooked. The Indians likely harvested them in the fall, when they could also disperse the seeds, ensuring next year’s harvest.

Cat's Ears Video.mpg 5.2 mbs.

Thatch Burning
A test burn on top of Bald Hill shows how quickly the dry grass ignites, but then puts itself out after a few feet. Sun and wind and season affect fire intensity.

Thatch Burning Video.mpg 10.8 mbs.

Burn Results
The test burn burnt off all the dry grass, but left the moss, lily leaves, and strawberry leaves green. Plants will receive more sunlight and the soil will be replenished from the burn.

Burn Results Video.mpg 3.6 mbs.

Starting a Fire
Frank uses a clamatis fire drill with a maple tree base with a hole drilled in it to start a fire in one of the traditional ways. The fire drill is spun between the palms with its end in the hole drilled in the maple base. An ember will form from the friction between the woods, that can then be dumped out onto the fuel – in this case moss, cattail down, and white oak leaves.

Starting a Fire Video.mpg 11.3 mbs.

Fire Fuels
Rod starts a one match fire, using pitch wood (“smells like turpentine and burns like oil”), moss, and small Douglas fire branches. It’s important to get your fuel ready beforehand and to "start small."

Fire Fuels Video.mpg 14.1 mbs.

Broadcast Burn
The broadcast burn on the northeastern side of Bald Hill will help to restore native white oak. It will also inhibit encroachment of shrubs and encourage a return of native and non-native grasses. Indians burned areas to ensure growth and regeneration of bulbs, such as camas, brodia, and cat’s ears.

Broadcast Burn Video.mpg 11.9 mbs.


This tour and report has been made possible by a collaboration of the following people and organizations:

Bob Zybach, program manager of ORWW, directed and managed the Bald Hill tour and authorized and coauthored this website. Nana Lapham, program assistant for ORWW, helped with the tour and created, designed, and coauthored this website, in part for academic credit for her independent projects class with Kurt Peters, director and professor of Ethnic Studies at OSU. Philomath High School students Rachelle Giesy and Johnny Means took part in the tour and reported their findings for partial credit on their senior projects, under the direction of their ecology and botany science teacher, Jeff Mitchell. Technical and editorial assistance with video clips was provided by Josh Meredith, at Josh Meredith dot com.

Frank Kenawha Lake, an ethnobotanist from the Pacific Northwest Research Station and an OSU PhD candidate in the Environmental Sciences program, shared his native plant gathering and cooking expertise. Rodney Slattum, president of Pheonix Reforestation, Inc., provided botany and fire lessons. Andrew Martin, Sally Haffner, and Rich Heeter of Bald Hill Farm, LLC, Steve Deghetto from City of Corvallis Parks Department, and Jerry Davis of the Benton County Parks Department gave permission to use trails and harvest native plants on Bald Hill private, county, and city lands.

Funding for this project has been provided by ORWW, Andrew Martin, Jack Brandis, the Ralph Hull Foundation, NW Maps Co., and Starker Forests, Inc.

© 2004 Oregon Websites and Watersheds Project, Inc.