Saturday, June 07, 2008

roses and camas

Today is flower day.

I know some of you read
Trauma the Drama -- a blog written by a sometime Cancun expatriate, who currently lives in Oregon. She has been posting some comments about Portland's premier event: the Rose Festival.

At least, it was the premier event when I was growing up. Parades. Floats. Marching bands. Waving princesses. The closest thing a republic has to monarchical pomp and circumstance.

When I was 10, I was in awe. Like most everyone else in this postmodern world, I now see it as an ironic parody of itself.

But it does honor one of my favorite flowers: the rose. Even though our weather is still a bit cool and damp, I noticed on my morning walk with the dog that the roses are out in force.

That caused me to start wondering. I know that I have seen posts on roses in the northern desert and in the central highlands pf Mexico, but I have never heard anyone comment about roses on the Pacific coast around Barra de Navidad. Do any of you know? Will they grow? Do they thrive?

I am almost positive that I will not find these beauties in Mexico. It is a camas.

When the white settlers came to the Pacific northwest, they would often encounter open meadows with what appeared to be beautiful blue lakes. Those "lakes" were camas in bloom. I have seen the display only a few times. Stunning.

And the flower is symbolic of the relationship between the white settlers and the local Indians. For the Indians, the camas was a great source of nutrition. The bulb can be eaten similar to a sweet potato or ground into flour. The Indians would often burn areas of the forest to create meadows to grow camas, to allow blackberries and huckleberries to sprout, and to provide grazing (and great hunting spots) for deer and elk.

When the white settlers arrived, they attempted to stop the fires to protect their settlements. They also allowed pigs to run free. Pigs, being -- pigs, rooted up the camas meadows. The Indians fought back in the early 1850s. They lost, and ended up undergoing several sad treks to primitive reservations. One tribe has had its revenge by setting up a casino that is now Oregon's number one tourist attraction. The descendants of those white settlers now trek to the casino to lose what was taken 150 years ago.

Babs has been publishing similar commentary on her visit to Chiapas.

Our history does not live far from from us.


JJ said...

I don't think I have ever seen camas, and I have lived here most of my life (that's not really saying much, I don't really notice things). Very beautiful.

Thanks for the mention by the way, I am enjoying your blog!

Steve Cotton said...

jj -- You probably have seen camas without recognizing it. Most of the camas meadows have disappeared for many reasons. But they are cultivated in a lot of public gardens -- because they thrive in Oregon conditions. (After all, it is a native plant.) Look for them in May. Most of them are now going to seed. I was lucky to catch that straggling blossom.

Babs said...

LOVE the camas - what is the scientific name? Thanks for the mention. I planted five rose bushes last spring - just about the time the cutter ants were on their spring rampage. It was a delightful salad for them in one afternoon. I think I'll go buy some more rose bushes after seeing your blog!

Steve Cotton said...

The scientific name is Camassia leichtlinii.

I forgot about the cutter ants. I bet they would make short order of roses in Melaque.

Brenda Maas said...

Roses do fine here in the winter and survive the summer, don't know how they would do there though. You will know when you get there, if the viveros don't sell them a lot then they probably don't do well. Take some walks and look at the neighbors yards to see what grows well there. Remember there are micro climates everywhere, so the only way you will know is by trying.

Nancy said...

Our landscape guy shook his head one day and lamented that people from up North buy roses to grow here in Mazatlan, when there are so many wonderful plants that appreciate the climate and give us something different than what we saw every day up North.

I agree with him...embrace the hibiscus and the bougainvilla and the tons of other gorgeous tropicals when you move, and enjoy the roses when you visit up North.

My two pesos worth!

Steve Cotton said...

Brenda and Nancy -- Good advice from both of you. I am not certain why I would want to try growing roses (or anything else) in Mexico. My roses end up suffering from my neglect up here. And I intend to be spending a good deal of time on the road to archaeological sites while I am in Mexico. Perhaps I was getting a bit to nostalgic as the reality of moving starts to sink in.

Islagringo said...

I agree with Nancy. That said, I think you will have trouble growing anything if your property gets the ocean breeze. Anything that salt hits, dies. Unless it is protected by a wall or building. My bougainvilla plants are protected but if they so much as stick a branch out into the open, it withers and dies. I have a ton of green plants but, alas, no flowers to speak of. It amazes me that our nursery here sells a great variety of plants but none that are salt tolerant.

Steve Cotton said...

That may explain why the beach front home I am looking at in July has a sand back yard. Of course, the yard is commonly what we call "the beach."