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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Snails, fish, insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers.  All are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.
March 28, 2013
Tidal marsh wetland
Salish Sea, Washington

I've been watching the patch of Henderson's Checkermallow at a wetland on the island for some years now, and saw its first leaves of the year today. I have a special interest in this native perennial, our local "marsh mallow".

In June it begins flowering, with pretty purplish pink flowers on stalks. It will look like this.
hendersons checkermallow
Sidalcea hendersonii
Besides how lovely it is to see these bright pink stalks emerging out of a mix of grass and glasswort, it also represents what tipped the balance in shifting this wetland from private to public ownership. The Checkermallow is considered a "Species of Concern" by the federal government, less at risk than "Endangered" or "Threatened", but rare in nature. That status makes this a Category 1 wetland, most sensitive out of the four categories, as classified by the state of Washington, requiring protection from degradation.

When the Checkermallow and its status became evident in the early 1990s, the landowner agreed to sell the 25 acres to the county Land Bank whose mandate is to preserve and protect in perpetuity. Part of this acreage had been ditched and drained, and cultivated with nonnative grasses for grazing sheep very early on in the settlement of the island. Our one village is right next to it. This open wetland is now a place for runoff biofiltration and a refuge for wildlife and native plants. A lovely bit of public nature.

Much of the site is nearly flat, so high tides wash salty water in, mixing with freshwater runoff, to create a gradation of soil salinity, from the dryer grassy zone (in the foreground of the photo below) down to the brackish permanently wet zone by the bay (past the driftwood). Henderson's Checkermallow is fairly salt-tolerant, so it thrives midway where it is wet and sunny. Deer seem to leave it alone, and its flowers attract bees and hummingbirds through the summer.

weeks wetland
After reading Milly Watts's diary about scientific names, I got curious about the Henderson the Checkermallow was named after (Sidalcea comes from the Greek for mallow mallow). He was Louis F. Henderson (1853-1942), who moved to the Northwest as a young man.
During his long and vigorous career, he collected plants in virtually every corner of the state (Oregon) as well as in Washington and Idaho. At the time, he may have understood the flora of the Northwest better than any living person. Henderson's tens of thousands of meticulously annotated specimens—now at Oregon State University, the University of Washington, the National Herbarium, the Gray Herbarium, and elsewhere—provide a detailed record of the changing plant communities of the Northwest from the 1870s to World War II. (
He explored and collected all over the Northwest, was a botanist and forester for the state of Washington, and established the Botany department at the University of Idaho, as its first professor. We can only imagine how devastating it must have been when a fire burned the Herbarium he had founded, with all its 85,000 specimens and all his personal files.
Columbia River at Hood River (photo by David Hererra,
He was living in Hood River, Oregon, in retirement, when he swam across the Columbia River there, a few days before turning 70. This was in 1923, before the Columbia was backed up behind Bonneville Dam 30 miles downstream, so the photo to the right shows a river a bit wider than what Henderson swam across, today 4700', somewhat less than a mile. But it was also a fast-moving river at that time, and cold. Pretty impressive!

This feat was reported in newspapers, and caught the attention of the Botany Department at the University of Oregon. He was hired as curator and spent the next 15 years collecting and curating, before retiring for good at 86.

Many plants are named after him, most of them native to the West Coast, a worthy tribute. Besides the Checkermallow, here are some others.

Angelica hendersonii, Henderson's angelica, west coast
Angelica hendersonii, Henderson's angelica
Horkelia hendersonii, Henserson's horkelia, Klamath mtns of So Oregon only
Horkelia hendersonii, Henderson's horkelia,
Cryptantha hendersonii, Clearwater cryptantha, west coat
Cryptantha hendersonii, Clearwater cryptantha
Erythronium  hendersonii, Henderson's fawn lily, southern Ore
Erythronium  hendersonii, Henderson's fawn lily
Dodecatheon hendersonii, Henderson's shooting star, west coat
Dodecatheon hendersonii, Henderson's shooting star
A little bit of history with our natural history today. Henderson lives on in these glorious flowers.


What's blooming or leafing.....buzzing or fluttering.....blowing or singing in your backyard today? Bunnies laying eggs? chocolate or marshmallow? All observations are welcome in the Bucket!

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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