Sophie’s Herbarium

Most NW flowers bloom between March and May.  Herbariums collect specimens in bloom and preserve them, allowing visitors to view either dried flowers, photos, or paintings for year-around viewing.  Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora C. Mace, who brought the concept of a livingIris history farm to Exit 215’s sponsors in 2004, suggested a unique herbarium in 2009, one that captures native blooms in glass! (The example at right is from the Gardens’ Herbarium collection, photographed in a loaned display at LaConner’s Museum of Northwest Art and now displayed in the Gardens’ Herbarium.)

In visiting Kew Gardens’ Director to discuss the proposed Bonhoeffer Herbarium, we were told that the NW is not of much interest to international botanical science: “the world has 350,000 plant species to collect and study and only 1,000 are found here and there in recent glacier territory like that of western Washington. We can sit in a patio in Borneo and see 35,000 species. We just don’t have much interest in Delaware, Washington … either Washingtons’ flora, or the UK for that matter.”  We cite this conversation because it defines the limits of the challenge in teaching about our area’s native plants.  If one thinks of this as a high school class with 250 students, it is quite possible to know all their names!  It should be possible to teach all our youngsters the names of 22 conifers, broad leaved trees, etc. (if public schools were to again teach native plant identification).

The Herbarium (the Gardens’ old house) was built by the son of a Jewish Stockholm physician, John Bruhn.  It has been remodeled to serve as a coffee shop and a place to sit, study, and talk.   This still requires County approval (a change in zoning): a herbarium gallery with electronic screens and exhibits, outdoor dining along with plants and items for sale.  Botanists have begun to describe the Gardens as “NW America’s native plant garden” as plants do not recognize county, state, or national boundaries.  We have, by far, the largest collection of indigenous flora for the 3 western climatic zones north of San Francisco Bay to Ketchikan Alaska (being at the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca).

It is true irony that Bonhoeffer Gardens’ are part of the only Jewish homestead in the northern 3 counties.  If you are older than 72, Lutheran Minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenberg in our lifetime for his defense of freedom and thought.  If you are younger than 23,  Sophia Scholl was a Munich Lutheran student and a member of the White Rose. “Somebody, after all, had to make a start” were her beheaded age 22 dying words.  (The art above, Dietrich & Sophie by Veruska Vagen, is also found in the  Herbarium.)