School of Biological Sciences

Marion Ownbey Herbarium

The Plants of Kamiak Butte

Kamiak Butte, a quartzite steptoe, stands distinctively about 1000 feetabove the Palouse hills between the towns of Colfax, Palouse, andPullman. The Whitman County Park at Kamiak Butte provides thecommunities of Washington State University and the Palouse region with easy access to native flora. The plant diversity on Kamiak Butte is great because the north slope iscovered by forest communities centered on grand fir, Douglas fir, andponderosa pine and the south slope is a steppe community. A hiking trailin the county park extends through portions of the various forest andsteppe vegetation communities.

This website provides information on the plants of Kamiak Butte. A list of the vascular plants of Kamiak Butte is available in two forms: 1. arranged by plant family, and 2. arranged by genus. Both lists provide scientific (binomial) and common names for the vascular plants known to be on the butte as well as information on the habitats in which they are located. The list of plants was modified from a floristic study of Kamiak Butte by J. Fiely (1979). Select highlighted names from either of the plant lists to see photographs and obtain additional information about the plants. The acquisition of photographs and information on each kind of vascular plant on Kamiak Butte is an ongoing project so please have patience with us while we continue to develop this website. We provide an annotated bibliography that lists books and other publications on the flora of the Pacific Northwest, especially the Palouse region, that can help you to identify plants and learn about plant communities.

One can never be sure that a plant list for a particular area is comprehensive. During the preparation of this website we have found various kinds of plants that were not listed in Fiely's (1979) flora of Kamiak Butte. Plants can become locally extinct and no longer found where they once were. New kinds of plants can be introduced at anytime. Weedy plants, introduced largely by the activity of people, particularly through agriculture, are common on Kamiak Butte, and new arrivals should be expected. Let us know if you find a plant on Kamiak Butte that is not on our list.

The flora of Kamiak Butte as we know it now has 181 kinds or species of vascular plants. They are members of 46 families and include flowering plants (angiosperms, including monocots and dicots), conifers (gymnosperms), and ferns (pteridophytes). The most common coniferous trees of Kamiak Butte are Douglas fir, in the forests of the north slope, and ponderosa pine, which is especially prominent on the ridge. The short switchback trail from the parking lot to the ridge is lined by two of the most common shrubs of the butte: Physocarpus (ninebark) and Holodiscus (ocean-spray). Amelanchier alnifolia (service-berry) is the most prominent shrub, especially during spring when it has flowers with long white petals, on the grassy south slope. The most common grasses of the steppe vegetation of the south slope are the native Agropyron spicatum (wheatgrass) and Festuca idahoensis (Idaho fescue) and the introduced European weeds Bromus brizaeformis (rattlesnake brome) and Bromus tectorum (cheat grass).

For additional information on the plants of Kamiak Butte or the Pacific Northwest, please contact the Marion Ownbey Herbarium or examine some of the materials listed in the bibliography.

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