May has come to the Walla Walla Valley and draped a blanket of bright green punctuated with hundreds of thousands of native flowers that are scarlet, sapphire, royal purple and saffron over the valley. One native plant currently in bloom is the sapphire blue flax.This spectacular native flower blooms north of town in the bunchgrass prairie areas; it is about twelve inches high and has an inch and a quarter wide bloom of the most beautiful blue. This flower only blooms in May and attracts many native pollinators from bees to beetles and wasps.
Another spectacular species is a bird that has flown all the way from Central America to breed. The Western Tanager arrives in Walla Walla County in early May to set up a nesting territory and attract a female. The males are mind blowing; they look like they belong in the tropics with their black wings, saffron yellow body and orange/red head. This bird travels almost 3,400 miles to nest in the Blue Mountains. The males’ song sounds very much like an American Robin. So in this month of migration be on the lookout for this gorgeous bird species as you could locate it anywhere. Walla Walla County has 347 documented bird species, how many can you spot?
Half way up the Blue Mountains in the canyons of the foothills is a butterfly that has spent all fall and winter in its chrysalis morphing from a caterpillar into one of the first spring butterflies to hit the cool air of the season. I am talking about the Sara’s Orange Tip butterfly. This spectacular insect has been found on the wing as early as March. As the ambient air temps rise and spring slowly ascends up into the high Blue Mountains different populations of Sara’s Orange Tips emerge and start the cycle of life all over again. There is nothing hum-drum about this wonderful native western butterfly – once on the wing it flies very quickly and directly in its search for a mate or flowers on which to nectar. The female is a little different in color as it does not have the solid orange tip (photo is of a female). Take the time to get out and explore the foothills of the northern Blue Mountains and take a chance of seeing the many species of animals and native, flowering plants that inhabit this unique and wonderful county. May is a great time to drop into Walla Walla County and relax. Remember Walla Walla has to be seen to be believed.
All photos by Mike Denny