A Few Snags Near Ketchum and Stanley

A couple of weeks ago, Sierra and I were in Ketchum, Idaho taking a much needed mid-October vacation. The weather was great, and the fall color was incredible, so heading out on multiple hikes was a no-brainer. On our hikes, I found myself increasingly drawn to all of the snags. Forested areas like those found in the Sawtooth National Forest are bound to have a significant amount of standing dead trees. After all, trees don’t live forever; just like any other living being, they die – some of old age, some of disease or lightning strike or any number of other reasons. But death for a tree does not spell the end of its life giving powers. In the case of snags, it’s really just the beginning.

Death might come quick for a tree, but its rate of decomposition is slow. Fungi move in to begin the process and are joined by myriad insects, mosses, lichens, and bacteria. The insects provide food for birds, like woodpeckers and sapsuckers who hammer out holes in the standing trunk. As primary cavity nesters, they also nest in some of these holes. Secondary cavity nesters make a home in these holes as well. This includes a whole suite of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Without the habitat provided by snags, many of these animals would disappear from the forest.

Eventually snags fall, and as the rotting continues, so does the dead tree’s contribution to new life. It’s at this point that snags become nurse logs or nurse stumps, providing habitat and nutrients for all sorts of plants, fungi, and other organisms.

Unfortunately I can’t bring a you a complete representation of the many snags of Sawtooth National Forest. You’ll have to visit sometime to see them all for yourself. Instead, what follows is a small sampling of a few of the snags we saw near Ketchum and Stanley.

new cavities in new snag

old cavities in old snag

knobby snag with lichens

lone snag on hillside

double-trunked snag

fallen snag

snags are more alive than you might think

just look at those cavities

For more snag and nurse log fun, check out the following episodes of Boise Biophilia:


This will be the last post for a few weeks as I will be taking a break to finish working on a related project. I hope to be back sometime in December with more posts, as well as the unveiling of what I have been working on. In the meantime, you can stay updated by following Awkward Botany on Twitter or Facebook.


Wildflower Walk: Spring 2013

This past weekend I ventured into the Boise National Forest. I was on the hunt for morels (or at least a good morel hunting spot). I chose a specific section of the Boise National Forest because a forest fire had occurred there the previous summer. Morel hunting is typically quite good in forests that have burned the previous year, and morel hunters, being well aware of this phenomenon, are found chomping at the bit, anxious to enter a recently burned site and collect their bounty.

Unfortunately, I was unable to  find any morels on this trip. I was a little too early, which I was assuming might be the case as I was heading out there, but I was just excited to go and check things out. Hopefully I will get a chance to go again within the next few weeks, and perhaps I’ll have better luck.

The trip was not a complete disappointment though. What started out as a mushroom hunt quickly turned into a wildflower walk as I was overwhelmed by the abundance and diversity of wildflowers that blanketed the mountainsides. Below is a small sampling of the plants that I saw on my trip into the woods.


Balsamorhiza sagittata – arrowleaf balsamroot

castilleja covilleana

Castilleja covilleana – rocky mountain paintbrush

lomatium dissectum

Lomatium dissectum – fernleaf biscuitroot

paeonia brownii

Paeonia brownii – brown’s peony

viola purpurea 1

Viola purpurea – yellow mountain violet