Botany Challenge 49

Botany Challenge 49 participants.
Botany Challenge 49 participants. Photo by R.L. DeVelice.

Map of the Falls Creek area.
The Falls Creek Trail stays within about 500 feet east of the creek.

Falls Creek Trail, Chugach State Park, Alaska

By Robert L. DeVelice

The Falls Creek area is immensely beautiful and includes verdant forests, species rich shrublands, and a lively stream. The trailhead is about 20 miles east of Anchorage on the Seward Highway. On the evening of June 13, 2013, “Botany Challenge 49” was held. The hiking group sought to identify 49 species of native plants (Alaska being the 49th state) and to note the phenological state of each (vegetative, flowering, fruiting). There were eleven participants (9 people and 2 dogs) in the botany challenge event, which extended from sea level to about 1,200 feet elevation along the Falls Creek Trail in Chugach State Park.

The outing was educational, a lot of fun, and successful in documenting 50 native plant species (one bonus species over 49) within the two hour duration of the outing! If we had made it to the alpine tundra at about the 2,000 foot elevation we probably would have added another 40 species to our list. Something for a future outing!

Bunchberry, yarrow, and horsetail.
Bunchberry and a bit of yarrow and common horsetail. Photo by Carol Howe.

Sitka alder.
Among the Sitka alder along Falls Creek. Photo by Carol Howe.

The following are the 50 plant species we identified.

TREES
Scientific Name Common Name
Betula kenaica Kenai birch
Picea X lutzii Lutz spruce
Populus trichocarpa black cottonwood
Salix scouleriana Scouler willow
SHRUBS
Scientific Name Common Name
Alnus crispa ssp. sinuata Sitka alder
Amelanchier alnifolia serviceberry
Echinopanax horridum devil's club
Menziesia ferruginea rusty menziesia
Ribes laxiflorum trailing black current
Ribes triste northern red current
Rosa acicularis prickly rose
Rubus idaeus raspberry
Sambucus racemosa elderberry
Shepherdia canadensis buffaloberry
Sorbus scopulina western mountain-ash
Viburnum edule highbush cranberry
FORBS
Scientific Name Common Name
Achillea borealis yarrow
Aconitum delphiniifolium monkshood
Actaea rubra baneberry
Aquilegia formosa western columbine
Arabis lyrata lyreleaved rockcress
Aruncus sylvester goatsbeard
Aster sibiricus Siberian aster
Cornus canadensis bunchberry
Epilobium angustifolium tall fireweed
Galium triflorum fragrant bedstraw
Geranium erianthum northern geranium
Geum macrophyllum large-leaf avens
Heracleum lanatum cow parsnip
Heuchera glabra alpine heuchera
Lathyrus maritimus beach pea
Moehringia lateriflora grove sandwort
Osmorhiza purpurea Sitka sweet-cicely
Prenanthes alata rattlesnake root
Pyrola asarifolia liverleaf wintergreen
Pyrola secunda one-sided wintergreen
Smilacina stellata false Solomon's-seal
Streptopus amplexifolius twistedstalk
Trientalis europaea starflower
Urtica lyallii stinging nettle
Viola sp. violet
Zigadenus elegans death camas
GRAMINOIDS
Scientific Name Common Name
Calamagrostis canadensis bluejoint reedgrass
Carex sp. sedge
Carex deweyana Dewey sedge
FERNS AND ALLIES
Scientific Name Common Name
Athyrium filix-femina lady fern
Dryopteris dilatata wood fern
Equisetum arvense common horsetail
Equisetum pratense meadow horsetail
Gymnocarpium dryopteris oak fern

For More Information

Robert L. DeVelice
Vegetation Ecologist
USDA Forest Service, Chugach National Forest
161 East 1st Avenue, Door 8
Anchorage, AK 99501-1639
Email: rdevelice@fs.fed.us
Telephone: (907) 743-9437