Smooth Douglasia (Douglasia laevigata)
Last July we found a single specimen (above) of this uncommon primrose peeking out from among the rocks near Royal Lake Campground. One year later, and a few miles west, we found multitudes of them scattered along the ridge of Marmot Pass at the edge of Olympic National Park. In the sparse slopes above timberline, it’s easy to mistake it for phlox or even moss campion. It’s low mats bloom following snow melts in the mountains as well as on the coast where it can find water in rocky crevices.
Named for David Douglas (1799-1834), a scotsman that was one of the plant hunters, a group of privately sponsored explorers (catching rides with explorers like Captain Cook and Captain Vancouver) that spent years in exotic locations with a mission to collect new species for London’s influential horticultural institutions in the 1800s. Douglas spent 1824-1827 being one of the first to explore the wilds of the Pacific Northwest expanding upon the flora observed by the Lewis & Clark Expedition two decades earlier. Douglas is credited with introducing over 200 new species, including the ubiquitous Douglas Fir, Oregon’s state tree. Daniel Matthews in Cascade-Olympic Natural History, claims Douglas “walked and canoed 6,037 miles of Washington and Oregon in 1825 and 1826”, and “deserves to be canonized as the patron saint of Northwest backpackers.”