Winter in the Woods: Why has NPS taught this class for 25 years?

Excerpts from Erica Guttman’s introduction to Winter in the Woods: A Winter Guide to Deciduous Native Plants in Western Washington (E. Guttman & R. Thurman, 1999).

Edited by E. Guttman and S. Elie

“Many people ... might find it odd to have a class and guide devoted to identifying plants in their winter state. … ‘Why should I want to know how something looks in winter?’

Knowing what plants look like in winter has many practical benefits!

Winter is a good time to gather cuttings and some seeds for propagating plants.

Plants are dormant in the winter, making it an ideal time to salvage and transplant.

When you learn winter identification skills, you can then rely on them to identify plants with confusing foliage in other seasons.

Being able to distinguish deciduous plants from each other in their winter, leafless state greatly adds to our appreciation of the natural world in a season spent too much indoors.

Rather than seeing a dreary landscape of indistinct twigs…

we begin to distinguish and appreciate the fullness of these plants in their winter splendor—the deep reds, gray-greens, yellows, oranges and chestnut-browns of branches; the beauty in the shapes and placement of developing buds; the overall form of the plant when not hidden in leaves; remnant fruits and newly forming catkins; and the surprising beauty in the varying textures of the twigs.

Studying the physical details of plants in the winter ignites our enthusiasm for watching their changes throughout the seasons.”

For several years, the Native Plant Salvage Project’s winter twig identification courses have been overflowing with people eager to learn new ways to enjoy our natural world.

This continued enthusiasm from workshop participants energizes us to sustain this workshop year after year and continue to bring new volunteer instructors into the fold!

We invite you join us and discover the same appreciation and delight that learning this unusual skill brings to your winter outings!

Spiraea douglasii remaining fluorescence & new buds; photo by S. Elie, W 2019.

Alnus rubra new growth; photo by S. Elie, W 2019.

Our 25th annual Winter Twig I.D. Field Course is on January 27th.

More information on the WT19 page linked above.


While we are answering questions here: “What does the salvage in Native Plant Salvage mean”?

Our volunteers salvage small native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants from local areas scheduled for clearing. 

The plants are cared for at NPSF nursery sites and eventually used by NPSP and other community groups to restore habitat and improve water quality in and around Thurston County. Volunteers are also welcome to salvage plants for their home landscaping projects.

The season is quickly approaching with our first salvage of the year scheduled for February 10th!

Salvages are a great way to practice plant identification and to meet fellow plant nerds. See the calendar below for more dates: