Wilburton Hill Park
On Sunday, we decided to take advantage of a brief break in the rain and go for a hike at Wilburton Hill Park. The park is located just east of downtown Bellevue, right next to Bellevue Botanical Gardens. It turned out to be a pretty nice day. We even got some sunshine! I made them wear their raincoats anyhow, because fashion.
Even in winter, Washington forests are green. Although maybe a bit more sparse, a different set of foliage flourishes in the cold wet weather. Moss, lichen, liverworts, and ferns thrive in the winter, and keep the forests blanketed in green.
Liverworts do so well at Wilburton Hill Park that this small tree was completely covered in them. You’ll never guess what this liverwort is called. Tree-Ruffle Liverwort. OK, maybe that was kinda obvious.
Although it looks like moss at first glance, a closer look shows the true structure. This might be less obvious. I’m a bryophyte nerd, after all.
We found a bench tucked away in the trees and took a moment for a photo. It’s amazing how much easier this is when there are no people around to distract them!
They look similar to Sword Ferns, which are the single most common fern in this part of the state, but Licorice Ferns stay much smaller, and are primarily found growing on deciduous trees such as Maples, or on mossy rocks. They’re typically dormant during the dryer summers, and pop up again each fall when the weather turns wet.
If you look closer, Licorice Fern rhizomes can be seen under the moss and lichen. They grow across the surface of the tree, in long rhizomes that are just a little more narrow than a pencil. The Licorice Fern gets its name from the flavor of its rhizomes, which were used for medicinal purposes by Native Americans.
Fluffy moss and lichen coat nearly every surface of some plants. Lichen are actually symbiotic beings, made up of algae and fungus, to form an organism entirely different from its parts.
They say that you can tell which direction is north, based on which side of the tree the moss is growing on. That’s true in some places….
But not in others. These two trees are 20 feet apart.
Bracket mushrooms grow anywhere they get an opportunity. This species prefers dead wood, growing out of a Douglas Fir log in this case.
We only explored part of the park. I’m guessing less than half, so we’ll definitely have to go back for a more complete tour. I’m sure it’s a whole new world come springtime as well, so this hike is definitely worth a couple visits.
The paths are fairly well maintained and drain easily, so we didn’t have to deal with many puddles and it kept the mud to a minimum, all things considered. Wilburton Hill Park has a large parking lot with plenty of open spaces. There’s also a playground there, if you have kids to entertain as well.
And the dogs clearly loved it!