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The flowers, shrubs and Trees of the Boise Basin
 
It is probably the beauty of the plant life in the basin that draws the most attention from those who live in and travel through the basin.  From the tree covered hills to the tiniest mountain flowers.  While I am no expert in botany or dendrology I like many others can appreciate the beauty of the plant life found here.
 
The current appearance of the plant life as we see it now began to develop during the carboniferous period 300 to 350 million years ago.  Today's trees evolved from the fern like coniferous plants of that age.  It is hard to imagine how much the plants of today differ from the plants of 300 million years ago. 
The most noticeable plant in the basin is the Ponderosa Pine, also known as yellow pine, jack pine, bull pine and western pitch pine.  It is of the genus pinus.  The Ponderosa begins with a dark grey bark which turns to soft yellow, orange as it matures.  Many people know it for its puzzle wood bark.  One can also identify the Ponderosa t by its long needles, growing 6 to 7 inches in length with three needles to each fascicle.  The cones are round or pear shaped and have sharp barbs at the end of each petal.
 
Ponderosas can reach heights of 60 to 125 feet with trunks 20 to 30 inches in diameter.  Some Ponderosas have been known to reach 220 feet.  The average life span of a Ponderosa is 60 to 150 years.
 
Ponderosas make excellent lumber and have been harvested for more than 100 years.  The Ponderosa stands in the basin have been logged over many times and along with fire losses most of the trees are considered re-growth.  There are very few stands of old growth Ponderosa.
 
The next most prevalent tree, although not as common as the Ponderosa, is the Douglas Fir.  The Doug Fir as it is known by most locals, is not a pine but is of the pseudotsuga genus.  The needles of the Doug Fir are short, being 1 to 2 inches long and grow in many rows around the end of the tree's branches.  The bark is tighter than a Ponderosa and is grey in color.  The Doug Fir is also used for lumber.  There are few if any old growth Doug Fir in the basin.
 
Other coniferous trees in the basin include the Lodge Pole Pine which grows slender and straight.  The needles are fairly short and generally grow two to a fascicle.  The Lodge Pole Pine was used by native Americans for teepee poles and for other lodging styles, thus it's name.  Modern uses include lumber, corral poles and other home and furniture construction.  My grandfather built his cabin out of lodgepole pine.  He cut them in the summer, stacked them in layers and let them dry for a year then built the house.  The cabin is still in use.
 
You will also find stands of Engleman Spruce, Sub-Alpine Fir and some Larch.  There are a number of softwood species in the basin the most common of which is the Cottonwood, noted for it's annual release of fuzzy seed that float in the breeze.  Most of the other softwoods are non-native species brought in with the arrival of the white man.  These include Elm, Maple, Ash and a variety of fruit trees.
 
To list the other varieties of plant life would be beyond the scope of this site as well as beyond my expertise.  However, there are a number I would like to mention here.  The most familiar to me is what my grandfather called chaparral.  I don't believe this is the name of a particular species but is actually a general description of many shrub-like species that grow in similar habitats.  It is very prevalent in the basin and is extremely difficult to travel through.  It provides shelter and protection to many bird species as well as other small animals.
 
You cannot walk along the creeks and streams of the basin without becoming familiar with the many willows.  The willows that grow along these waterways include the Sandbar willow, the Gray willow and the Hoary willow.  I am sure there are other species but my knowledge is sparse in this area.
 
Flowers.  Spring brings a profusion of flowers to the basin.  Obviously the most notable is the Syringa or the Idaho State flower.  The more common flowers are the sunflowers, mules ears, lupine, milk vetch, balsam root and my favorites the leather flower (Clematis hirsutissima) and the western columbine (Aquilegia formosa).
 
One of the more interesting things that you see in the basin are plants that seem totally out of place.  These are generally plants brought in by miners, settlers and sometimes native Americans.  They usually indicate the site of a previous home or other habitation.  There are several types of fruit trees growing at odd places throughout the basin, particularly at old mine sites.  I have seen beds of iris's and other domestic plants near old cabin sites.  Makes me wonder if the miner had a wife with him.  You will also find wild roses growing in many places.  These were spread mostly by native Americans who used rose buds in their pemmican.  They would eat the pemmican and the seeds would be left behind to grow into bushes with beautiful wild rose blooms.  The next time you see one you can be assured that an indian passed that way many years ago.
 
 
 
 
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