The Resilience of Wildflowers



In my work, I often talk about ‘resilient landscapes.’ It may seem a bit different to think about wildlife, plants, and ecosystems as being resilient in the same fashion that we speak about our own lives, but, really, are the two at odds?

 A tiny chinook salmon fry that escapes the monster mouths of carp and bass in the Willamette River, only to navigate fish ladders, dams, and seals on its journey to the open ocean, is the picture of resilience. Think about the beauty found in our endangered grassland bird species — the Oregon vesper sparrow, laying her nest in a tuft of pasture grass, hoping to avoid cow hooves and mower blades. Is she not resilient?

 The chinook and sparrow do not build impenetrable defense mechanisms to exist amidst these deadly hazards. Instead, they embrace their vulnerability. And they create cunning tools to live. The salmon fry darts into flooded fields to find refuge. The sparrow sounds calls around her nest, telling predators ‘this is mine.’

Last week, I was walking through a prairie that was a sea of wildflowers. I learned that only 5 years ago, the property was inundated with invasive grasses, with none of these native wildflowers in sight. The landowners had tended the prairie carefully, using grazing and fire to control the invasive grasses. And there, beneath topsoil, deep in the wet ground, the native seeds that had been dormant for decades, found life again. Native wildflowers burst to the surface, now that their competitors had been removed. Did you know that the native seedbank is there, just waiting for a chance to see the sun again? If that isn’t resiliency, I don’t know what is.

Sure, there’s a bit of anthropomorphizing going on here. Do I know the innermost motivations of fish or bird? No. What I do know is that we find in nature a reflection of our own lives.

As I wander prairies, floodplains, forests, I appreciate in these habitats the same urge to live fully, to overcome hardships and to look to the future as I do in my own life. Isn’t it nice to know that we’re all in this together?

The Resilience Project celebrates these stories of resilience, finding connections between people, community, and nature.