Whitney Tilt – Landsnorkeling with Gallatin Valley Land Trust

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Snorkeling with GVLT
by Whitney Tilt, Board Member 
“Land Snorkeling” is a term first coined by GVLT supporters Clyde and Carol Aspevig for taking the time to look closer at the nature around us, like slowly snorkeling over a reef. In celebration of that concept we offer the first of a continuing series celebrating the texture and rhythm of the land – its phenology.


Those Pesky Whats-a-ma-call-its
Fresh snow carpets the trail and dogs and skiers are enjoying the winter solitude. The fading afternoon light begins to leave the land, but shines its retreating spotlight on the Bridger Mountains. The dogs return to check in with us with smiles…. and festooned with garlands of beggar-ticks.


Houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale) is well named for its association with dogs (Canis lupus who-knows). The plant’s common name arises from its leaf vein pattern that resembles a dog’s tongue, and its basal leaves are rough like a dog’s tongue. But the most common relation to the dog is that its fruits love to become enmeshed in their coat.


Far from the summer months when Houndstongue’s purple flowers uncoil on long scorpion-tail racemes, the plant retains its vigil, patiently dispersing its seeds to unwitting passers-bys.


A non-native plant, worthy of control, we’ll have our revenge in early summer when we hand pull Houndstongue along the Gallatin Valley trails, before they have the chance to fruit. But we return to winter, and we’ll be combing out beggar’s lice tonight.