GLIDE — With names like snow queen, fairy slipper, prince’s pine and buttercup, a guided tour along the North Umpqua Trail east of Glide is like stepping into a fairy tale.
But then there are the more noxious-sounding plants: the rattlesnake plantain, skunk cabbage, and more notably, poison oak.
Dianne Muscarello, a volunteer and organizer of the Glide Wildflower Show, has creative ways for remembering plants’ names. She pronounced the names loudly and clearly for hikers who participated in a walking tour Saturday morning.
Take Hooker’s fairybells. The plant features small, bell-shaped white flowers that resemble a lady’s skirt. But this one has an open, billowing skirt. By contrast, Smith’s fairybells flowers have enclosed, perhaps more modest, skirts.
Long ago, before cars could speed down the North Umpqua Highway to access the nearest grocery store, theses plants were all early pioneers had for food and tools. Those pioneers left their history known through plant names: miner’s lettuce, which you could eat, and the horsetail fern, which you could use as a scrubbing bristle.
A large group of hikers crowded around Muscarello and took pictures with their phones or professional cameras as she identified plants along the trail. The Louisiana native has played the role of tour guide, volunteer collector, photographer and webmaster during her 12 years of helping out with the show. She now lives in Idleyld Park and has lived in Oregon for the last two decades.
Every year the two-day Glide Wildflower Show attracts a couple thousand visitors, which is more than the rural town’s population of about 1,800. Other than the trail tour, the show largely takes place at the Glide Community Center, where more than 600 different types of fresh wildflowers, ferns, lichens, trees, shrubs and more are on display in water-filled vases. Volunteer collectors harvest the plants a week before the show and use various tricks to keep them fresh until the weekend. Some plants are stored in icy coolers and some have their stems dipped in scalding hot water.
Then two days before the show, volunteer “vasers” assemble the plants in vases so they closely represent how they would appear in the wild.
The show started in 1967 with one woman’s plant collection. Her name was Reggie Miller and she lived in Glide. She had about 100 different species that she put on display for the community. She was discouraged when only 25 people showed up that first year, recalled her friend and early show organizer, Jeanne Moore.
Then a Portland-based reporter got ahold of the story and spread the word about the show.
“The following year, we had busloads of people come from all around,” Moore recalled. “From then on, the Glide Wildflower Show was a fixture.”
At the time, Moore, and her husband Frank, owned the Steamboat Inn, a restaurant and a collection of cabins perched on the edge of a bluff along the North Umpqua River. Miller asked her to collect some plants around the inn.
“I loved the flowers and I loved learning about them,” Moore recalled. “I would gather up what she told me to and bring them down, and I just got hooked.”
The show has evolved into a huge local festivity. In addition to the plant displays, there are booths selling landscaping plants, food vendors and children’s activities. Although it has grown, Moore said the show’s initial purpose has not changed — to educate people about native plants and to bring the community together.
“Most of our wildflower shows take so many volunteers,” Moore said. “In Glide, you have such a support group. We have a huge list of volunteers that do different things. In bigger cities, I would think it would be hard to get that grouping together.”