A soft carpet of lavender-colored fawn lilies shyly greets hikers near the start of the Upper Table Rock trail.

A soft carpet of lavender-colored fawn lilies shyly greets hikers near the start of the Upper Table Rock trail.

A little farther on, the bright yellow faces of Southern Oregon buttercups peer boldly up at passing bipeds.

But Leah Schrodt, a naturalist with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District, says Mother Nature is just warming up.

"We've had a wet, cold winter," she said. "What that means is our wild flower show this year will take a little longer than it usually does."

A warm dry spell will prompt local flora to erupt into an explosion of colors, she said.

"It'll be like the 4th of July up here," she said.

Schrodt is the district's environmental education specialist who coordinates the weekend as well as weekday guided hike programs each spring on the Upper and Lower table rocks.

From April 1 through June 6, the district and The Nature Conservancy offer the guided hikes, which cover everything from birding to the vernal pools.

Schrodt, who will focus on cultural history, ethnobotany and ecology when she leads a hike in May, will tell you many of the flowers are more than just pretty faces.

"A lot of plants in the lily family have an edible bulb that was used by native American people as a food source," she explained, noting the fawn lily bulb was an important food source for American

will tell you many of the flowers are more than just pretty faces.

"A lot of plants in the lily family have an edible bulb that was used by native American people as a food source," she explained, noting the fawn lily bulb was an important food source for American Indians.

Farther along the trail during a hike Tuesday morning, she pointed to tall green blades popping up in a wet ravine.

"Camas was also an important food source for native American people," she said. "The native American women would use a digging stick made from very hard wood to dig up the camas bulb.

"She would pop it in what was called a burden basket that was like a backpack but it had one strap around her forehead," she added. "She would build an oven in the ground layered with hot rocks, grass and dirt with a fire on top."

The bulbs would bake for at least a day, leaving a sweet bulb that could eaten as is or ground into a flour, she said. However, she will tell you that camas comes in both edible and poisonous varieties, the latter of which was used by indigenous people as a medicine for its numbing properties.

The Table Rocks have been important fixtures in the American Indian cultures for more than 10,000 years, she said.

Indigenous people, who used fire to control the vegetation, relied on oak trees growing on the side of the Table Rocks for acorns, she said. Manzanita bushes and madrone trees also produced edible berries, she added.

Schrodt stopped to pull off what appeared to be light green moss from a white oak along the trail.

"This is lichen," she said. "It's an antibiotic and antimicrobial. If I was lost in the woods and cut myself, I could put this on the wound to keep it from getting infected."

Later she plucked a yarrow plant which looked like a green feather from the ground.

"This is a medicinal plant, too," she said. "Again, if you are cut, you could put it on your wound and it would stop the bleeding. It is a coagulator. Klamath people used it to dry their salmon."

Nearby is the trunk of an old ponderosa pine tree with countless holes punched in it by woodpeckers.

"This is a granary tree used by acorn woodpeckers," she said. "A whole family of acorn woodpeckers will work together to keep a granary tree going. It's kind of a McDonald's for an acorn woodpecker.

"During the spring and the summer there is lots of food," she added. "But when you start to get into the winter, there is less food. A granary tree provides storage for their food. A lot of acorns have insects in them so they get that extra protein."

The point, she explained, is that the dead snags serve as habitat for a variety of wildlife.

"You find more wildlife in a dead snag or fallen tree than a living, standing tree," she said.

That doesn't mean the live trees making up the white oak savanna aren't important to wildlife, she said.

"Oaks tend to have a lot of cavities," she said, noting those cavities are used by many creatures.

Near the base of a rock formation created some 7 million years ago by the lava flow that left the Table Rocks, Schrodt pointed to a small yellow flower called desert parsley. Also known as biscuit root, it was another food source for indians, she said.

"Right now, we're seeing the early bloomers," she said of flowering plants. "Give it a few weeks and you'll have a whole new cycle of wildflowers. Wait another couple of weeks and there will be yet another cycle.

"It's constantly changing and evolving," she added.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.