June Colors in Palouse Country

The month of June begins a period of dramatic transition in the appearance of the Palouse landscape, that will continue until harvest time in August.

The winter wheat that was planted in the fall, enrobing our rolling hills in shades of Kelly green throughout the winter and spring, is flowering in pale yellow hues; next month these fields will turn blond as the stalks dry, approaching the end of their life cycle.

Meanwhile, the spring wheat is still growing and beginning to form its heads; it will stay green for a few weeks longer. Legumes, primarily lentils and garbanzos, that were planted late last month, are appearing in their fields, seas of yellow-green foliage.

The photo below illustrates the banding effect created by adjacent fields of these different crops: winter wheat at the bottom, spring wheat in the middle, and young legumes (my guess is lentils) at the top.

Another color is making an appearance this month in fields across the Palouse: the bright yellow of blossoming canola. Depending on when the farmer was able to put his crop in the ground (the early spring rains were widely and unevenly scattered this year), some fields have been ripe for weeks while others are just in the process of turning. The images below were taken along Highway 195 south of Pullman (between Pullman and Colton) in the early evening of June 20th. Because more acreage seems to have been devoted to canola this year, there are lots of canola fields in and around our area, providing excellent shooting opportunities for interested photographers.

In August, 2014, I was fortunate to capture a field of ripe canola blossoming under dark storm clouds in a field just behind the iconic Dahmen Artisan Barn in Uniontown, Washington. The view in the image below is no longer possible, as construction of the barn’s annex began shortly afterward; the annex now obscures this portion of the wagon wheel fence.

June 2020 Update

More farmers have gotten on the canola bandwagon this year, it seems, if the bright swaths of yellow around Pullman and neighboring towns are any indication. In one field on the southern edge of Pullman, beekeepers have established a colony to feast on the golden blossoms. I happened to be in the vicinity when they were working one day (images below). I’m looking forward to my first taste of Canola Honey!

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