Can you tell the difference between a lady fern and a spiny wood fern? Do you know the three oak species native to Puget Sound?
Likely not, but fortunately there are still keepers of that and other such knowledge on Bainbridge Island.
Al Phillips, curator of Dolphin Place Open Space on the shores of Manzanita Bay, is one such resource. He has been nurturing and introducing visitors to his collection of native plants (at least 160) for decades and can introduce you to live and healthy exemplars of the area’s native flora.
Phillips purchased two acres in 1973, on his very modest military pay, and built his family’s first home there in 1976. He’s been inviting (by word of mouth) occasional visitors to tour the grounds and view the collection of native trees and plants, for about 30 years.
During that time, he found himself repeatedly in contact with the state Native Plant Society for information and expertise. He began to partner with them about 15 years ago and is now recognized as an “Ancient Guide” by the society.
After 50 years, Phillips has decided to open up his property to monthly tours through August. The reason: He has become concerned about the viability of the modern, technologically dependent, global society and is especially interested in the future of food production.
Phillips sees his property as a way to educate the community on the natural state of things, and a way of reaching out to others who care about the environment. He sees Dolphin Place Open Space as a spot around which like-minded and influential people can rally, with the intent of creating relationships beneficial to the health of community and environment.