The Northwest Stream Center’s elevated nature trail weaves through 20 acres of land near Everett’s McCollum Park. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

The Northwest Stream Center’s elevated nature trail weaves through 20 acres of land near Everett’s McCollum Park. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Swamp Lantern Festival celebrates our native spring flowers

Behold the beauty of the skunk cabbage during the Northwest Stream Center’s event.

A flower show at an environmental center sounds improbable, but it’s true.

The Northwest Stream Center’s half-mile elevated boardwalk provides an introduction to the beauty of the region’s wildflowers.

Look for mock orange nicco, the delicate white blossoms of Indian plum, red elderberry’s cheery dashes of color, the star-shaped blooms of salmonberry and the heart-shaped leaves of false lily of the valley.

“Anyone who’s into native plants and the looks of spring, this is the place to come,” said Tom Murdoch, director of the Adopt A Stream Foundation, based in Everett’s McCollum Park.

And then there’s the plant — the skunk cabbage — whose flower is the namesake of the annual event that’s now under way.

One of the first spring flowers, its brilliant yellow hood has given the plant the nickname swamp lantern.

Now in its second year, this year’s swamp lantern festival is longer than last year’s, continuing through April 22. There’s a $7 charge for admission, with reduced rates for seniors, students and EBT cardholders. Reservations are required.

No more than 30 people are allowed to enter the site each half hour.

There’s a swamp lantern viewpoint that gives visitors a chance to see these and other native flowering plants.

What visitors see will change every day. Skunk cabbage first sprouts a triangular spike that sticks out of the mud. “If we get a little warmer weather, the spikes will turn a little green and then into a yellow color,” Murdoch said.

Once that happens the growth rate is remarkable, growing up to a half inch per day, he said.

“It’s a very beautiful plant,” Murdoch said. And the walkway offers overlooks to view waterfowl, swampland and marshes.

“I think this is a much more interesting place to go than the (Skagit Valley) tulip festival,” he said. “You don’t have the crowds. You can make an appointment to come and you’re not going to be locked into one type of plant or flower.”

Still not sold on the idea of a flower show at the stream center? The first group to make a reservation this year was the Arlington Garden Club.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or

If you go

The Northwest Stream Center’s Swamp Lantern Festival is scheduled Thursdays through Sundays March 15 to April 22 in Snohomish County’s McCollum Park, 600 128th St. SE, Everett. Reservations required, no more than 30 people per half hour.

Gate opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. Last admission at 3 p.m. Cost is $7 for adults over 18, $6 for seniors, $5 for students and $3 for EBT cardholders. Children under 5 free. No dogs allowed.

Call 425-316-8592 or go to for more information.

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