Archive for April, 2010
Several days ago, I got a very informative letter about Romanzoffias (mistmaidens) from Vern Marttala. Vern is undoubtedly the expert on our Romanzoffia species and is the author of Romanzoffia thompsonii, our only annual species and a Western Cascade endemic. The letter was in response to a conversation we had after I gave a talk on plant adaptations to the Portland chapter of NPSO the previous week. Along with some excellent information and keys to Romanzoffia, Vern included some of his best sites from my neck of the woods in Lane County. While the recent cold weather seems to have passed, the snow is not quite gone from the lower mountains, so I decided this would be a perfect day to check out Vern’s roadside sites around Lookout Point Reservoir, between Lowell and Westfir, just up the road from my house.
Heading east of Lowell on Hwy 58, the first spot I came to was the most intriguing to me. Just past milepost 19 is a pulloff at the bottom of Fern Creek. From the road it doesn’t look like much: a pile of rocks and lots of blackberries. If anyone else had told me there was a population of Romanzoffia sitchensis there, I would not have believed them. I usually see it at much higher elevations in cool, damp, north-facing rocky areas. The only place I’ve seen it in Lane County is below Fuji Mountain in the High Cascades. Well, there in the woods, hiding behind the weeds (awful Geranium lucidum as well as blackberries), was a waterfall, and on the mossy cliffs beside it was a large population of R. sitchensis. Even through the binoculars, I recognized it by the large leaves—even larger than I’ve seen at higher elevations. The walking was quite treacherous, as there were many large rocks covered with wet moss and half hidden by branches of blackberries and salmonberries. How Vern ever found this site, I have no idea! The main population is high up on the west side of the creek. Luckily, there were a few plants in the rocks on the east side, so I was able to study them up close. It was easy to see the hairs on the stems I’d seen in other populations and the wide open, saucer shape of the flowers Vern mentioned. The base of the plant is also an important feature, and on these plants the bases were mostly exposed, making it easy to see the loose bulb formed by the overlapping widened ends of the basal petioles. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the last year or two, I’ve found a new challenge to amuse myself—learning to identify plants by their cotyledon leaves. Dicots get their name from the two cotyledon leaves that emerge from a newly germinated seed. This first pair of leaves often, if not usually, bears no resemblance to the regular leaves found later on the plant. Most likely, the form of these leaves is defined more by the shape or some other characteristic of the seed. Typically, they are more or less oval. Sometimes they have distinct petioles, sometimes they are sessile. One would be hard pressed to identify these unless they were growing in quantity under the mother plant. Some plants, however, have very unusual cotyledon leaves. These really pique my curiosity.
A couple of years ago, while out on Heckletooth Mountain just east of Oakridge in the fall, some little cotyledon leaves caught my eye. While the shape of the leaf was fairly generic, each one had a distinct red stripe starting at the base and going halfway up the leaf. What could they be? There were plenty of them, and I surmised they were one of many common annuals growing on this low elevation mountain. I brought one home and put it in a pot, hoping to find my answer in the spring. Naturally I forgot about it over the winter. The following spring, however, there it was again on Tire Mountain, this time with the first true leaf appearing. It was Lotus micranthus, a little annual member of the clover family that is abundant on many of the lower elevation mountains in the area. What a surprise! I checked my pot when I got home, and sure enough, there was a tiny Lotus micranthus. Since then I’ve seen it several times with both the red-striped cotyledon leaves and the first tiny compound true leaves. The stems are red, so perhaps this has something to do with the unusual red stripe on the cotyledons. Read the rest of this entry »