Another Surprise at BVD Meadow

The Western Cascades is one of the best tree-growing places in the world, and we have some beautiful old growth forest still remaining in spite of the extensive logging. But the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so, naturally, I’m always looking for non-forested spots—meadows, outcrops, wetlands, and so on. While I use Google Earth to look for naturally open areas now, in the “old days”, I used to look for white spots on the USGS map. Sometimes I got lucky. On a trip to Twin Lakes in August of 2004, I got really lucky when I discovered the old BVD trail.

The large open meadow along the BVD trail has a great view to the east of Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey.

The Twin Lakes trail is one of the most beautiful in the North Umpqua district. There are two beautiful lakes, huge old growth trees in the forest, and both wet and dry meadows. The second time I went to Twin Lakes, I ended up camping by the trailhead. I woke up really early and decided to see what a nearby large white area on the map represented. Instead of heading west from the parking lot onto the Twin Lakes trail, I headed east. There is a very short stretch of road that ends at a man-made pool of water, presumably there for fire fighting. A sign read “BVD Trail No. 1511, caution this trail is not maintained and may be difficult to follow”. They were right about the faint trail being hard to follow, but by going straight along the ridge for less than a third of a mile, I did end up quite quickly and easily in a huge south-facing sloping meadow with wonderful rock outcrops down slope. As it was late August, everything was dried up, but I could see the remnants of balsamroot, buckwheats, and other great plants. The following year, I went back to see it in bloom and was thrilled to find lots of wonderful flowers, some of which were quite uncommon.

The slope gets increasingly rocky farther down.

It has been 5 years since then, and somehow I’d never been able to make the trip back there, even though I’d gone to Twin Lakes several times. I really wanted to explore it again, so I planned an overnight to the North Umpqua this past weekend, and on Monday morning (June 28), I finally got back there. It was as beautiful as I remembered it. My friend Kelley Leonard joined me on the trip. We spent the whole morning exploring the area before heading over to Twin Lakes. Just poking around looking for and photographing plants is really my favorite thing to do, and with the weather just perfect, I was in seventh heaven.

With such a different habitat than Twin Lakes, the flowers are very different, and a number are unusual for the Western Cascades in general. There’s quite a bit of Ceanothus prostatus, but it was finished blooming. Sweeps of Collinsia grandiflora were not quite as spectacular as they were the day before on Big Squaw and Lookout Mountains but still quite pretty. I would have to call that the “plant of the month” for June, 2010. It has been outstanding almost everywhere I’ve been lately. We stayed up along what was left of the trail along the ridge and headed to the upper eastern corner of the meadow passing beautiful clumps of Balsamorhiza deltoidea. It is very gravelly over there and was filled with woolly-headed clover (Trifolium eriocephalum) in peak bloom. I rarely see that but remembered it from my previous trip in 2005. What I saw growing among them completely floored me though.

Lewisia nevadensis(?) with small bee

All through the gravel were hundreds of small rosettes of Lewisias, and they were in bloom! I’m still uncertain about whether it is Lewisia pygmaea or L. nevadensis, two similar species which are sometimes still considered to be varieties of the same species. From the descriptions of the sepals—glandless in this case, and other characteristics, I’d call these Lewisia nevadensis, but I can’t be sure. I’d found these in a few spots in eastern Lane and Douglas counties, but the flowers were always closed. Perhaps because it was only 10am, the remaining flowers were wide open. Tiny Lewisia triphylla closes later in the day, so it is quite possible that is why I’d never seen open flowers before. They were much prettier than I’d imagined, with the sparkling white petals so often found in this family (along with Claytonia and Montia, they were formerly in Portulacaceae but are now placed in Montiaceae).

Antennaria howellii

Not far away I relocated another plant from my earlier trip that I’ve never seen anywhere else before, Howell’s pussytoes (Antennaria howellii). It is an attractive gray-leaved plant, with congested heads of creamy white flowers. The Oregon Flora Project Atlas shows only a couple of other sites for it in Douglas County. Also growing all around this area and, I later discovered, all across the slope, was budding Perideridia bolanderi. The Perideridia species, commonly called yampah, are a tough lot to sort out, bit I think I’m getting the hang of it. This one is the least common of the three found in the Western Cascades. It is divided into more lobes and also, as these did, sometimes has rounded bracts below the umbels. The other two, P. gairdneri and P. oregana, also have ternate or pinnate leaves with very narrow leaflets but with fewer divisions (almost impossible to photograph) and small bracts if any.

Teeny flowers require teeny bees to pollinate them.

Heading west across the slope, I was looking for another uncommon species I saw in 2005, candelabrum monkeyflower (Mimulus pulsiferae). Like similar sloping meadows, this one gets increasingly rockier and steeper lower down. In open ground between rocks in the lower western corner and a few other damp spots, there were many of these adorable, tiny yellow flowers growing with their even smaller-flowered, pink cousin, Mimulus breweri. They are only 2 or 3 inches high. Also growing here were Gayophytum humile and Heterocodon rariflorum. This was quite similar to what I saw at Heckletooth Mountain earlier this spring (see Bloom Coming on at Heckletooth).

Don't walk so fast you miss the miniature flora. Left Gayophytum humile; right, Mimulus pulsiferae; background, Mimulus breweri.

I probably could have spent all day poring over every inch of ground. There was so much in bloom. And I still haven’t checked the rocks even lower down. But we were meeting Kelley’s husband for the walk over to Twin Lakes, so after a “few” more photos of pink and yellow sweeps of Plectritis congesta and Mimulus guttatus, we headed back up the steep hill via a still-damp draw where we found the remnants of Romanzoffia thompsonii and admired the gorgeous flowers and silvery foliage of Lupinus albifrons growing on the rocks. I’ll be sure not to wait so long to return to this rich and wonderful botanical spot.

One Response to “Another Surprise at BVD Meadow”

  • Tanya,
    That was a great trip, and the BVD meadow was the best part. How fun to discover (or rediscover) a “secret garden”!

    Thank you!
    Kelley

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