Still More Discoveries at Youngs Rock

Sabine and I first discovered the Youngs Rock trail in December of 2004, while looking for a sunny place to hike in the winter. The following year, we returned 7 times, trying to go back every 3 weeks or so to track the changing waves of wildflowers. We found unusual plants almost every time. Each time we returned, we thought we’d seen it all, only to be surprised by another exciting find. I’d been there 17 times all together, but somehow I’d missed seeing most of the July blooming. So yesterday (July 12), we headed back there again. I was quite certain that, this time, we wouldn’t find anything special.

Pretty red gland-tipped hairs cover much of the inflorescence of this pretty rose growing a mere 5" off the ground.

Imagine my surprise when the second I stepped out of the car, there were some roses blooming—practically flat on the ground. I only know of one rose that grows like this, Rosa spithamea, the well named ground rose. I’d only seen it in the southern part of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide (at Abbott Butte and nearby), so I wasn’t ready to jump to that ID right away. There were some taller Rosa gymnocarpa growing nearby, so we had to consider these might just be odd plants of that. Perhaps they’d been mowed down by trail work or something. Nope. The undeveloped hips were completely different. Those of R. gymnocarpa are glabrous and somewhat narrow. Red glands covered the hips, sepals, leaf margins and more of the low-growing roses. We found several more areas of them still close to the trail just south of the Spur Road 435 parking area that comes in about a third of the way up the trail. Despite keeping an eye out for them all day as we headed north up the trail, we never found more, but it would be worth looking along the southern end of the trail. After looking through photos and the floras, I’m pretty convinced they are indeed Rosa spithamea (but if someone has a better idea, let me know!).

Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena)

We headed up the trail feeling pretty good about how the day was starting. We passed through the first few meadows, noticing how dry and crispy things were after last week’s heat wave. Peak season probably ended quite quickly this year. One of the showiest plants along the trail is Madia elegans. It was still blooming in the shade but closed in the sun and also starting to go to seed. But there was still plenty in bloom. Big sweeps of Perideridia oregana covered sections of many of the meadows. There were also an assortment of the late-blooming bulbs: Tritieleia hyacinthina, Brodiaea elegans, and Dichelostemma congestum. The first few meadows had pretty drifts of Clarkia purpurea, but as we got higher those were replaced with Clarkia amoena. Some of these were incredibly short, a mere couple of inches. That seemed odd when so many other annuals have been oversized as a result of the wet spring. Mostly these were unspotted, but there were some with the characteristic but not diagnostic bright magenta splotches. Another shift as we rose in elevation was a change from Navarretia intertexta, a Valley species I’d rarely seen in the Cascades, to the more common N. divaricata. Growing with the N. intertexta in one of the lower meadows was another low elevation species, the softly hairy Epilobium torreyi. Both were additions to my list that I’d missed by not coming at quite this period of the bloom season before.

Juniper hairstreak enjoying northern buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum)

It was also great to finally see some butterflies. There were many pale and tiger swallowtails flying about. The Dichelostemma seemed to be a favorite nectar choice. Checkerspots were also on the wing, and, in what we refer to as the lunch meadow (at our botany pace, we never make it farther than here by lunchtime), there were lots of juniper hairstreaks on the fresh Eriogonum compositum. One plant had 3 butterflies drinking on the same flower head. Unfortunately, another insect was out. Mosquitoes are rarely a problem in the Western Cascades (unlike the High Cascades with all their pothole lakes). The wet spring has brought them out in places I’ve never seen them before, so far, it seems they are mainly in the southern part of the mountains, but that may just be where I’ve been lately.

Whisker brush (Leptosiphon ciliatus) in bloom

Just before the “lunch meadow”, there is a smaller opening with a great view of Diamond Peak. There, growing in open ground near the trail, we noticed lots of little Leptosiphon (formerly Linanthus) in bloom. I’m sure we must have seen them there before and paid little attention to them, thinking they were the common baby stars (L. bicolor). After learning about whisker brush (L. ciliatus) this year and just seeing them at Bristow Prairie a week ago (see Bristow Prairie’s Open Gravelly Slope), however, this time I looked really carefully. Sure enough, their spiky heads were much fuller and covered with long white hairs. I was so disappointed that they weren’t yet blooming at Bristow Prairie, but here, over 1000′ lower, our timing was perfect. We found some more in “lunch meadow” and one of the later meadows as well.

One of the biggest meadows looks due east across to another rocky ridge. At the base of this steep slope and scattered higher, there is a good-sized patch of balsamroot, still with a lot of color showing. I remembered finding Scutellaria antirrhinoides there in the past. It was blooming well, but I was quite surprised to see quite a few of them were white. Normally they are a rich purple. The last real meadow before the Rock was still rather green and had loads of Triteleia hyacinthina and, surprisingly, nice pink sheets of rosy plecritis. They were completely gone in the earlier meadows.

Phantom orchid (Cephalanthera austiniae)

Beyond here is a set of switchbacks leading up to the base of Youngs Rock itself, an impressive 200′-plus pillar with an exceptionally slippery talus slope below. This stretch of trail leads through a section of forest filled with mycotrophic woodland plants. There were close to a dozen striped coralroot in bloom and many more of the common spotted coralroot. There were quite a number of phantom orchids as well, mostly still in bud. We found four just-emerging fringed pinesap (Pleuricospora fimbriata), but only some of last year’s indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) stalks. Sabine dug down a little bit to see the new stalks waiting to emerge. On one of our past trips, their ghostly white pipes were all along the trail. We were unable to find evidence yet of the parastic Orobanche pinorum which we’d both seen at least an individual of on previous trips, nor were any of the many pinedrops (Pterospora andromedea) up lower down on the trail where they grow under Ponderosa pine. Neither of the small-flowered orchids, Piperia transversa or the rare P. elongata, had started to bloom yet either. Clearly, there are many reasons to return to this trail even after the meadows dry out.

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