Unexpected Find at Warfield Creek Bog

Beautiful hardhack (Spiraea douglasii) rings the lake.

Yesterday (August 15), I finally got around to returning to the wetland area just west of Wolf Mountain in southeastern Lane County. I’m calling the apparently unnamed area Warfield Creek wetlands since it is the headwaters of Warfield Creek. I discovered this cool spot last September by looking for wetlands with Google Earth (see Warfield Creek Bog report). While it was only a couple of weeks earlier than my trip last year, I hoped to see some earlier bloomers at the bog and possibly to explore the wetland area upstream of the bog. As soon as I arrived, I was greeted by a number of butterflies and loads of blooming hardhack (Spiraea douglasii). I probably spent almost an hour and a half happily wandering around near the car and nearby lake before I even put my rubber boots on and headed into the bog.

Tiny but bright Gentianopsis simplex growing among the leaves of Pedicularis groenlandica and Ranunculus gormanii

Last year, I was surprised to find some beautiful Gentianopsis simplex blooming along the edge of the lake. It is quite uncommon in Lane County. It was blooming even better this year, and I spotted as many as 100 in bloom or still in bud. Most were where I’d seen them last year, along the north shore of the small lake. There were also quite a few at the northwest edge of the bog. Also near the lakeshore were some lovely stands of peach-colored Collomia grandiflora in very good bloom. I spent quite a while trying to get good photographs of these unusually tall specimens blowing around in a pretty stiff but thankfully intermittent breeze. Another wonderful plant at the peak of its bloom was hooded ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes romanzoffiana). I’d found the less common starry ladies’ tresses  (Spiranthes stellata) in the bog last year, and relocated some of these more delicate ladies’ tresses as well. I’ve seen several spots where they grow together, so apparently this isn’t unusual.

Among the many butterflies near the road and lake was this perfect, fresh Edith’s copper.

Unfortunately, this area, so close to a road, is impacted by human use. There was quite a bit of trash including shotgun shell cases, cans, and toilet paper. It is sad and frustrating that people care so little about how they leave a place for the animals that live there or for other people that visit. But I won’t start a diatribe here. Quite a few non-native plants have also taken a hold here. Daisies, Klamath weed, yellow salsify, and spotted cat’s ear were all present by the road and along the edges of the lake. I’d recently seen the name alsike clover (Trifolium hybridum) on a plant list and, since it wasn’t familiar to me, had looked it up. At first dismissing the numerous clovers here as weedy white clover (T. repens), it soon occurred to me that these were much too tall. It turns out these were the alsike clover, another non-native, but not nearly so pernicious. I wonder how many times I might have seen this plant before and never paid any attention to it. It is easy for common plants, especially weeds, to be practically invisible to one focused on looking for special natives.

A delicate flowering stalk lifts the little flowers of round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) well above the leaves.

I finally headed out to the bog to look for aquatics in the numerous pools. The area is a mosaic of sedge and slightly higher ground dominated by Western bog blueberry (Vaccinium occidentale), western false asphodel (Triantha occidentalis), and Jeffrey’s shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi). The sedgy areas had a little surface water and weren’t quite as solid as last year in early September, so I had to step carefully when crossing the bog. There were still some flowers on the Potamogeton alpinus. I just love its reddish foliage. I only saw one spot with Potamogeton natans however. I remember a lot more from my previous trip. The bur-reeds were in perfect bloom, and I believe I saw three different species, Sparganium angustifolium, a few S. natans, and the much larger S. emersum. I also happened upon some flowering Drosera rotundifolia. While I often see sundews with buds or seed heads, the tiny white flowers hardly ever seem to be open. The fluffy heads of slender cottongrass (Eriophorum gracile) decorated patches of the bog as well.

The leaves of swamp red currant (Ribes triste) look very much like a maple, but the plants are low to the ground.

After I got across the bog, I headed back to the road along the south side, which was obviously nice wetland in the spring, but pretty dry at this point in the summer. I came upon a very puzzling shrub with a maple-leaf. It definitely wasn’t a maple, as it was a sprawling plant with alternate leaves. I wracked my brain trying to think of palmate-leaved plants that might fit this. Viburnums are opposite and ours aren’t really so classically maple-shaped. Ninebark is definitely upright, so another no-go. Ribes… hmm. I searched around and sure enough, there were a few remaining dangling clusters of berries. No prickles however. So it is a currant. But which one? I love currants and know the Western Cascade ones pretty well. This didn’t fit any of them. The only thing that sounds similar on paper—low-growing with red berries—is R. erythrocarpum, and this definitely wasn’t that.

Just a few remaining berries helped to ID this as Ribes triste.

With no books at hand, I had to wait until I got home to determine it was Ribes triste, known as swamp or American red currant. Everything matched the description including the habitat: under 3′, hairs only on the underside of the leaves, drooping clusters of flowers and berries. The photos are also dead on. Wondering where it came from, I checked the OFP Atlas and was surprised at how few occurrences there appear to be in Oregon. It comes down from the north and is far more common in Canada. Now I really must come back earlier to see it bloom and see how much of it is in the area. When I glanced at last year’s photos this morning, I noticed it in a photo growing with Ribes lacustre at the east end of the bog where I didn’t check out yesterday. I vaguely remember wondering about it, but apparently didn’t pursue it. While my natural curiosity and stubbornness usually compel me to solve all my mysteries, I’m much more likely to ignore something at the end of the day when I’m tired and overloaded from all I’ve already seen.

I also need to return to further explore the upper wetlands that I visited later in the day. Most everything had already finished blooming, including vast expanses of Dodecatheon jeffreyi and Caltha leptosepala, and many Pedicularis groenlandica and Platanthera dilatata and stricta. There were a great deal of budded Parnassia cirrata, one of my favorite late bloomers, so the season is not quite over. Next year, I will make a major effort to get to this excellent site at peak season to see it in all its glory and discover what other treasures it holds.

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