Cloverpatch is in the Pink

Could anything be prettier than hundreds of shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum) perched on a rocky seep?

Quite by accident, yesterday’s trip to Cloverpatch with Sabine Dutoit and Doramay Keasbey was on the exact same date as last year’s with John Koenig—May 24 (see Back to the Upper Meadows of Cloverpatch). Once again, it is clear the blooming season is even later than last year. There were many things in bloom, but some plants that were flowering this time last year, including death camas and several clovers, had not yet begun. The balsamroots were coming into bloom on this trip, while they were going over last year on this date (Doramay agrees with me that their unusual fragrance has an enticing hint of chocolate!). In fact, looking back at my photos from May 7 of last year (see The Rocky Meadows of Cloverpatch), it appears to be at almost exactly the same stage, making us 2 weeks later this year—and last year was a slow spring. Having such a good measure of the flowering season should help me figure out when to return to some of the other sites I went to last year to see plants I missed.

Striped coralroot (Corallorhiza striata), an epiparasitic orchid, has no green parts.

Right near the beginning of the trail, we added a new species to my list, spotting some lovely blooming striped coralroot. I was a little disappointed there were so many fewer fairy slippers than I remembered last year, but that was quickly remedied as the entire rest of the trail was lined with their pretty deep pink flowers. I’ve never seen them so abundant. This really has been a terrific year for them. It was also the perfect time to see a great many bright blue flowers of Pacific hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum grande). We passed rather quickly by the first meadows and headed up through the woods to the large uppermost meadow. On the way, we were surprised to run into four nice dogs. It turns out they were accompanying a couple of members of GOATS (Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards) who were clearing much of the debris on the trail. Along with Disciples of Dirt, these groups keep many of the trails in good shape for all the mountain bikers who flock to the Oakridge area. But we hikers benefit as well, so thank you!! It was clear there was quite a bit of blow down over the winter.

The upper meadow on the east end of the mountain was lovely as always. The view was great and gave me a good idea of where the snow level is. We had an excellent view of nearby Buckhead Mountain and farther back to Mount David Douglas and Bunchgrass Ridge—both quite snowy still. Well south past Diamond Peak and Groundhog Mountain, we also had a glimpse of what I believe was Mount Bailey. We could also see Dome Rock south of Hills Creek Reservoir, but this was the first time I recognized the snowy area just to the west as Balm Mountain, one of my newest favorite spots. It looks like it will be some time before that and the rest of the Calapooya crest will be accessible. Fairview Peak, with its prominent lookout, was also deep under snow. The main thing I wanted to show my companions was the seepy habitat that supports so much beautiful shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum). It really was quite stunning, and Doramay and I spent a good deal of time photographing these little pink jewels. We also enjoyed the accompanying twin seep lovers Romanzoffia thompsonii and Cascadia nuttallii, both just coming into bloom (see Romanzoffia thompsonii and Cascadia nuttallii for more about these two similar species). Both a large-flowered form of Mimulus guttatus and a smaller flowered form (more like “M. nasutus“) were blooming well and there was also lots of pretty white prairie star (Lithophragma parviflorum).

Nuttall’s saxifrage (Cascadia nuttallii) grows like a froth on seepy rocks. Lomatium hallii usually grows where it is a bit drier.

On our return, we cut back through the woods to rejoin the trail, passing by the unusual small wetland that sits in the woods just above the seeps. Most likely it is spring fed as there is no sign of moisture behind it. The skunk cabbage was in full bloom along with little Mitella ovalis and coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus). There was a white-flowered crucifer that I believe is watercress (Nasturtium officinale), a non-native wetland plant I don’t see too often. Unfortunately my casual approach to returning to the trail took us across an area of large blown down logs. I’m used to getting myself into these pickles, but I hate leading other people into them. The trail was right where I expected it to be—I certainly wasn’t lost—it just would have been much easier if we had returned the way we came—lesson learned… I hope.

 

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