Lots of Wildlife and Unusual Tiny Plants at Anvil Lake

Pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) bloom in both Anvil Lake and this smaller lake.

Pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) bloom in both Anvil Lake and this smaller lake.

It had been 4 years since my last trip north to Clackamas County to see some of the many wonderful wetlands in the area, so it was high time for another visit. After a pleasant night and some early morning botanizing at the campground by Little Crater Meadow, on Friday (July 19) I headed over to the short but botanically terrific Anvil Lake trail. The trail starts out in the forest, but it is damp, with lots of undergrowth and some giant western redcedars (Thuja plicata). I measured one at over 4.5′ DBH. There is a wonderful open bog just a few hundred feet off to the left, but I was determined to have lots of time at Anvil Lake and its bog, so I planned to do everything else on the way back—if I had time. I seem to go slower and slower these days, studying plants more carefully and taking more and more photographs. Spending the whole day on a mile and a half long trail might seem ridiculous to some, but it is quite easy for me. As it was, I never did have time for the trailhead bog.

The flowers of lesser bladderwort are no more than 1/3 inch long. They fade and fall off quickly. This little fly climbed into the flower shortly after this photo was taken, so at least someone is able to spot these flowers.

The flowers of lesser bladderwort are no more than 1/3 inch long. They start out yellow but fade and fall off quickly. This little fly climbed into the flower shortly after this photo was taken, so at least someone is able to spot these flowers.

The tadpoles seemed to like hanging out among the lesser bladderwort stems. The dark bladders are ones that have trapped food.

The tadpoles seemed to like hanging out among the lesser bladderwort stems. The dark bladders are ones that have trapped food.

I passed quickly along the trail until I reached Black Wolf Meadow. The trail, such as it is, follows along the right-hand side of this large meadow. I left my gear by the side of the trail to make a quick detour over to the small, meandering creek that cuts through the meadow. All I planned to do was put one of my water bottles in the creek to stay cold for the return trip (and take a little weight off). But of course, it was over an hour later when I made it back to my pack. The great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) and alpine aster (Oreostemma alpigenus) were finished blooming and the gorgeous King’s gentian (Gentiana sceptrum) hadn’t begun yet, but what I found was just as terrific to me. On the other side of the creek, behind a clump of small trees, I discovered a small pool of water, maybe only 8 × 10 feet. In it were the delicate, tangled stems of lesser bladderwort (Utricularia minor). This carnivorous aquatic plant is considered a rare species, in part, I imagine, because it is very particular about its habitat, being found mainly in these small pools or channels of water that occur in boggy areas. It may also be that it is so small and inconspicuous that it is easily overlooked. After finally seeing the itty-bitty blossoms of it last year for the first time (see A Minor Thrill at Hills Peak), I knew what to look for and set about searching for the yellow flowers hiding among the tall sedge leaves. It took a while, but there were indeed a few! It’s not easy to focus on something so small growing in the water, not to mention getting all the other foliage pushed out of the way to get a clear photo. So that’s where much of the hour went.

The tiny flowers of round-leaved sundews

The tiny flowers of round-leaved sundews

I was also entranced with all the wildlife in this small pool. There were quite a few rough-skinned newts and lots of large tadpoles. Despite the small size of the little pond, it looked deep enough to not dry out as the summer progresses, so hopefully all of the tadpoles will become frogs, possibly Cascade frogs. There were also lots of round-leaved sundews (Drosera rotundifolia) in bloom along the edge. I didn’t realize there were any in this meadow, so I did some more snooping along the far edge of the meadow I hadn’t explored on previous trips. No more pools of water or sundews, but I did find a lot of bog orchids and sedges.

Now I really was going straight to the lake without anymore distractions. The lake is not actually along the trail, but there is a sign and a small path to the right that leads to the edge of the lake. From there, you have to head to the right through the damp edge of the lake to reach the slightly more solid ground of the bog. Everywhere there were sundews in flower, their tiny white flowers held well above the leaves on delicate stems. Unlike at some bogs, I didn’t notice that they were having much luck catching insects with their sticky hairs. I also found some flowers of mountain bladderwort (Utricularia intermedia), abundant along the edges of the lakes and channels. It is a much larger species than the one in the pool at Black Wolf Meadow with a much, much larger flower that could be mistaken for a monkeyflower at first glance. Passing by the shrubby edge of the bog, I naturally had to inspect the willows. This is the only one of my regular sites that has the aptly named bog willow (Salix pedicellaris), a northern species that isn’t found south of Marion County. It’s a fairly small willow anyway, usually only shoulder high, but I was surprised to find a number of them growing well under a foot tall. It’s recognizable by its very dull foliage, which is quite glaucus underneath, and bright red stems.

This boreal or western toad (Anaxyrus [Bufo] boreas) sat motionless for quite some time.

This boreal or western toad (Anaxyrus [Bufo] boreas) sat motionless for quite some time.

The only reason I even noticed these little willows was that I had almost stepped on a large toad and spent a while squatting down to look at him—or maybe it was actually a her, as she seemed to be squatting very diligently herself, not so much as blinking at my presence. Perhaps she was laying eggs. I didn’t see any of those tiny toads that often appear underfoot en masse near these kind of small lakes. While there were hardly any butterflies, dragonflies were abundant, from small bright blue damselflies to large red ones. I also saw several shells of dragonfly larvae, one of which may not have hatched yet. Speaking of insects, I know many people avoid wet places like this until later in the season, fearing the likelihood of an onslaught of mosquitoes. Even though it is still July, I only heard a few and didn’t get bitten by any. I never put on any bug spray. I avoid it not only for the fear of putting poison of any sort on my body, but also because I hate to think I might get any on any of the other “good” insects like butterflies and bees. The only “bad” insects I encountered were deer flies, although again, I didn’t get bitten. I don’t remember seeing those in Oregon the way I used to growing up back East, but over the last few years, they seem to be much more common. I hope that’s not a bad sign for the future.

Like its neighbors bog laurel and sundew, small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus) enjoys the sponge-like quality of sphagnum.

Like its neighbors bog laurel and sundew, small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus) enjoys the sponge-like quality of dense mounds of sphagnum moss, which lift them above the water but still keep them moist.

The flowers of small cranberry look much like tiny shooting stars (Dodecatheon spp.). The swept back lobes are usually a sign of buzz pollination. Perhaps there are tiny bees that pollinate these, but I didn't notice any.

The flowers of small cranberry look much like tiny shooting stars (Dodecatheon spp.). The swept back petals are usually a sign of buzz pollination. Perhaps there are tiny bees that pollinate these, but I didn’t notice any.

There is a smaller lake in this bog. On my last trip, I had discovered small cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus), growing on a large mound of sphagnum along the edge of this lake. Once I was in the vicinity, I remembered which mound it was and headed over. I was thrilled to find it in bloom. I’d never seen this cutie before, as it is another one of those species that is common to the north but doesn’t make it to my usual, more southerly haunts, although there are records of it in Lane County along the coast. Anyone who has read this or any of my other blog reports can tell how fascinated I am by the smallest flowers. Perhaps it’s based on that desire to champion the underdog that many people have. These less showy plants just don’t get the oohs and aahs that fields of bright red paintbrush or hillsides covered with rhododendrons or beargrass elicit. But how can you not fall in love with these miniature darlings, the way their 4 pink petals curl up, looking like a little turban? And the way their tiny evergreen leaves creep around across the lush sphagnum is so charming. I checked the other large sphagnum mounds that dot the edge of this lake, but for some unknown reason, they have not managed to colonize any of the rest. One of these days, I’ll have to check out some of the other bogs in the Mt. Hood area where this species grows and get to know it better. So many places to visit, so little time!

 

 

One Response to “Lots of Wildlife and Unusual Tiny Plants at Anvil Lake”

  • Martha Hall:

    I took photos of a little shooting star I saw for the first time in a bog
    near Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver. I kept trying to find it
    under shooting stars. Finally I googled “tiny shooting star in bogs”
    and up came your site. My problem was solved. I had seen bog cranberry
    flowers, not a tiny shooting star.

    I also learned from your photos that the white flower I’ve seen is sundew.
    I found your photo to be better than Pojar’s for identification.

    Thanks. I really enjoyed seeing your photos and reading your comments.
    I’m interested in many of the same things. I’d like to read new posts.

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