Willows and More Blooming at Ikenick Creek

Sitka sedge (Carex aquatilis) blooming along the edge of the south pond in the northwest wetland.

Sitka sedge (Carex aquatilis) blooming along the edge of the south pond in the northwest wetland.

Crab spiders know that willows are insect pollinated and has caught an unsuspecting bee on Geyer's willow (Salix geyeriana).

Crab spiders know that willows are insect pollinated and lay in wait for prey like this unsuspecting bee on Geyer’s willow (Salix geyeriana).

On Friday (May 16), Dave Predeek and I went to check out some of the wetlands along Ikenick Creek in the Smith Ridge area. Dave is one of the few people I’ve met who was already familiar with this fascinating area. The willows were mostly still in bud two weeks ago (see Triple Treat up the McKenzie), so I thought this would be the perfect time to see them in bloom. Indeed it was. We spent most of our time exploring the large wetland just south of Road 2672. The large thickets of Geyer’s willow (Salix geyeriana) were all blooming. They are pretty easy to recognize because they have very small and relatively short catkins. In small patches near the southern end of the wetland, we found Sierra willow (Salix eastwoodiae) and Booth’s willow (S. boothii) in bloom. They both have much larger and showier flowers; the former has hairy ovaries while the latter has glabrous ovaries and fewer hairs on the leaves. I don’t think I could separate the males this time of year. Later on, the leaves of Booth’s willow are shinier, but this early they both have some hairs.

Two interesting types of bog mushrooms: Alder goblet (Ciboria sp.) with mountain buttercup (Ranunculus populago) on the left and swamp beacon (Mitrula sp.) on the right.

A brightly colored Pacific chorus frog hangs out among the mountain buttercup (Ranunculus populago.

A brightly colored Pacific chorus frog floats in shallow water among the mountain buttercup (Ranunculus populago).

Also coming into bloom were mountain shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi), marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala), and mountain buttercup (Ranunculus populago). We also found a single flower head of Sukdorf’s paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii) although there were many more leaves evident. Throughout the entire wetland, the pretty lavender flowers of marsh violet (Viola palustris) peeked out among the taller plants above them. Sedges were just starting as well, with Sitka sedge (Carex aquatilis) the most prominent. Some of the less common Cusick’s sedge (C. cusickii) and the tiny delicate sedge (C. leptalea) were also just beginning to flower. I know little about mushrooms, but there did seem to be quite an interesting variety in the woods around the wetlands last fall. Still, I was surprised to see two kinds of spring-fruiting mushrooms right in the standing water of the wetland. I think I’ve seen the little orange tops of swamp beacon (Mitrula sp.) in other wetlands, but the little brown cups that were popping up everywhere were a first. They are most likely alder goblet (Ciboria caucus) or catkin cup (C. amentacea)—it’s not clear to me if these two species are synonymous or just closely related (Thanks to Jake Hurlburt for helping ID these!). I didn’t think to look at what they were attached to, but apparently they grow on last year’s fallen willow and alder catkins—something that was certainly abundant in this wetland!

A couple of green commas enjoying a female willow

A couple of green commas enjoying a female willow (probably Booth’s)

Dave had been to a wetland in the area that I had never checked out, so that was our next spot. It was a relatively easy bushwhack through the woods to several small wet spots and eventually the edge of the main wetland. Unfortunately, in the 20 years since Dave had been there, the hydrology must have changed (beaver activity had a big hand in all these wetlands), and we never found any open boggy areas or a small lake he remembered, just willows, willows, and more willows. I love willows, but bushwhacking through solid thickets of 7’+ willows is no picnic. The ones in the first wetland were unusually short, mostly shorter than I am, and were no problem walking through. There did seem to be a lot of the larger-flowered Sierra and Booth’s willows, and especially in the first few wet openings we came across, they were attracting numerous green commas. This is not surprising since their caterpillars also use willows. The main reason we pushed our way through to the far end of the wetland was to see a handsome stand of quaking aspen, always an unusual sight in western Oregon. They at least seemed to be surviving the onslaught of willows quite well. Several trees had had to deal with attacks of another sort. Some had been rubbed hard by deer or elk, and one tree in particular showed signs of scratch marks. Lots of interesting stories here if you know how to read them.

Oregon anemone (Anemone oregana) were blooming profusely in the woods along the roads.

Oregon anemone (Anemone oregana) were blooming profusely in the woods along the roads.

We also made a few short stops just into the edges of a couple of the other wetlands to see what willows or other different species might be blooming, but frankly I didn’t have much energy after all that bushwhacking, and it was getting a bit late to do much more than that. Later in the season, however, there will be many more things of interest—even as late as September there is always something to see. I look forward to a number of trips back here this year.

One Response to “Willows and More Blooming at Ikenick Creek”

  • Ellie Ryan:

    Dear Tanya,
    Those fungi are quite attractive and very rare in my eyes. Thanks Ellie

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