For the second day of our NARGS annual campout (June 20), we headed up Coal Creek Road 2133 to do some roadside botanizing. We pretty much retraced the two earlier trips John Koenig and I did several weeks earlier (see Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas and Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas: The Sequel). One of our usual participants, Kathy Pyle, had arrived the night before accompanied as always by her cute little dogs, Juan and Paco. We were also joined for the day by Sheila Klest, the proprietor of Trillium Gardens, a local native plant nursery.
At our first flower stop, one of two small waterfalls, the bronze bells (Anticlea [Stenanthium] occidentalis) was finally in bloom, just as I’d hoped. Once we spotted a few flowers, I realized there were far more than I was aware of. What a nice surprise. There was a good display of small-flowered alumroot (Heuchera micrantha) in the meadow above and moisture still seeping down. At the bigger waterfall just up the road, the main display was on the dry road bank with lots of bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) as well as a little frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) and creamy stonecrop (Sedum oregonense). Cardwell’s penstemon (Penstemon cardwellii) was in good bloom now, and we had to make another stop up the road to see a particularly fabulous display.
After the short stops, we took a longer time walking up along the road where there is so much moisture coming down the steep slope from the high rocky ridge above. I was still lamenting about the ditching of the road, which not only removed a great many plants but also changed the water flow. Of course, that was the purpose of it, to keep the water from washing out the road, but it was tough looking at the now empty ditch. Still, it was looking quite lush and fresh, and there were plenty of flowers on the banks, including slender bog orchid (Platanthera stricta) and brook saxifrage (Micranthes odontoloma). I got obsessed with getting a good photo of the leafy mitrewort (Mitella caulescens), which was abundant under the alders. I don’t know if I’d ever seen it growing so profusely and in such perfect bloom. The tiny flowers are wonderful up close but make it a hard subject to photograph.
After lunching at the edge of the eastern section of wetland by Loletta Lakes and saying goodbye to Christine and Yaghoub, who had to head back home, we did a little exploring around the area. Peter and Sheila trustingly followed me across the gravel slope at the east edge of the plateau to see the buttercup-leaved suksdorfia (Suksdorfia ranunculifolia), which still had a few fresh flowers but was mostly finished. The coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima) and buckwheats (Eriogonum umbellatum and E. compositum) were attracting a number of checkerspot butterflies, but it was difficult chasing them around for a photo on the steep slope. At the wetland section with the damp, rocky area in the center, we were thrilled to see a blindingly bright yellow patch of common monkey flower (formerly Mimulus guttatus but now Erythranthe sp.). There were also very large mats of a tiny-flowered form of Erythranthe [Mimulus] primuloides. Some of these were winding through patches of creamy stonecrop—an unusual combination.
There were a number of butterflies in the wetland, but I was hoping to find more of the uncommon Sierra Nevada blues that we’d seen at Bristow Prairie the day before and that I’d seen at Reynolds Ridge (see A Day Full of Surprises) earlier in the month. I followed a number of little blues with bright blue uppersides looking for the much grayer hue of the Sierra Nevada. I thought there were at least a couple of duller ones, and at last I spotted the patchy brown and white underside—definitely a Sierra Nevada blue! In addition to the distinctive coloration on the underside of their wings, they have a dark bar on each of the upperside of their forewings, a trait they share with the much more common wetland species, the greenish blue. We also saw lots of parnassians, swallowtails, and other species, including a hedgerow hairstreak, the first one I’ve seen this year.
Our last major stop was at the large meadow along Road 3810 that John Koenig and I had spent so much time in on our second trip. The wetland section was quite beautiful—definitely worth driving the extra few miles of gravel. The great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) was in full bloom and a really deep shade of violet. There were lots of white and purple spires of white bog orchids (Platanthera dilatata) and elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica). With all the competition for space, it seems like most of the plants had more or less vertical inflorescences. An exception was the streambank bird’s-foot trefoil (Hosackia [Lotus] oblongifolius), which was spreading around among the other plants. This pretty white-and-yellow-flowered legume is a southern species, reaching its northern limit in Lane County. On slightly higher ground, the main color was the bright yellow of arrowleaf groundsel (Senecio triangularis). There were lots of butterflies here as well, and I kept an eye out for the little Sierra Nevada blue, but I only saw Boisduval’s, western tailed, and a few greenish blues.
Over in the dry spot hidden behind a willow patch, the sulphur buckwheat was in bloom, but the real show was masses of pink owl-clover (Orthocarpus imbricatus). While taking numerous photos of it, Kelley and I spotted lazuli buntings chasing each other through the willows. While that was our last planned stop, we couldn’t turn the cars around where we parked, so we headed down the road a bit farther. Before we found a wide spot in the road, we had to make one more stop at a road bank covered with bright red skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata), the first we’d seen—a great way to end the day. I do so love roadside botanizing in the Western Cascades!