From the Minute to the Majestic

In late August last year, I discovered a new rocky meadow just southwest of Patterson Mountain (see Exploring near Patterson Mountain). I wrote that I expected it to be blooming in May. Well, May is here, so it was time to see what it looked like in bloom. On Monday, May 9, John Koenig and I went up Road 1714 off of Patterson Mountain Road 5840. We parked at the quarry on the bend in the road and walked down the road for about a tenth of a mile. A very short walk through the woods brought us to the top of the east end of the steep meadow in a couple of minutes.

It can be hard to come up with a good name for a place so one doesn't have to refer to it as "that rocky meadow off Road 1714". The masses of Indian dream fern gave us the idea to name the meadow after it. The spring phacelia was perched on the rocky shelves above the ferns.

It can be hard to come up with a good name for a place, but we didn’t want to have to refer to this area as “that rocky meadow off Road 1714”. The masses of Indian dream fern gave us the idea to name the meadow after it.

Naked broomrape growing out of spring gold. Without digging the plants up to look for the attached haustorium, it is only a guess that they are parasitizing the spring gold.

Naked broomrape growing out of spring gold. Without digging the plants up to look for the attached haustorium, it is only a guess that they are parasitizing the spring gold.

I was thrilled to see so many brightly colored flowers after last year’s trip when most everything was dried out and brown. There were lots of purple larkspur (Delphinium menziesii) in full bloom as well as two slightly different shades of yellow lomatiums—both spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum) and the deeper yellow Hall’s lomatium (L. hallii) were abundant. Bright red paintbrushes were coming into bloom. They were quite variable. Some plants had the lobed leaves and wide, fluffy flower heads of harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), while others had the unlobed leaves and narrow flower heads characteristic of frosted paintbrush (C. pruinosa). With the handlens I was able to find a few forked hairs on some of the plants, indicating at least some frosted paintbrush in their lineage. I’ve seen these mixed populations in many places in the area, so I wasn’t surprised. I assume the two species are hybridizing, but it would take DNA work to confirm my lay theory.

We poked around the east end of the meadow and finally discovered a small patch of Thompson’s mistmaiden, something I thought I’d seen dried plants of last year. It is so small, however, that I didn’t trust identifying it from seed, so I was pleased to find it in flower. We were very happy to find quite a few very bright purple flowers of naked broomrape (Orobanche uniflora). Their flowers were larger than usual, and from a distance we had trouble picking them out among the larkspur. I was surprised that they weren’t parasitizing the nearby wholeleaf saxifrage (Micranthes integrifolia) where I frequently find them, but rather they were growing most often among the spring gold. Rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) was everywhere but just budding up, so there will be plenty of color later in the month.

John checking the plant list at the east end of "Indian Dream Meadow".

John checking the plant list at the east end of “Indian Dream Meadow”.

Silver lupine growing on the outcrops at the western end of "Indian Dream Meadow"

Silver lupine growing on the outcrops at the western end of “Indian Dream Meadow”

We meandered up and down as we crossed the steep 2-acre meadow at “botanist’s pace”—just slightly faster than a snail. It was 3 hours before we returned to the truck! That’s my favorite speed, and why I hate to refer to what I do as hiking. There’s just so much to see at a new site, and I never want to miss anything. The western half of the meadow was a bit drier, and we came to some gorgeous silver lupine (Lupinus albifrons) in full bloom. Many more baby plants surrounding them was a good sign of a happy population. I often think about what special species I might look for based on the habitat I’m in. Earlier I had mentioned to John that we should keep our eyes open for the rare endemic spring phacelia (Phacelia verna), which likes rocky or gravelly, south-facing slopes in southern Lane County into Douglas County. When we looked carefully at the mossy rock outcrop at the west end, there it was! We were both very excited to find it here, especially as it is near the north end of its limited range (it is also at nearby Mt. June and Eagles Rest). A few plants were starting to bloom. They seemed to like level shelves on the rocks, which they shared with Olympic onion (Allium crenulatum) and a Clarkia species, neither of which were in flower yet.

Tiny spring phacelia just coming into bloom. The fuzzy leaves of this annual species have the same three-pronged veining pattern as the much larger perennial phacelias.

Tiny spring phacelia just coming into bloom. The fuzzy leaves of this annual species have the same three-pronged veining pattern as the much larger perennial phacelias.

From there we climbed up into the woods and quickly spotted some very low-growing thornless roses. My first thought always goes to the only dwarf rose I know in the Cascades, ground rose (Rosa spithamea). The only two places I know of it growing in Lane County are Youngs Rock and nearby Mutton Meadow, so it is uncommon but a possibility. Unfortunately, although we found a number of differences in the leaves between it and the very prickly baldhip rose, which was growing nearby, they won’t bloom for at least a month, and all the keys focus on floral features. Not that I needed an excuse to come back to this pretty spot for the next wave of flowers, but I’m always happy to have another mystery to solve.

We headed a little farther west and soon found the small rocky opening just below the quarry. It is guarded over by a handsome stand of madrone (Arbutus menziesii). Surprisingly, there were numerous fairy slippers (Calypso bulbosa) blooming beneath it at the edge of the conifers. The sunnier side was mostly filled with lomatiums, but it looked like there could be a good show of cat’s ears (Calochortus tolmiei most likely as this area is a little below 4000′ elevation) later on.

After lunch and a little roadside botanizing, we headed over to Patterson Mountain. John had never seen the meadow areas off trail on the south side of the mountain, so I was looking forward to sharing them with him. Unfortunately, this time of year when the wetlands are quite wet, doing a loop across the south side and returning on the trail meant wearing rubber boots. We both opted not to carry them, so we had to wear them while bushwhacking through the woods. Not ideal, but there are worse things, and it was well worth it. Each meadow had something special, and everything was very fresh with the new growth of spring.

Skunk cabbage is abundant at the bottom of the southside wetland.

Skunk cabbage is abundant at the base of the southside wetland.

A pretty frog among the mountain buttercups

A handsome frog among the mountain buttercups

Although I had a little trouble finding my way from the people trail to the animal trail that leads to the large southside wet meadow, everything after that went smoothly. We hoped to see a bear, but, although we didn’t, we passed 7 piles of bear scat, so we know they still love the area—perhaps they were watching us from behind a tree. We did see some cool phantom craneflies, the silly insects that fly with their feet in front of them, and several frogs. We also found some egg masses in the pool of water I think of as a bear tub. I’m not sure what they were, but some were definitely alive with movement in their center.

The skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) was passing over, but the mountain buttercup (Ranunculus populago) was lovely. The small white flowers of Brewer’s bittercress (Cardamine breweri) poked up in the wettest spots. While not yet in bloom, I was pleased to notice lots of the uncommon water montia (Montia chamissoi) creeping along under the other foliage in the upper section of this sloped wetland. The first time I ever found the plant was in the Lone Wolf Meadow of the main trail here, but I’d never spotted it on this side before.

Perideridia is a fun name to say, but the species are challenging to identify, and the plants are easy to ignore. The numerous branching of these leaves keys this out to P. bolanderi.

Perideridia is a fun name to say, but the species are challenging to identify, and the plants are easy to ignore. The numerous branching of these leaves and irregular sizes of the lobes would key this out to P. bolanderi.

The tiny flowers of Thompson's mistmaiden with the similar-sized small-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora)

The tiny flowers of Thompson’s mistmaiden with the similar-sized small-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora)

Our next stop was the seepy meadow on the southside. Our timing was perfect for a beautiful display of Thompson’s mistmaiden. I was pretty sure we’d catch it in bloom, but I was surprised at how much of the meadow was dotted with its tiny but cheery flowers. They were clearly benefitting from the extra moisture this year.

We also spent time looking at the early leaves of the abundant yampah (Perideridia sp.) there. I had seen it in bloom here, covering most of the meadow after the grass and other plants start to dry out. I had always assumed this smaller, seep-loving species was Oregon yampah (P. oregana). By the time they are in bloom, the leaves are usually dried up, but looking at the fresh leaves, they were highly branched or dissected—not right at all for P. oregana, whose leaves are much simpler. Earlier this spring, Bruce Newhouse had asked me about a plant at Tire Mountain. It looked the same as these and some I’d seen at Bristow Prairie. A number of years ago, I remember wondering if maybe the yampah at Tire Mountain was Bolander’s yampah (P. bolanderi), but it hadn’t been recorded for Lane County, so I doubted my ID. Also, frankly, I wasn’t terribly interested in these challenging carrot family (Apiaceae) plants. There are just so many troublesome white-flowered species with carrot-like leaves, I often ignore them. But we’ll be working on this family in the upcoming volume 2 of Flora of Oregon, so I really need to find out if and where it is in Lane County and the rest of the Western Cascades. That means coming back when they are in bloom and looking more carefully at other populations I’ve seen in the Cascades. Even botanizing can’t always be fun!

A Moss's elfin on its host food plant, broadleaf stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium).

A Moss’s elfin on its host food plant, broadleaf stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium).

From there we walked over to the top of the nearby south-facing cliff (very carefully as we were still in our rubber boots!). There is a good view of Diamond Peak, and in front of it we could see some snow remaining on Groundhog Mountain and, even closer, the area where the Deception Creek Fire burned across Deception Rock. Then we made the short bushwhack back to the trail. At the end of the trail, we admired the view of the Middle Fork of the Willamette and the surrounding mountains. Lots of snow still on the Three Sisters but not much left on the lower Western Cascades. The floral highlights of this rocky spot were blooming spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa), abundant rustyhair saxifrage (Micranthes rufidula), still fresh glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum), and another showy drift of Thompson’s mistmaiden. We also saw another Moss’s elfin, the first one being at Indian Dream Meadow.

Pink alpine laurel blooming among a sea of bright yellow mountain buttercup at Lone Wolf Shelter.

Pink alpine laurel blooming among a sea of bright yellow mountain buttercup at Lone Wolf Shelter.

After spending most of the day walking around very slowly admiring tiny flowers on the ground, it was quite a change walking back down the trail through the stunning old growth forest. A number of the trees are well over 5′ in diameter and probably a couple of hundred feet tall—no more leaning over! Our pace was much faster as well, especially as we still had one more meadow to explore. We were relieved the sun was still shining on the Lone Wolf Meadow when we at arrived a little before 6pm. My favorite mountain buttercups were in full bloom as were the adorable tiny white flowers of Macloskey’s violet (Viola macloskeyi) and the beautiful pink spread of alpine laurel (Kalmia microphylla). I so love this time of year when everything is fresh and the greens are so bright. The very early blooming arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis) was already done, however, but at least we got a look at its glabrous capsules. Sneaking around behind the patches of hawthorn and leafless alders, we found a few very small patches of snow and some fresh glacier lilies—a very pleasant end to a fabulous day.

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