This year was Emerald Chapter’s turn to host the Native Plant Society of Oregon‘s annual meeting, held this year in Rainbow in the McKenzie area. This is my chapter, based in Eugene, so I agreed to lead three field trips. We had perfect weather and great plants for all three days, and a great group of enthusiastic participants who were happy with whatever we came across. It was great having people with different interests and knowledge bases, and they spotted a number of additions to my list—something that always makes me happy. Below are a few highlights.
Park Creek, July 15We didn’t have a lot of time Friday afternoon, but we managed to stop at three different places in the Park Creek Basin, starting with a small pond with blooming pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) and lots of dragonflies, then to a roadside area with a large population of green-flowered alumroot (Heuchera chlorantha), and finally to my favorite area along the creek itself, where we saw Suksdorf’s paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii), white bog orchids (Platanthera dilatata), and bigleaf lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) in good bloom. There was also a little bit of the uncommon lesser pyrola (Pyrola minor) still in bloom and many gone to seed—more than I realized was growing along the road there. We also all sampled the edible fruit of the low-growing wetland shrub, bluefly honeysuckle (Lonicera cauriana). It has recently been split from its close European relative (L. caerulea), which is cultivated for its fruit.
Lowder Mountain, July 16
With a full day on Saturday, we were able to take our time and stop to look at lots of different plants on this wonderful trail. There were many ericaceous plants in bloom in the forest, including white-veined wintergreen (Pyrola picta), prince’s pine or pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), and its smaller sibling little prince’s pine (C. menziesii). The rocky areas were past peak, but the buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.) were in great shape. The one exlporer’s gentian (Gentiana calycosa) plant near the trail was spotted with its first open flower. Those on the north-facing cliff side didn’t even seem to be in bud yet. In the meadow where the intersection heading to the summit is, skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata) was in full bloom, but sadly no hummingbirds seemed to have noticed—or perhaps they were put off by a dozen flower lovers milling about.
The summit was undoubtedly the highlight of the day. When I was there a couple of weeks earlier (see Back to Back Trips to Horsepasture and Lowder Mountains), I had worried it wouldn’t be as floriferous by the time of the meeting. I needn’t have worried. The cooler weather and rain had slowed the seasonal progress down, and while the pumice sandwort (Eremogone pumicola) wasn’t as fresh, the pussy paws (Calyptridium umbellatum) actually improves with age, the sepals turning deeper pink as the flowers age. Although they were completely finished lower down the trail, the mountain cat’s ears (Calochortus subalpinus) were putting on a terrific show growing among the other two species and also, oddly, among the bright pink subalpine spiraea (Spiraea splendens), more commonly seen in wetlands. We spent quite a while speculating about the unusual habitat and odd flat top of this mountain. The previous night we were treated to a fascinating talk by Dave Kretzing on the geology and hydrology of the McKenzie area. Alas, the only question he couldn’t answer was about the geological history of Lowder Mountain.
Parish Lake, July 17
On Sunday morning, I took a small group to see the bog at Parish Lake. Once again, the forest was dominated by ericaceous plants, including three species of huckleberries (Vaccinium membranaceum, V. ovalifolium, and V. parvifolium) all fruiting, and more prince’s pine and pyrolas. The real excitement was when Dan Mathews spotted some gnome plant (Hemitomes congestum), one the non-chlorophyll or mycoheterotrophic plants in the heath family. We spent a while debating whether it was that or fringed pinesap (Pleuricospora fimbriata). I always forget how to tell the two apart, but after looking them up once again upon returning home, I think I have a good mnemonic to help me differentiate them: “Hemitomes is hairy and Pleuricospora has petals.” Gnome plant has conspicuous hairs inside the flower and on the stigma and has partly fused petals. Fringed pinesap is glabrous and has regular separate petals.
While we were all disgusted at the condition of some areas near the lake where slovenly campers had left large amounts of toilet paper, the rest of the lake and bog was quite lovely. The sundews had unfortunately mostly finished blooming, and although the sun came out before we left, none of the remaining flowers opened in time for anyone to see them. Still, seeing their dewy hairs sparkling in the sunshine is a sight people never forget. While looking at all the interesting rarities in the bog, we were delighted to watch a flock of cedar waxwings dancing about above us catching insects and then repeatedly returning to nearby dead snags. We also saw several swifts but couldn’t see them well enough to identify them. Rough-skinned newts were also still abundant.
There’s never enough time to see everything (nor to write about what we do see!), but I think all three trips were enjoyed by everyone—certainly by me—for the flowers, wildlife, scenery, and the company of other inquisitive and knowledgeable nature lovers. I’m already looking forward to next year’s meeting in the North Umpqua!