Seed Collecting at Tire Mountain

Gorgeous farewell-to-spring really glows when backlit.

Gorgeous farewell-to-spring really glows when backlit.

On July 31st, I decided to make one last trip to Tire Mountain to look at the final wave of flowers and collect some seeds. I was especially hoping to get seeds of the late-blooming farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) while still seeing some fresh flowers, but I was surprised that hardly any seeds were ripe, and there were many buds still in evidence—on the last day of July! I’ve gotten a few started at home, but since they are annuals, I need a large enough population to be able to keep themselves going. Most other plants were in seed, and I was able to collect a number of species, including several biscuitroot (Lomatium dissectum, L. utriculatum, and L. nudicaule), my favorite bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta), and Oregon fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum).

flat-spurred piperia can be distinguished by its mainly white flowers with its long spurs that are perpendicular to its stem.

flat-spurred piperia can be distinguished by its mainly white flowers with its long spurs that are perpendicular to its stem.

In the large dike meadow, I headed up to the ridge and over to the north side where many fawn lilies and glacier lilies  (Erythronium grandiflorum) bloom in the spring. The temperature felt 10° cooler the second I reached the crest and the breeze hit me coming over the ridge. This is one reason some different plants grow up here. I’ve been up here many, many times, so I was really surprised to be able to add a new species to my list. I counted at least 40 flat-spurred piperia (Platanthera [Piperia] transversa) coming into bloom all through the open, rocky woods on the north side of the ridge. I’d seen the more common, green-flowered species, Alaska rein orchid (P. unalascensis), back in early July 2009, but these all had the white lips and long spurs of P. transversa. Eventually I discovered 3 completely finished stalks. My best guess is that P. unalascensis blooms early than transversa. Having never seen them blooming together in the same area, I didn’t realize this. This is a good example of why it is worth going out to your favorite places after the peak bloom is over.

I was kicking myself that my camera was in the bag while I was collecting some seeds when I looked up to see a rufous hummingbird drinking from elegant cluster-lilies (Brodiaea elegans) about 6 feet in front of me. By the time I got the camera out and turned on, it had moved higher up the slope, although it was still darting from one deep purple blossom to the next. It occasionally stopped at the attractive pink of the farewell-to-spring but quickly decided those flowers were too flat for their long beaks.

While I'm still trying to sort out the species of yampah (Perideridia) here, I can still admire the striped seeds, which are joined at the middle into pairs.

While I’m still trying to sort out the species of yampah (Perideridia) here, I can still admire the striped seeds, which are joined at the middle into pairs and topped by the persistent red styles.

There were barely any butterflies out and not too many flowers, but I still enjoyed looking at the wide variety of fruits and seed capsules. I thought those might be of interest to others as most people enjoy the diversity of wildflowers but rarely notice how many ways they have come up with to reproduce themselves.

Large-flowered agoseris (Agoseris grandiflora) has dandelion-like seeds. The long "beak" at the end of the seed distinguishes them from similar Microseris species, some of which were out in the same meadow.

Large-flowered agoseris (Agoseris grandiflora) has dandelion-like seeds. The long “beak” attached to the seed distinguishes them from similar Microseris species, some of which were out in the same area. The fluffy pappus helps send the seeds aloft to start new plants in other meadows.

One common name for Tiarella trifoliata is single scoop, referring to the scoop-like seed capsule. A quick scrape with a fingernail yields several shiny black seeds.

One common name for Tiarella trifoliata is single scoop, referring to the scoop-like seed capsule. A quick scrape with a fingernail yields several shiny black seeds.

Inside-out flower (Vancouveria hexandra) has a fleshy appendage called an elaiosome, which is attractive to ants. They bring the seeds back to their colony, eat the elaiosome, and leave the seeds to grow from the duff.

The seeds of inside-out flower (Vancouveria hexandra) have a fleshy appendage called an elaiosome, which is attractive to ants. The ants bring the seeds back to their colony, eat the elaiosome, and leave the seeds to grow in the fertile duff.

Left) The beautiful bluefield gilia is easy to collect. A quick tip and loads of little brown seeds fall out of the small capsules when ripe. Right) Tomcat clover (Trifolium willdenovii) also has clusters of seed capsules with seeds that fall out. Unfortunately, when the heads are dry, they are quite sharp and hard to handle.

Left) The beautiful bluefield gilia is easy to collect. A quick tip of the dried flowerhead and loads of little brown seeds fall out of the small capsules when ripe. Right) Tomcat clover (Trifolium willdenovii) also has clusters of seed capsules with seeds that fall out. Unfortunately, when the heads are dry, they are quite sharp and hard to handle.

Fern-leaved lomatium (L. dissectum) has handsome spherical umbels of large seeds.

Fern-leaved lomatium (L. dissectum) has handsome spherical umbels of large seeds.

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