The Middle Fork District of the Willamette National Forest is doing some surveys in search of the rare whitebeak sedge (Rhynchospora alba). District botanist, Molly Juillerat, invited me to join her and Sandra Klepadlo-Girdner, another botanist with the district, to survey a small wetland near Kwiskwis Butte (formerly Squaw Butte), near Oakridge and just east of Heckletooth Mountain. John Koenig also came along for the outing. I had been intrigued by a plant list for this area that he had compiled along with members of NPSO 20 years ago. He didn’t remember the area and was sure the list was for another site—even after our trip—until he checked the location data for his list after returning home. Turns out they had accessed this hidden spot from a different direction. After hundreds of trips to Cascade wetlands, I too have trouble keeping them all straight!
Unfortunately, Molly was called away to watch over rare plants at the forest fire at Crater Lake, so Sandra guided us up Kwiskwis Butte Road 5871 to the wetland. I had suggested we try downhill from a road to the south—this turned out to be the way John had gone on his long-ago trip. A tree across the road quickly made us a revert to Sandra’s original access—uphill 400′ through the woods from the north. It turned out the open forest of large trees was fairly easy to negotiate. Staying within earshot of the creek eminating from the wetland, we had no problems finding our target location (It turned out that finding the car on the way back was more problematic!).
What a sweet spot! A small pond with an equally small wetland sits in a 2-acre opening in the forest. Skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) fills the backwaters snaking between the trees. The whole area seems somewhat primeval. Though there isn’t any whitebeak sedge, there are several unusual species. This is only the second place I’ve seen swamp horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile), which was growing in the wetland as well as in the pond itself. The other site I know it from is a small pond in the Park Creek area, where it also grows in the shallow water. Threeway sedge (Dulichium arundinaceum) is an unusual and uncommon sedge relative named for the way its leaves spiral around the stem every 120°. In the Western Cascades, it seems to like relatively low elevation wetlands such as this one. The only other sites I’ve seen it at are Ikenick Creek in Linn County and Hidden Lake and nearby Wall Creek Bog in Lane County.
We circumnavigated the pond, trying to do a thorough survey. We hadn’t worn rubber boots since we had to climb through the woods on the way there and figured it would be dry enough at this time of summer. Turns out it was still pretty wet in places by the water, and there were numerous fallen trees on the east side of the pond, so getting around was challenging in spots. We ended up seeing most everything from the 20-year-old list and added several new species. After our return, we drove past a trailhead to the Eugene to Crest Trail, so I showed Sandra and John another wetland I’d been to several times just east of Heckletooth Mountain. It’s an interesting area, and it was a fun day. I always enjoy checking out new spots. I’ll plan on returning to Kwiskwis Butte Fen again in the spring to see the violets and other early flowers another year.