Back to Warner Mountain Bog

Gentians blooming in the main bog.

Alpine laurel (Kalmia microphylla is already in seed by the time the flowers of the late-blooming gentians appear.

Having just discovered explorer’s gentians (Gentiana calycosa) on Warner Mountain (see previous post, Hidden Bog on Warner Mountain), my top priority was to get back to see them in full bloom. I contacted Molly Juillerat, botanist and Middle Fork District ranger, to see if she wanted to come. Luckily, she was free the following weekend. I figured that was enough time for the display to be worth the trip. As it turns out, a couple of other friends, Nancy and Keiko, were already planning to head up to that area as well. So we agreed to all drive up separately and meet by the lookout on August 2. Keiko brought her husband, Daniel, and Molly brought her faithful dog, Ruby. After checking out an interesting rocky spot a short way off the road that I’d noticed on Google Earth (not too many flowers but pikas under the rock pile!), we stopped to have lunch by the lookout. Sadly, the Cascade lilies were pretty much done—I was really fortunate to have seen them the week before. Then we headed over to the bog. Read the rest of this entry »

Hidden Bog on Warner Mountain

What a gorgeous sight! And smell! I had to stop and smell almost every Cascade lily I passed on my way to and from the Warner Lookout.

With the gravel roads lapsing into disrepair the last few years, I hadn’t managed to make it to Groundhog Mountain, one of my very favorite places in the Western Cascades, in three years (see Butterflies and More at Groundhog Mountain), and my friend John had driven on that trip. It was past time to return. While the butterfly group (NABA) has been heading up there lately via Road 2135, I decided to take a slightly longer route up 2129 past Moon Point and the Warner Mountain lookout. That way, if there were downed trees or washouts I didn’t want to cross, I could do the Moon Point trail instead. And I was pretty sure the road would be clear to the lookout since it is used during fire season. The night before I left, I pulled out my iPhone to get the aerial image of the area saved in case I wanted to do any exploring. Just off the road near the beargrass meadows up on Warner Mountain, I noticed what appeared to be a wetland. The telltale dark squiggles of meandering water is a good indication. Hmm. If I didn’t make it to Groundhog, I would have to check this out. It was only about an acre, but you never know what might be there. Read the rest of this entry »

Seed Collecting at Heckletooth Mountain

Left: blooming phantom orchid in July. Right: developing seed capsules of a yellow spotted coralroot. These occur occasionally and are somewhat like albino versions. There are some near both trailheads at Heckletooth.

I hadn’t been to Heckletooth Mountain near Oakridge since 2016. It’s one of a very few sites I know in the area that has large-fruited lomatium (Lomatium macrocarpum), a plant I really wanted to try in my restoration area. I have a few plants on my property that came up from Heckletooth seeds sown years ago, but they are swamped by weedy grass and never bloom, so it was time to try again.

I always look in the woods on the summit ridge for a small population of Bald Mountain milkvetch (Astragalus umbraticus). It is endemic to southwestern Oregon, and, so far anyway, this is the most northerly extent of its range, so I am always happy to see it is still there and was in bloom in late June.

I headed up there on June 29. As on my first trip in 2016 (see Spring at Heckletooth Mountain), I went up the short gravel Road 207 off of Salmon Creek Road 24. The road was unexpectedly in terrible shape in 2016, but as close as it is to Oakridge, I thought for sure it would have been fixed by now. Not so. Once again, I couldn’t turn around the narrow road once I started up it. I was pretty stressed out when I reached the trailhead after negotiating a steep mile of washout. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t get much better. We’d had a few drops of rain in Fall Creek the day before—the last of the spring as it turned out—but here it had rained enough that everything was drenched, and the sun didn’t come out as the forecast had promised until after 2 pm when I was heading back. Most of the seeds that were ripe were quite wet, and it kept me from venturing off the trail at all. But some plants like the lovely leafy fleabane (Erigeron foliosus), some paintbrush (Castilleja sp.), and showy tarweed (Madia elegans) were still in bloom. And the gorgeous leaves of silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons) actually look their best when glistening with water droplets. Alas, the large-fruited lomatium wasn’t anywhere near ripe yet, although there was plenty of seed of the earlier blooming Hall’s lomatium (L. hallii). So I would have to return if I wanted the lomatium seed. Read the rest of this entry »

Buggy Day at Bristow Prairie

The wetland by the lake was filled with bistort (Bistorta bistortoides), Oregon checkermallow (Sidalcea oregana), and arrowleaf groundsel (Senecio triangularis). We hadn’t had time to explore this area last trip, but I like to come down here at least once a year. There are too many wonderful spots at Bristow Prairie to see them all on a single trip.

Follicles of Menzies’ larkspur still filled with seeds. Usually when an animal brushes by the plant, the seeds get flung out of the capsules. More than once, I inadvertently kicked a plant as I reached forward to grab the seeds, knocking them out before I could get any. Plants have so many clever ways of distributing their seeds.

After the terrific trip John Koenig and I had to Bristow Prairie earlier in the month (see Still More Discoveries at Bristow Prairie), I decided to return on July 15 to see the next wave of flowers. This trip was not nearly as pleasant as the first because most of the afternoon I was hounded by biting flies. Some looked to be deer flies; others were both larger and smaller, but they were all determined to drive me crazy. At the very end of the day, some house fly-sized ones were actually leaving what looked like bruises on my arms just minutes after they bit me. Luckily they didn’t itch for all that long. I’ve never experienced that before in the Western Cascades, so it was doubly disconcerting. Biting flies were one of the many things I disliked about my short tenure living in the Midwest. Read the rest of this entry »

High Season at Lowder Mountain

The rock garden along the ridge in all its peak-season glory: bright purple small-flowered penstemon (Penstemon procerus), pink cliff penstemon (P. rupicola), yellow western groundsel (Senecio integerrimus), and white Calochortus

These small bees seemed to be particularly interested in the abundant fern-leaved lomatium (Lomatium dissectum).

On July 6, I spent the day on Lowder Mountain. I’d heard that Road 1993 was in good shape (It’s one of the few reliably well-kept roads these days), and I hadn’t been there since I led a hike there when our Native Plant Society chapter hosted our Annual Meeting back in 2016 (see Back to Back Trips to Horsepasture and Lowder Mountains). I drove east under overcast skies but thankfully broke out into full sun on my drive up to the mountain. It was gorgeous all day until around 5pm when the clouds took over again, so I really lucked out. The flowers were beautiful, and I pretty much had the whole mountain to myself. And although I was once again disappointed by the paucity of butterflies, there were oodles of bees to keep me amused. Here are some photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

Still More Discoveries at Bristow Prairie

The rock garden is always gorgeous in June and July. The cream-colored hotrock penstemon (Penstemon deustus) was at peak. It was joined by frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa), Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), and much more.

On July 3rd, John Koenig and I went to Bristow Prairie, one of our favorite places. Due to the pandemic, we drove up separately. Turns out we were both planning to go, so we figured we might as well go at the same time. Two sets of eyes are much better for finding interesting things. And we always seem to find unusual plants and other cool things up in this wonderful area.

It takes a very tiny bee to pollinate the little flowers of Columbia lewisia.

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Beargrass Season at Blair Lake

Beargrass coming into bloom near the trailhead at Blair Meadows.

A rocky area at the edge of Mule Prairie with harsh paintbrush, cliff penstemon, and Cascade fleabane.

On June 25, I went up to Blair Lake. This was another place I hadn’t been to in peak season for quite some time, although I had been up there in late July last year (see Butterfly Day at Blair Lake). Unlike last year’s trip, there weren’t many different species of butterflies, but the flowers were gorgeous, and, for the first time here in years, I got to see the beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) in bloom! Beargrass is an odd species in that the populations seem to either bloom en masse or hardly at all. There are different thoughts about what kind of schedule it is on, but it has been blooming far more often than the “every 3 years” or “every 7 years” and other ideas I’ve heard. Coffin Mountain seems to have a mass beargrass bloom every year I make it there—although I often miss the actual flowering. Although there have been lots of big beargrass years in the last decade or so, Blair Lake doesn’t seem to be on the same schedule as other sites. I haven’t seen evidence of a big bloom year for many years. But this year, it is definitely worth visiting. There were places by the road and patches up at Mule Prairie and farther up the trail at Spring Prairie where there were a great many in bloom, but most are still budding up, so it should be impressive for the next couple of weeks at least. I don’t think anyone knows exactly what factors are required to create a big bloom year, but when there is one, it is well worth the trip to see this impressive sight (and smell, although the strong fragrance of thousands of inflorescences can be a bit overwhelming!). Read the rest of this entry »

A Rainbow of Flowers at Mount June

So many brightly colored species clamouring for attention on the south ridge that it was hard to know where to point the camera. Here paintbrush, lupine, Oregon sunshine, and stonecrop make it into the photo.

Once again, there weren’t as many butterflies as one would expect for all the flowers, but we did see this pale swallowtail nectaring on wallflower (Erysimum capitatum). California tortoiseshells, duskywings, and parnassians were about the only other species we saw.

Mount June was one of the first places I went hiking when I moved to Oregon (back in the ’90s!). I went at least once a year for many years. I guess there are just too many great destinations to explore these days because it had been almost six years since I’d been there and 8 years since I’d seen the area during bloom season. My last report was from 2011 (see Sawtooth Rock Meadow in Gorgeous Peak Bloom)—funny how that seems like it was just a short while ago!

I’d been wanting to show John Koenig the off-trail areas on the south and west, and he was already planning a trip there, so, for my 30th trip there, we agreed to drive up separately and do a socially distanced hike together on June 22. The pandemic has reduced my already limited social life to almost completely absent, so it was nice to be out with a good friend on such a gorgeous day.
 
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A Sea of Blue at Maple Creek Meadow

This photo of the view east was taken from about the same spot as the ones I used in my previous two reports about Maple Creek Meadow—why break tradition? The little opening on the nearest ridge is Rabbitbrush Ridge where I went the previous week (see More Exploration Near Grassy Glade) and which also has purple milkweed, rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa), northern buckwheat, and bluefield gilia, all seen here.

With the forecast predicting warm summer weather on the way, I figured it might be my last chance to get out to see the peak bloom of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) at lower elevation meadows without roasting. I had been wanting to return to what I named “Maple Creek Meadow” as I’d only been there twice before: first on a hot day in July (see Another New Milkweed and Monarch Site!) when most things were finished and the following year on a cloudy day in May (see Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”) when many plants were just starting. So I was due for a sunny but cool day in the middle of the season and headed out to the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County on June 17.

Two caterpillars eating flower stalks of rose checkermallow. Apparently, their color depends partly on what they are eating. I think both are gray hairstreaks (but correct me if you think otherwise!).

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More Exploration Near Grassy Glade

The most floriferous spot at Rabbitbrush Ridge is a small draw next to the dike. No doubt this area funnels most of the surrounding moisture to the mass of northern buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum), frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa), varifleaf phacelia (Phacelia heterophylla), bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), ookow (Dichelostemma congestum), and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum).

Candelabrum monkeyflower is a delicate annual that prefers openings among shrubs where there’s little competition.

On Wednesday, June 10, we had a day off from the rain (not that I’m complaining about rain in June anymore!), so I took advantage of it to head back to Grassy Glade and check out one more opening I hadn’t been to yet and see how the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was doing.

First I made a few stops to collect seeds: silvery lupine (Lupinus albifrons) was ripening on the north side of Hills Creek Reservoir, and there was still some seed of Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii) along the cliffs west of the reservoir. I also got a good collection of seeds of the annual miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor), which I’d spotted growing abundantly along the road right under the guard rails. In this same area, the paintbrush (a mix of Castilleja hispida and C. pruinosa) was still blooming as was the Oregon sunshine, including a lovely pale yellow-flowered plant I’ve watched for years. I’ll be back for seeds of those later in the summer—Castilleja blooming in an area I’m restoring on my property are the progeny of these plants, growing successfully in mats of Oregon sunshine, some of which were also grown from seed collected here. Read the rest of this entry »

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