Archive for the ‘Lane County’ Category

Milkweed is Up and Dippers are Out

One of the milkweeds was close to the cliff edge above the quarry. Thank goodness for the long zoom on my camera so I could take the photo from a safe distance from the edge.

On Monday, May 4, I headed out to the Rigdon area southeast of Oakridge to check on the purple or heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia). At home, my little seedlings had been germinating, and some of last year’s seedlings were reemerging, so I was pretty sure the milkweed would be up at Big Pine Opening. I was surprised to see how tall some of the plants were, and several even had a few open flowers. I relocated the “chia pet” milkweed plant(s) from last year (see Three Trips in a Row to Rigdon). It was still growing in the same bizarre manner. I’m really puzzled by this odd plant, but I’ll just have to watch it as it develops. I wonder if it will flower eventually.

Last year’s chia pet-like clump of purple milkweed is up again at Big Pine Opening. Comparing it to last year’s photo, it looks like it has fewer, larger shoots, but it is still way more congested than a normal plant.

Big Pine Opening is an open slope at the intersection of Road 21 and gravel Road 2135. On the side facing the gravel road, the hillside was been carved out for a quarry. Unfortunately, the milkweed only grows on the top of the slope on the side above the old quarry. After seeing milkweed growing in the relics of a quarry at “Maple Creek Meadow” (see Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”), I’d wondered whether the milkweed might be able to grow in the quarry itself at Big Pine Opening. After checking out the milkweed at the top, I went back down to the road and walked partway up the talus in the quarry—I wasn’t up to the difficult task of going high up the loose rock, but, with my binoculars, I was able to spot two patches growing in the gravel along the north side, in the partial shade of a couple of young ponderosa pine. There appeared to be at least a dozen plants large enough to be in bud. One more plant was growing in the main slope. I’m not sure if I can get close enough to the plants for a good count, but I’m just pleased the population is expanding into the quarry side. I suspect there might have been more milkweed on that side before the quarry was created, so maybe they are repopulating below where they once grew. Read the rest of this entry »

Reptiles and Insects Enjoy Spring in Rigdon Area

Coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus) was still in bloom along the Middle Fork of the Willamette. It was attracting numerous tiny flies as well as a small bee. If you haven’t smelled coltsfoot, try it, it has an unusual and pleasant menthol-like scent. That might help it attract so many pollinators.

My first official spring trip to Rigdon was on April 8, a lovely warm day. With the social distancing required because of the pandemic, I was out by myself, but I was certainly not alone. While it was still early in the season, there were plenty of the usual April flowers but also a few butterflies, bees, and an unexpected number of reptiles. Here are some photo highlights.

Just like last April (see Early Trips to Rigdon), the blooming manzanitas at Sacandaga Bluff were attracting lots of insects to the flowers, most of which had been pierced earlier by some nectar-robbing bee. This makes it easier for the other insects, like this echo azure and bee (Andrena?) to access the nectar.

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A Froggy Day at Lopez Lake

There are many aquatics in the shallow lake and lots of sedges and other graminoids along the edges.

Taking a break from our usual obsession with the Calapooya Mountains, on July 30, John Koenig and I headed to Lopez Lake. We went straight to the lake, rather to the other interesting spots along Road 5884, and spent most of the day there, exploring it more thoroughly than we had in the past. Neither of us had been back to the lake since a trip we took with Sabine Dutoit in 2014 (see A Glorious Day Near Lopez Lake).

We enjoyed watching this chubby toad hop into the lake and eventually swim away.

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Butterfly Day at Blair Lake

Quite an array of butterflies and other insects were feasting on minerals from an old campfire. We saw a Lorquin’s admiral, a painted lady, a fritillary, a number of different blues, at least 9 crescents, an interesting wasp, and quite a few ants just in this one spot.

Spiraea x hitchcockii is a hybrid that often occurs wherever the parent species grow together, so it’s not uncommon in Western Cascade wetlands.

On July 23rd, Sabine Dutoit and I went to Blair Lake. Neither of us felt like exerting ourselves, and I hadn’t been there in 6 years, so it seemed like a great choice. I was also hoping to collect a specimen of the hybrid spiraea, Spiraea x hitchcockii, which I’d seen there before. Ken Chambers, professor emeritus at Oregon State University, is working on the treatment of Spiraea for Volume 3 of the Flora of Oregon (although the rest of us are still trying to finish up Volume 2!), so I told him I’d collect some if I made it to any of the sites I’d seen it at before. I was relieved to find it was in fact still blooming, and I was able to compare the hybrid and both its parents and collect some for Ken.

Spiraea x hitchcockii is a hybrid between subalpine spiraea (S. splendens) and Douglas’ spiraea (S. douglasii). Its inflorescences are midway between the rather flattened ones of subalpine and the narrow spikes of Douglas’. Its leaves are also intermediate between the two. Ken wanted to know if there was any pubescence on the back of the leaves because apparently there are two varieties of S. douglasii, one with pubescence and one without, and he wanted to know if the hybrid inherited that. Neither the hybrid nor its parents had any pubescence in the Blair Lake meadows. I’ll be keeping a look out for the hybrid now that it’s later in the summer when I normally turn my focus from rocky habitat to wetlands. Read the rest of this entry »

Meandering About Moon Point

From the rocky viewpoint at the end of the trail, we had a great view to the south of the east-west-oriented Calapooya Mountains, including Bristow Prairie where we were the day before and Balm Mountain where I went 10 days later. The coppery-colored shrub to the right is actually a very dwarf Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia), while some snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus) is blooming to the left.

I believe this is the caterpillar of the police car moth. Its host food plants are in Boraginaceae like this blue stickseed (Hackelia micrantha). He’s clearly been eating both the leaves and the inflorescence.

After our Bristow Prairie trip (see previous post), Betsy Becker decided to stay in the area another day, so on Sunday, June 23, I brought her up to the Moon Point trail. We had a mostly relaxing day (Betsy was not so relaxed when I persuaded her to sit on top of the cliff at the end of the otherwise easy walk!). It was a beautiful day, and the flowers were still fresh. We saw some more plants she wasn’t familiar with, including the rare green-flowered wild ginger (Asarum wagneri). We also made a loop through the lower meadows to pretty Moon Lake. Here are some photos. Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen’s Rare Plant Watch at Bristow Prairie

Kris checking the Lewisia key on her tablet while Betsy continues to count plants.

Betsy spotted this pair of three-leaved plants trying to trick a trio of botanists. The Columbia windflower (Anemone deltoidea) flower is trying on the western trillium (Trillium ovatum) leaves, perhaps disappointed that its similar leaves (hiding above) are much smaller.

Citizen’s Rare Plant Watch is a citizen science program that was started by the Native Plant Society of Oregon in 2012 and is now run by the Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank and Plant Conservation Program at Portland State University. Volunteers, led by Kris Freitag, travel around the state gathering information on rare plants and trying to relocate plants that have not been seen in the state in many years.

Kris contacted me a while back about monitoring the Columbia lewisia (Lewisia columbiana) John Koenig and I found last year (see Yet Another Exciting Discovery at Bristow Prairie). I suggested I join her and give her the “tour” of one of my favorite places. After several volunteers had to cancel, only Betsy Becker was able to make it all the way down from the Portland area. As it happened, Walama Restoration was hosting a campout at Sacandaga Campground that weekend, so Kris and Betsy and I joined them there on Friday night and headed up to Bristow Prairie on Saturday morning, June 22nd.

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Three Trips in a Row to Rigdon

The mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) was in full fragrant bloom at Many Creeks Meadow and attracting lots of snowberry checkerspots. I can almost still smell the heavenly fragrance!

On Sunday, June 16, I hiked up the Youngs Rock trail, bushwhacking in from a meadow between Road 2129 and the trail that John Koenig and I named Buckbrush Meadow last year. Then on Wednesday, June 19, I went to Grassy Glade with Maya Goklany of Walama Restoration and two volunteers, Alicja and Sabine. We also explored the lower openings, “Rocky Glade” and “Mock Orange Glade.” Finally, on Friday, June 21, I headed over to “Many Creeks Meadow” for an afternoon of seed collecting before camping at Sacandaga Campground for the weekend (more on that later).

Here are some photos from those trips. Read the rest of this entry »

First Trip of the Year to Bristow Prairie

An unusual “pink-eyed Mary” (Collinsia grandiflora)!

So far, my botany season has been spent checking out lower elevation meadows in the Cascades. But finally, on June 4, it seemed like it was time to head up to the higher elevation sites. The Middle Fork District office told me that the day before they’d gotten a truck through Road 5850, which rides the ridge near Bristow Prairie, although there was a little bit of snow still along the side of the road. They weren’t sure about the upper part of Road 2125 where it comes into 5850, but I figured if the rest was clear, that part would be too. Thankfully it was, as I really wanted to see the early flowers at Bristow Prairie.

I saw a sawfly (sounds like a nursery rhyme or riddle: “I thought I saw a sawfly fly”) for the first time on Eagles Rock a few weeks ago (photo on right) and found another on this trip in the rock garden area (left). Actually, they are not flies (order Diptera) but are in the same order (Hymenoptera) as bees and wasps, and they fly with their legs hanging down the way wasps do. This one looks like the genus Trichiosoma. Although they are large and look rather intimidating, they don’t sting.

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Counting Purple Milkweed at Grassy Glade

A cedar (AKA juniper) hairstreak waiting for the milkweed buds to open.

Last year we did a lot of milkweed counts, but somehow we never counted the main population at Grassy Glade, even though we all went there many times. So on May 30, Maya Goklany, volunteer coordinator for Walama Restoration, and I went to Grassy Glade to look at the milkweed. Thankfully the road in was fine, and it didn’t look like there was much storm damage there. The purple (or heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was just barely starting to bloom. Only a few plants had any open flowers, although several cedar hairstreaks were hanging around, hoping for some nectar from these butterfly favorites. Read the rest of this entry »

A Day of Uncommon Ferns and Sedges

Larkspur covered the mossy rocks of Sacandaga Bluff.

On May 3, John Koenig and I went back to Rigdon to check out what I now call Sacandaga Bluff, a wonderful rocky area hidden away between the Middle Fork of the Willamette River and Sacandaga Campground. Last year, Ed Alverson had told us he found a population there of Sierra cliffbrake (Pellaea brachyptera), an unusual fern found more commonly to the south. It is one of my favorite ferns, and I’ve written about finding new spots for it in Lane County several times. I went to this spot a couple of times later year, and once earlier this year (see last report), but I still wanted to see it in its high spring bloom. Read the rest of this entry »

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