Archive for the ‘Forest’ Category

Late Season Visit to Monarch Meadow

Purple milkweed going to seed stands conspicuously in the otherwise dried out meadow.

As July ended, super hot weather was predicted for the first week of August. I figured I’d better get out one more time before getting stuck inside for a week (or most of the month, as it turned out). So on July 31, I headed back to what I call Monarch Meadow, southeast of Oakridge, to look for ripe purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) seeds and any sign of monarchs. It was in the low 90’s by afternoon, so I wasn’t up for anything taxing, but a stiff breeze kept me surprisingly comfortable.

The glistening coma (tuft of long hairs) on the purple milkweed seeds and the shapely purple pods add another season of beauty to this lovely species.

A chrysalis hanging from large-flowered collomia. Monarch chrysalises are usually transparent after the butterfly emerges, so I’m guessing either this is a different species or the butterfly did not survive the chrysalis stage.

The milkweed was completely finished blooming, and many of the leaves were drying up, so I didn’t expect to see any caterpillars or adult monarchs. I hoped to maybe find a chrysalis, but that would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. But amazingly enough, some fading flowers of large-flowered collomia (Collomia grandiflora) caught my eye, and there, hanging from a leaf, was an empty chrysalis. While I can’t be sure it was that of a monarch, it was the same shape. There were butterflies in the meadow, and the first time I caught sight of orange flying by I hoped for a second it would be a monarch. Instead, it was one of many California tortoiseshells on the wing in the area. As I’d seen on my trip to Echo Basin (see previous report), tortoiseshells were suddenly arriving in the Western Cascades in great numbers. There were dozens of them flying up and down the river by Campers Flat when I went to cool off at the end of the day. So glad to have them back!

Lots of grasshoppers of many colors were jumping around the meadow. This one perfectly matched the color of the dead, non-native dogtail grass (Cynosurus echinatus).

Western rayless fleabane is not what you’d call a showy species, but the spider in the back attests to the fact that it is of interest to insects as it blooms when most other flowers are gone.

Monarch Meadow was quite dried out, as one would expect at an elevation of 2400′ after 7 weeks of drought, but there still a few flowers in bloom. On my earlier trip here in June (see Hidden Meadow Reveals a Thrilling Secret), I had spotted an odd plant I had guessed was a composite, although it didn’t even have any buds yet. It looked similar to the common leafy fleabane (Erigeron foliosus), but the growth habit wasn’t quite right. After seeing it later in the season at several other low elevation meadows in the area, and finally spotting it in bloom, I had identified it as western rayless fleabane (Erigeron inornatus), a species I’d never even heard of before. In fact, I found it in five different sites this summer. This was my first time back to this site, so I was happy to see it still blooming to confirm my guess that it was the same species as at all the other sites. As a low-elevation species, I’d missed it in the past by always moving up to higher elevations by the time it bloomed.

The tiny flowers of sticky birdbeak (Cordylanthus tenuis) appear quite late in the season. You can imagine a resemblance to the related but much showier paintbrushes (Castilleja spp.).

Sticky birdbeak (Cordylanthus tenuis) was finally in bloom. This species is also uncommon but appears frequently in the Rigdon area and in the other purple milkweed spots. After collecting some seeds of meadow plants, including some of the milkweed, whose capsules were just starting to ripen, I headed back down to Rigdon Road 21 and over to Mutton Meadow to look for more seeds to collect. The sticky birdbeak is also abundant there. A few other late bloomers were in evidence in vernally moist spots in this meadow. The airy white inflorescences of Gairdner’s yampah (Perideridia gairdneri) stood well above the other dried up plants. Their tubers must store a lot of water in the spring for them to send up the leaves and flowers after most everything else has died. The pink-flowered densely-flowered boisduvalia (Epilobium densiflorum) is a late bloomer that can be found in low-elevation seeps and vernally moist meadows. I hadn’t noticed it there before, but again, visiting areas at the end of their seasons can often be quite interesting and worthwhile. All in all, it was quite a pleasant day, even more so a month later as I write this, stuck in the house surrounded by thick smoke and unable to go back there until the rains return and douse the Staley Fire in the Rigdon area.

Chaparral rein orchid (Platanthera [Piperia] elongata), also known as long-spurred piperia, is a late-blooming woodland orchid (in our area anyway). Although uncommon in Oregon, it grows in a number of places in the Rigdon area, so finding it in the forest on the way up to Monarch Meadow wasn’t a surprise.

Youngs Rock to Moon Point

While the lower elevation meadows were drying out, this gorgeous area, off-trail just east of Youngs Rock itself, was being fueled by meltwater from the high ridge of Warner Mountain above. Both the monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) and rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) were outstanding.

The Tolmie’s cats ears (Calochortus tolmiei) were outstanding at Youngs Rock. There was also quite a bit of showy tarweed (Madia elegans), but it was closing up in the afternoon.

On Saturday, June 24, Molly Juillerat and I co-led a wildflower field trip for the South Willamette Forest Collaborative, a group of people interested in restoration of the Rigdon area, southeast of Oakridge. Their previous field trip had been to see the Jim’s Creek area, which has been undergoing major restoration work for a number of years. The Youngs Rock trail starts in the Jim’s Creek area along Rigdon Road 21. We had planned to show people the wonderful trail going up to Youngs Rock starting just above the Jim’s Creek restoration area. We had pre-hiked it with some friends the previous Saturday, June 17, but when the weather forecast showed temperatures soaring above 100°F, we felt that it would be entirely too hot for an uphill climb through dry meadows and rocky habitat. Instead, we moved the trip farther uphill to Moon Point, which connects with the upper part of the Youngs Rock trail. At about 5100′, The snow there had only melted within the last few weeks, and the more or less level trail through damp meadows would be much more pleasant on such a hot day. Indeed it was a lovely day, and other than lots of mosquitoes (not aggressive, however), we had a great time. Here are a few highlights from both trips. Read the rest of this entry »

Weather Woes at Hemlock Lake

Our intrepid group smiling in spite of the rain and snow.

Bunchberry (Cornus unalaschkensis) just getting started. Last year’s leaves remain flattened on the groud, while the showy flower bracts are just developing atop the new year’s growth.

In my last post, I was lamenting about the three weeks of dry weather in May causing the lower elevations to dry out rapidly. So you’d think I’d have been thrilled to finally have some rainy weather. Well, I was, but unfortunately the rainiest day turned out to be Saturday, June 10, the day I was leading a hike to Hemlock Lake in the North Umpqua area for the Native Plant Society of Oregon Annual Meeting. I was really dreading going up there, especially when the forecast included a possible chance of thunderstorms. Since I’d had to shorten my trip the previous week, I didn’t have a chance to pre-hike Hemlock Lake and figure out what we were going to do. The full Yellowjacket Loop trail is over 5 miles—we surely wouldn’t do that in the cold rain. Luckily the president of the Umpqua Chapter had gone up a few days before, so at least I knew the road was okay. Read the rest of this entry »

Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 2, Illahee Rock

The old lookout still stands on the summit of Illahee Rock. Piles of wood at the base indicate plans for repairs. Frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) can be seen bloooming in the foreground.

After I left the beautiful roadside meadow (see Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 1, Illahee Meadow), I went to check on a meadow and rock area I’d never seen before. Just a half mile farther up Illahee Road 4760, there’s a sharp corner. A berm hides an old road, now merely a path, that heads south along Eagle Ridge. I reached a meadow I’d seen on Google Earth in an easy half mile. It was quite disappointing, however. Although there were still cat’s ears (Calochortus tolmiei) and spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum) in bloom along the edges, the majority of the meadow was already completely dried out. A few paltry bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) were attempting to bloom but were clearly parched. I’m not sure why the meadow I’d been exploring below was in much better shape. I checked out a rocky area beyond the meadow, but it was way too steep to explore, and other than a few pretty bloom cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola), there wasn’t much to see. Read the rest of this entry »

Ill-Fated Trip up Illahee Road: pt. 1, Illahee Meadow

From the road, it looks like the meadow ends beyond oaks at the top, but in fact there is much more open ground even farther uphill to the west.

The tiny flowers of common bluecup are bright purple, but they are surprisingly hard to spot. The long, distinctive sepals grow much larger as the ovary matures.

On the second day of my North Umpqua trip (June 2), I headed up Illahee Road 4760, just past the Dry Creek store on the north side of Highway 138. I hadn’t been to Illahee Rock for 8 years, and there are some meadows on the way up I wanted to explore. I hate to end a story on a sour note, so let’s get this out of the way first: on the way back down from Illahee Rock, I flatted a tire, most likely on a sharp rock, but I don’t know. I struggled to get the lug nuts off, causing some mild panic and a whole lot of swearing, but eventually got the spare on and drove straight home. That meant skipping the third day of my trip, but at that point, I just wanted to get back to “civilization” and the comfort of my own home, and I couldn’t go anywhere on my small spare anyway. I had been nervous about the idea of going all the way up to Illahee Rock because on my previous trips I had found the upper reaches of the road—along the steep, naked edge of the much-burned Boulder Creek Wilderness—quite scary. But I was determined not to let fear stop me from doing what I wanted to do, and I actually thought the surface of the road was in better shape than I expected. Needless to say, I had plenty of time to regret that decision on the long drive home. Read the rest of this entry »

Beginning of the Blooming Season at Bearbones

We had beautiful weather and terrific views. Looking west from the old lookout site on the summit, we could see plenty of snow still on Bohemia Mountain and Fairview Peak, both around 6000′, over 1000′ above our elevation on Bearbones. The little open area in the distance in the middle of the photo is Heavenly Bluff.

On Friday, May 19, Kris Ellsbree and I attempted to get to what I call “Heavenly Bluff” to see the early flowering Siskiyou fritillary (Fritillaria glauca). We drove up Road 2127, south of Hills Creek Reservoir. Like a number of other roads in the area, this seems to have deteriorated quite a bit in the last couple of years. We also had to cross two patches of snow. I had my doubts we could make it all the way to Heavenly Bluff this early, especially this year, so I wasn’t surprised to get stopped by a very large tree fallen across the road (which had already been removed by the time I called the Middle Fork Ranger District office on Tuesday, but they said there was snow blocking the road a mile farther up the road, so we wouldn’t have made it anyway). Luckily, we were only a half mile from the Bearbones Mountain trailhead, which was my backup plan and a lovely spot in its own right. It was very early in the season on Bearbones, with a relatively small number of species in bloom, but we had a successful and enjoyable day. Here are some photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring the Meadows by Hills Creek Dam

A couple of weeks ago, Sabine Dutoit and I spent a little while along Kitson Springs Road 23, just east of the dam on Hills Creek Reservoir (see Late Start to a New Year of Botanizing). I hadn’t ever been to several meadows hidden from the road, so I decided that would be a good trip to do May 8 after getting a late start getting out in the morning—no gravel driving and relatively close to home.

From the meadows above Road 23, there’s a wonderful view to the south of a very full (!) Hills Creek Reservoir. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Late Summer Colors at Echo Basin

Alaska cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis)

Giant Alaska cedars (Callitropsis nootkatensis) are one of the highlights of this trail. This ancient tree is at least 5′ in diameter!

On August 17, Sabine Dutoit and John Koenig joined me for a trip to Echo Basin. I hadn’t been there in 6 years (see Late Bloomers at Echo Basin & Ikenick Creek), and it was another site that John had never been to. It’s a great late summer destination as there are lots of late-blooming flowers, and it stays cool and damp later than many other areas, especially those to the south in Lane County where I spend the majority of my time. It was also nice to take a break from all the bushwhacking and walk on a trail for once, although, on the way back, Sabine commented that all the downed trees across the trail in one area made it only slightly easier than a bushwhack. Since it is a relatively short hike, we took our time getting there, stopping to look at rock ferns (Asplenium trichomanes, Woodsia scopulina, Cheilanthes gracillima, and Cryptogramma acrostichoides) growing in the lava areas along Hwy 126, and to Fish Lake to eat lunch and check out some sedges and asters that John and I had seen as the sun was setting on our way home from Pigeon Prairie the previous week.

Fish Lake

On our way to Echo Basin, we stopped at Fish Lake to admire a show of western asters in the now dried out lake bed. While I didn’t recognize it at the time, the view in the distance is of Echo Peak and the ridge just above Echo Basin.

Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Hidden Lake(s)

The sphagnum bog alongside Hidden Lake

The cool sphagnum bog alongside Hidden Lake

Just 4 miles due south of Terwilliger Hot Springs, Hidden Lake has become a popular destination in the Cougar Reservoir area. During the recent NPSO Annual Meeting last month, there were two trips offered to botanize at Hidden Lake. Since I was leading hikes elsewhere (see Field Trip Highlights from NPSO Annual Meeting), I didn’t go on either of those, but I hadn’t been there for years, so I thought it was about time to go back. And after noticing some other wetlands not too far from the lake, I was even more intrigued and headed out there on August 7. Read the rest of this entry »

Hidden Gem Near Kwiskwis Butte

Lady ferns and white bog orchids grew on lovely floating log gardens at one end of the pond.

Lady ferns and white bog orchids grow on lovely floating log gardens at one end of the pond.

Threeway sedge is a distinctive sedge graminoid.

Threeway sedge is a distinctive graminoid.

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! Read the rest of this entry »

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