Archive for the ‘Forest’ Category

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 »

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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Unusual Plants of Eagles Rest

I had been feeling a little bummed about not being able to head farther east for an all-day hike, but as it turns out, I was under beautiful blue skies, and it looked quite cloudy over southeastern Lane County where I would have gone. The lovely cutleaf daisies (Erigeron compositus) here near the summit also grow at Horse Rock Ridge, although there they have much larger flowers there.

According to our upcoming Volume 2 of the Flora of Oregon, the difference between the native Euphorbia crenulata and the weedy E. peplus has to do with some aspect of the fruit and that the native has sessile lower leaves, so I believe this is the native, known as western wood spurge.

On Thursday, May 28, I didn’t have time for an all-day hike, and I was heading over to Dexter in the afternoon to pick up some vegetables at Circle H Farm, so the perfect solution was a quick afternoon trip to Eagles Rest, a short, low-elevation trail in Dexter that climbs up to the top of a large rock formation. The trail starts at 2575′, and after about 1.4 miles of pretty forest reaches the summit at 3025′, where there is a great view.

As usual, I climbed off-trail on the many grassy levels on the east side on much of the way up the rock (only climbers could make it up the vertical south side!) and did more exploring around the rocks just below the summit. There are some interesting plants that I don’t see very often in the Cascades (and you won’t see if you stick to the trail!), so I thought I’d share some here. Read the rest of this entry »

Watching Bees and Butterflies at Medicine Creek Road

Sadly not a monarch but a worn California tortoiseshell on purple milkweed.

On Memorial Day, May 25, I made the long drive down to the North Umpqua to check out the population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) along Medicine Creek Road 4775. I was a little disappointed to find it was just starting to open. I think the cool weather of late had slowed things down because Big Pine Opening was at about the same stage weeks ago, and although it is lower elevation, it is also much farther north. But although the milkweed wasn’t attracting many insects, there were plenty of plants that were.

A silver-spotted skipper was one of many insects nectaring on silverleaf phacelia.

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Followup Milkweed Count at Coal Creek Bluff

One of the beautiful madrones (Arbutus menziesii) that grace the bluff. Coal Creek can be seen cutting through the forest down below.

From lower down the slope, I got a peek-a-boo glimpse of the small waterfalls upstream along Coal Creek. Unfortunately, a closer look would require climbing down some very steep banks.

Saturday, May 9, was a beautiful day but around 80°—much hotter than I’m used to this time of year. I had hoped to get up to a high enough elevation to be a little more comfortable, and I was really hoping to see the very early mountain flowers. My plan was to try to get up to “Heavenly Bluff” to see the Siskiyou fritillary (Fritillaria glauca), a very early bloomer. I hadn’t been there for 6 years. If I couldn’t get that far, I would go to Bearbones Mountain, which I would pass on Road 5850. It’s another site for the fritillary, though much less floriferous. Unfortunately, right after I turned onto Road 5850, I came upon a number of fallen trees. It was another 3 miles or so to get to Bearbones, so I was not going to add over 6 miles of road to my hike. A little snow in the ditch also made me wonder if there might still be some snow blocking the road farther ahead even without downed trees. The shady section of road on the north side of Spring Butte seems to hold snow longer than the rest of the road. Read the rest of this entry »

Fabulous Loop Trip Around Balm Mountain

Classic frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) has narrow leaves that are often quite purple-tinged. Mount Bailey is the snowy mountain to the left. To its right, the rim of Crater Lake can be seen even farther southeast.

On my very last hike in the mountains last year, John Koenig and I found a great way to bushwhack up the south side of Balm Mountain, the highest point in the Calapooyas and one of the coolest places in the Western Cascades (see Another Way Up To Balm Mountain’s South End). We talked about coming back this year and doing a loop by climbing up that way, walking the entire ridge to the north, and returning via a road that leads to the north side. It was high up on both of our priority lists, so for our first trip together to the Calapooyas this year, on July 3rd, we decided to give it a try.

After a number of trips up here, this was the first time I was able to see the deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) in good bloom at the far south end of the mountain. Some monkeyflower and large-flowered blue-eyed Mary indicates this area is somewhat seepy.

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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 »

Purple Milkweed on the Illahee Flat Trail

An interesting beetle on the purple milkweed flower

While we have been concentrating on surveying purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in the Rigdon area of Lane County, there are also a few known populations in similar low elevation meadows and rocky slopes and on the north side of the North Umpqua. Medicine Creek Road is a fabulous and easy place to see a large population growing by a paved road. I also found another population in a nearby meadow when Nancy Bray and I were down there two summers ago (see A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed: Day 3). Crystal Shepherd, who had been working for the Forest Service in the Middle Fork District a couple of years ago, went back to work in the North Umpqua last year. She had remembered seeing another population along the Illahee Flat trail a number of years before and went back to relocate it last summer. We were all happy to hear it was still there. I never made it down last summer, but on June 1, I went down there with Kris Elsbree of Walama Restoration.

Henderson’s cluster-lily (Triteleia hendersonii) is more often seen to the south, so I was very excited that Kris spotted this one plant in the woods along the trail. The purple stripes on the petals make it much showier than hyacinth cluster-lily (Triteleia hyacinthina) that I see much more often up my way.

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Further Rigdon Area Meadow Exploration

I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been able to keep up with the blog. I went out another 16 times since my last report in July, but I just didn’t seem to have the time to post. So—now that the year is just about over—I thought I’d try to at least post some photos from the most interesting of those trips—many were just seed-collecting trips to familiar places for the restoration work on my own property.

Looking for more purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) sites in the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County was still one of my top priorities for the year. While I wasn’t able to find milkweed in most of them, I did find some interesting spots.
 

July 6

Purple milkweed dying back at the quarry meadow.

Crystal Shepherd, who worked as a botanist in the Middle Fork district last year, told me about a site where she found “one lonely Asclepius” last year. It was a very small opening above an old quarry along Youngs Creek Road 2129. I decided I’d better check it out it myself. I had looked at the meadow alongside the quarry many years ago in early spring but had never been back, even though it is just above the road that I’ve driven up countless times. I was thrilled to discover there was actually milkweed in the quarry meadow itself. I only spotted 10 plants, but some were already largely collapsed on the ground, so there may well be more than I saw. Before the quarry tore into the meadow, there might have been a much larger population. There were also a lot of other nice wildflowers in this meadow, including tons of tall bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) going to seed (but not ripe yet—darn!) and quite a bit of blooming western rayless fleabane (Erigeron inornatus), what I’ve come to feel is a regular associate of purple milkweed. Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Monarchs at Grassy Glade

On June 27, John Koenig and I went to Grassy Glade with Jenny Lippert, Willamette National Forest botanist, to see if there was any more monarch activity. Jenny hadn’t been there for a number of years, so I was quite interested to find out if she thought the population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was expanding or contracting. We’ve had a number of discussions about whether this species is moving northward—possibly due to climate change—or if it was formerly more common back when Native Americans kept the area more open by burning and is now decreasing. The answer to this question would be of great help in deciding how best to encourage more milkweed in the Rigdon area. She seemed certain there was more milkweed in the main area by the road and that she hadn’t seen it before closer to the large, open meadow. While anecdotal, this was great to hear.

John walking along Rabbitbrush Ridge. Mosaic Rock and Steeple Rock can be seen in the distance. The light gray-green foliage is rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa).

We found a few eggs but not as many as I was hoping to see. As on my previous trip, a swallowtail and some smaller butterflies were enjoying the lovely milkweed blossoms. Soon, we were joined by a monarch! It was a male, and I wondered if it was the same one I had spotted a couple of weeks before. Where was the female who had laid the eggs? Read the rest of this entry »

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