Archive for the ‘Meadow’ Category

First Look at Coal Creek Bluff Milkweed

Ever since our trip to Coal Creek Bluff at the end of March (see First Flowers at Coal Creek Bluff), John Koenig and I had been looking forward to a return visit. Now that I knew the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was emerging from its long winter dormancy, we wanted to get there as soon as possible. On Monday, May 7, we headed down to the Rigdon area along with Sheila Klest. We were very happy to drive out of the fog into a beautiful sunny day. Unlike our last trip, we were all prepared with extra shoes for walking through the creek. It was lower than in March but still not crossable without getting wet. With suitable footgear, the crossing hardly slowed us down.

It was difficult to spot the milkweed in some areas where there were similar colors to still brownish purple leaves and whitish branches mimicking the old stalks. There are several milkweed plants in the foreground of this photo.

We decided we wanted to head straight to the south end of the bluff to look for the milkweed. We cut up around the side where we were able to climb up the small but steep rocky slope along the south edge. This brought us up on the bluff a little way down from the top but not too far from where I’d placed a cairn last year by a dead plant with seed capsules. John located the cairn fairly quickly. We found the large plant next to it and four more plants coming up nearby, two of which were pretty small. I was glad to confirm they really were milkweed plants, but it was rather disappointing that the population was so small. We wandered around separately looking for more and then gave up and started to head down the ridge, intending on looping around to the creek and back up on the north side—the same way John and I did the last trip. But I had this nagging feeling that I’d missed some up higher, so I climbed back up to the top. There was a milkweed, and another, and another! Right by the edge of the forest, there was a small area with at least a dozen plants. As I walked over a bit to the north, I ran into Sheila. She also had the same idea that we hadn’t been very thorough and had found another dozen or so plants. Since John was way down at the bottom at this point, we decided we’d better come back here at the end of our loop and do a more careful survey. Read the rest of this entry »

Purple Milkweed Emerging on Milkweed Ridge

Purple milkweed is tinged with purple as it emerges, and its inflorescence is already well developed.

With my showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) at home emerging from the ground, I hoped the purple or heartleaf milkweed (A. cordifolia) would be up in the Rigdon area in southeastern Lane County. On May 2, I headed down to see if I could find the first plants. I started out by climbing up the hill at Big Pine Opening, the one site visible from Road 21 and the lowest elevation site in the area at 2300′. The milkweed is only in the northeast corner, above an old quarry, but it is a very healthy population. Sure enough, they were up! Having never seen them this early in the season, I was quite surprised to find the flower heads already formed as they emerge. They must be in a hurry to bloom! The plants come up quite dark, their glaucous leaves suffused with red-violet. This makes them quite easy to spot against green grass but hides them well in bare soil. They are often found in very rocky areas, but sometimes they seem to be happy enough in meadows with no rocks but perhaps gravelly soil beneath. I’m still trying to get an idea of their preferred habitats, but they certainly seem to want to be in well-drained soil. Read the rest of this entry »

More New Meadows in the Rigdon Area

Looking south toward the Calapooyas from “Buckbrush Meadow,” Dome Rock can be seen on the far left, and the snowy patch in the center is Bristow Prairie.

On April 22nd, John Koenig and I went back down to Rigdon to continue looking at meadows we hadn’t visited before. This time we chose several near Youngs Rock Road 1929. One small opening sitting atop a ridge off of Road 423, an apparently little-used logging road, had intrigued us. There didn’t seem to be much of a reason for an open spot in the woods there. This was my first day playing with the free Avenza mapping app I’d put on my fairly new iPhone. I had downloaded (again for free!) all the USGS quad maps for the area, placing them in a folder together on the phone so they’d be connected. I had also spent some time the night before looking at the Google Maps aerial view of the area on the phone while I was connected the night before. We had to find the spot along the road to park at and follow a ridge through woods to the hidden meadow. The GPS on the phone worked perfectly with the maps and aerial view to show me exactly where we were and where we were going. This is even better than my old GPS! Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Shy Creek Meadows Area

A view of the snow on Diamond Peak and the Calapooyas from the manzanita-covered main Shy Creek Meadow

On April 4, I brought John Koenig and Sheila Klest to see the area I’m calling Shy Creek Meadows, several meadows along abandoned forest road 034 near Coal Creek in the Rigdon area of Lane County that I first visited last fall (see Further Low-Elevation Meadow Exploration). While we didn’t find any purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia), we had a great day. Here are some photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

First Flowers at Coal Creek Bluff

After discovering new sites for purple (or heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in the Western Cascades last summer, my main goal for this spring and summer is to explore these lower elevation meadows in the Rigdon and North Umpqua areas of the Western Cascades for more milkweed sites—and hopefully more monarch sightings. Several weeks ago, John Koenig, Sheila Klest, and I tried to get to what I named “Coal Creek Bluff” last fall on my first visit there (see Final Outing of 2017). We drove across a thin layer of snow on the bridge across Coal Creek but were immediately stopped by a tree across the road. So we changed our plans and went back to “Monarch Meadow” and “Many Creeks Meadow”. John hadn’t been to Monarch Meadow, and Sheila hadn’t been to Many Creeks Meadow. It was an enjoyable day, and things were a little further along than the earlier trips I posted about most recently, but it was still quite early, so not much to report yet.

Gold stars light up the steep slope near the base of the open area. A glimpse of Coal Creek can be seen through the trees below.

Read the rest of this entry »

Very Early Visit to Monarch Meadow

A view of Dome Rock from the top of Monarch Meadow

With the continued spring-like weather, Sabine Dutoit and I wanted to head out to Road 21 and Hills Creek Reservoir for our annual ritual to see the gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) in bloom. Seeing the first show of floral color really starts the year off right. The fact that it is so much earlier than usual worries me, but for now, I’m trying to just enjoy being able to start botanizing in February. They were much farther along than last week when John Koenig and I stopped to check, but they still have a long way to go before they are at peak bloom. Hopefully, we’ll get some rain soon to keep them going. Read the rest of this entry »

First Meadow Survey of 2018

John enjoying the view (and a moment of sunshine) at our first new meadow site of the year.

On Monday, January 29, John Koenig and I attended a meeting of the Southern Willamette Forest Collaborative at the Forest Service office in Westfir. The purpose of the meeting was to propose surveying projects in the Rigdon area of the Middle Fork District of the Willamette National Forest (south of Oakridge and Hills Creek Reservoir). Earlier in the month, Molly Juillerat, the district botanist, and I met to talk about meadows we want to survey, especially those that might have purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia). I spent some time looking at Google Earth searching for potential meadow sites I hadn’t been to yet and put together a list of 16 low-elevation open areas I think are worth checking out. Read the rest of this entry »

Further Low-Elevation Meadow Exploration

After the September rains finally put an end to the fires and cleared out the smoky skies, I was anxious to get back outside after being trapped indoors by the smoke for so much of late summer. I had hoped to look for more meadows and open areas in the Rigdon area, southeast of Hills Creek Reservoir. I knew it would be hard to spot purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) plants so late in the year, but I could at least assess the quality of the areas and the potential for milkweed or other interesting plants. With the flowers pretty much done for the season, it didn’t seem worth the many miles of gravel to get up to high elevations, so exploring more low-elevation meadows was the perfect goal.

Ground rose (Rosa spithamea) is generally less than a foot tall. It is distinguished from our other roses by its chubby, gland-covered hips. There’s quite a bit of it at Mutton Meadow.

On September 25th, Sheila Klest and I went to Monarch Meadow to see if there was any milkweed seed left and to collect any other seed of interest. The milkweed stems had mostly collapsed and there were very few intact seed capsules, but Sheila was able to bring home a bit of seed to try growing at her native plant nursery, Trillium Gardens. I was glad I had already gotten some for myself back in July (see Late Season Visit to Monarch Meadow) when they were just starting to ripen. Some sticky birdbeak (Cordylanthus tenuis) was still in bloom, and there was an unusually deep pink form of autumn willowherb (Epilobium brachycarpum) in flower in the meadow but little else. After we collected some seeds of grasses and purple and diamond clarkia (Clarkia purpurea and C. rhomboidea), we headed over to nearby Mutton Meadow. There we hunted around until we found the bright red hips of ground rose (Rosa spithamea) among the grass. They had bloomed well and the hips were perfectly ripe, so we both collected some hips and a few cuttings. I hope I’ll be able to grow this charming little rose. Read the rest of this entry »

Smoky Day on Tire Mountain

At the beginning of the hike, I had to deal with smoke obscuring my view, but it wasn’t nearly as bad then as it became later in August.

On August 18, I decided to risk the smoke of what had now become a terrible fire season and head over to Tire Mountain for some more seed collecting. On most of the days up until that point, the smoke from the nearby Jones Fire drifted onto my property overnight but was blown off after the winds picked up in the afternoon. I was hoping for something similar, even though I was heading farther east. As I drove to Oakridge, I was wondering if I made the right decision. The smoke seemed to get thicker with every mile. But on the way up to the trailhead, it magically disappeared! Or so I thought. There was more smoke when I hit the trail. Oh well, I’d come this far, I had to at least get some seeds—my main motivation for going out. Read the rest of this entry »

Watching Fires from Coffin Mountain Lookout

I hadn’t been aware of the Milli Fire, which had started the day before, so it was quite a shock to see this impressive plume of smoke just north of the Three Sisters. There’s quite a variety of conifers on the summit, all kept unusually short by wind, snow, and rocky conditions. (Left) the normally ground-hugging common juniper (Juniperus communis), (center) a very squat subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), and (right) a shrubby Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia).

A young harrier was among several soaring high above the sloping meadows. I’m used to seeing them alone, flying very low just over the ground, so I didn’t recognize them at first, in spite of their distinctive white rump patches.

I’m finally attempting to catch up on everything that I fell behind on over the last few months. I wanted to post some photos from a trip to Coffin Mountain I took on August 16 but didn’t get around to. Somehow I just couldn’t get to writing about the late summer trips, even though I was stuck inside most of the time, avoiding the smoke for much of August and September. It’s a little odd writing about those awful hot, dry, and smoky months while I listen to the steady rain outside. At the time, I couldn’t wait for rainy season to come and put out the fires and clear the air. It was hard to imagine the drought and fires would ever end. And now the rain is here—and I’m already dreaming about next year’s sunny summer days!

Earlier in the year, an old friend of mine, Charles, who had been living in Germany for a number of years, contacted me and said he and his daughter Lucia would be vacationing in the Pacific Northwest and were planning to stay at Breitenbush for a while in August. I hadn’t been to Coffin Mountain in several years, and as it is near Breitenbush and one of the best trails I know in the Western Cascades anyway, I suggested we could meet up there for a hike.

Read the rest of this entry »

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