Archive for the ‘Roadside’ Category

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 »

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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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 »

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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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 »

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 »

So Many Blues at Bradley Lake

The show of great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) was outstanding alongside Bradley Lake.

Two male Sierra Nevada blues resting on their host food plant, mountain shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi), already finished blooming.

I’m way behind posting reports again, but I couldn’t pass up sharing some photos of a trip John Koenig and I took to Bradley Lake on July 6th. After driving up Coal Creek Road a few days before to go to Balm Mountain (see Fabulous Loop Trip Around Balm Mountain) without being able to check all our favorite roadside stops, both of us agreed we wanted a more relaxing day and, despite all the other possible destinations we came up with, we wanted to go back up Coal Creek Road 2133, the gateway to the western side of the Calapooyas. We figured it would be a good time to check on the population of Sierra Nevada blues at Bradley Lake, so that was our eventual destination, but we didn’t even start walking to the lake until 2:30 pm. We stopped numerous times on the drive up, collecting seeds, photographing plants, and looking at all the butterflies—over 22 species for the day. 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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Early Trips to Rigdon

It’s been a busy winter and spring with a lot of unexpected setbacks—snowstorm and broken wrist among the worst. The snow’s long gone, and the wrist is healing, but I’m still not caught up on everything I had hoped to do in the last few months. While I haven’t been out as much as usual, I did make it out to Rigdon several times, so I’ll share some photos from those early spring trips.

March 17

My friend Karl hadn’t seen the big show of gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) along Hills Creek Reservoir, so we headed out there on March 17. We only made it out as far as Big Pine Opening because of all the downed trees and remnants of snow on the road, but the show along the reservoir was beautiful.

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Another Way Up To Balm Mountain’s South End

On the way up, we stopped for lunch at the top of the quarry. John’s proximity to the edge of the cliff gave me the willies, so I sat farther back.

On October 16, it was a beautiful clear day, and John Koenig and I headed up into the Calapooyas for one last chance to visit this wonderful area before winter set in. We headed down Road 3810 that runs along the west side of Balm Mountain. In the past, John and I had planned a trip to find a way to hike up to the south end of Balm Mountain (which is really a long ridge) through some meadows we could see on the aerial images. All my previous trips were approached from the north end of the mountain. We tried several times to get down to the end of the road in the past, but trees blocked it well ahead of where we needed to start (see Another Look at Aspen Meadow and Bradley Lake). On a previous visit to what we call Aspen Meadow, a wetland along Road 3810, we had driven down the road and discovered the trees were finally cleared, but there was a huge washout—one that I can’t see ever being fixed—about a half mile from where it used to dead end.

The fabulous rock formations near the top of the south end of Balm Mountain

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