Archive for the ‘Rock and Cliffs’ 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 »

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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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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A Sea of Blue at Maple Creek Meadow

This photo of the view east was taken from about the same spot as the ones I used in my previous two reports about Maple Creek Meadow—why break tradition? The little opening on the nearest ridge is Rabbitbrush Ridge where I went the previous week (see More Exploration Near Grassy Glade) and which also has purple milkweed, rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa), northern buckwheat, and bluefield gilia, all seen here.

With the forecast predicting warm summer weather on the way, I figured it might be my last chance to get out to see the peak bloom of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) at lower elevation meadows without roasting. I had been wanting to return to what I named “Maple Creek Meadow” as I’d only been there twice before: first on a hot day in July (see Another New Milkweed and Monarch Site!) when most things were finished and the following year on a cloudy day in May (see Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”) when many plants were just starting. So I was due for a sunny but cool day in the middle of the season and headed out to the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County on June 17.

Two caterpillars eating flower stalks of rose checkermallow. Apparently, their color depends partly on what they are eating. I think both are gray hairstreaks (but correct me if you think otherwise!).

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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 »

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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Snow Almost Gone, Flowering Has Begun at Patterson

Springtime means skunk cabbage and mountain buttercups blooming in the lovely wetland at the bottom of the large meadow on the south side of Patterson Mountain.

Still anxious to see early mountain flowers, yesterday, May 23, I headed up to Patterson Mountain. In spite of it being my 29th trip up there, I took a wrong turn on the way up. Last year they started heavy thinning of the surrounding forest, and the main Patterson Mountain Road 5840 is hardly recognizable with the reopening of many old side roads. At one point, both sides of a “Y” in the road look equally well used and the road sign for the side road is in the middle. Hopefully, I’ll remember from now on that the right turn to take is the right turn! Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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