Archive for the ‘Plant Identification’ Category

Distinguishing Parsley Ferns (Cryptogramma spp.)

Parsley ferns (Cryptogramma spp.) are relatively small rock-loving ferns, which are sometimes known as rock-brakes. Unlike our other rock ferns, spore-bearing structures are on separate fertile fronds that are usually taller than the sterile fronds. There are two species of parsley ferns in the Cascades. American parsley fern (C. acrostichoides) is common throughout the Western Cascades and is found elsewhere in western Oregon. It is found primarily at low to middle elevations. Cascade parsley fern (C. cascadensis) is found only at higher elevations, mostly in the High Cascades. Both species have also been seen in the Wallowas. The third species in Oregon, Steller’s rock-brake (C. stelleri), is a rare inhabitant of the Wallowas, although its range stretches across much of the northern US.

Left: Cascade parsley fern in the Calapooyas; Right: American parsley fern at Table Rock Wilderness

Left: Cascade parsley fern in the Calapooyas; Right: American parsley fern at Table Rock Wilderness

For a number of years, I’ve been uncertain of my identification of Cascade parsley fern. Recently (see More Discoveries along the Calapooya Crest), I got a great lesson in distinguishing our two Cascade species from the expert, Ed Alverson, who first described Cascade parsley fern in 1989 (see Cryptogramma cascadensis, a New Parsley-Fern from Western North America,” in the American Fern Journal, Volume 79 Number 3, pp. 95–102). In addition to genetic differences, there are several morphological characteristics that can help separate the two species in the field. Read the rest of this entry »

More Discoveries along the Calapooya Crest

Cascade gras-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata var. intermedia) is one of my favorite wildflowers and a wonderful bonus this late in the season.

Cascade grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata var. intermedia) is one of my favorite wildflowers and a wonderful bonus this late in the season.

Ever since our early June trip to the meadow along Road 3810 on the south side of Loletta Peak (see Another Exciting Day in the Calapooyas: The Sequel), John Koenig and I had been planning to return to see the later blooming plants, especially the Cascade fringed grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata) that we found there. Just before we had planned to go, Ed Alverson e-mailed me about the quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) we had discovered there. He’s been studying the scattered populations on the west side of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington. The timing was perfect, as we were able to take Ed along on August 12 to see the population in what we were now calling “Aspen Meadow.” We had been somewhat concerned with all the fires down in Douglas County, especially the Potter Mountain complex burning just east of Balm Mountain (thankfully not actually on Potter Mountain). But other than some drifting smoke above, we had no problems reaching our destination and enjoying what was an otherwise lovely day. Read the rest of this entry »

Volume 1 of the Flora of Oregon is Done!

Flora of Oregon cover

The gorgeous cover art was done by the late Bonnie Hall. We are very grateful her husband Jim allowed us to use her serigraphs of Oregon native plants. I can’t wait to pick out another for the next volume!

Well, at least it is done for me. After almost three years of formatting, editing, designing, doing layout, and making seemingly endless corrections, the Flora of Oregon, Volume 1 is out of my hands and at the printer in Korea! Since 2012, I’ve been working with the Oregon Flora Project (OFP) on the monumental task of creating a new flora specifically for Oregon. It will be the first flora that covers all of Oregon since the unillustrated A Manual of the Higher Plants of Oregon by Morton Peck, first published in 1941. It was quite intimidating at first, putting together what turned out to be a 608-page book with hundreds of illustrations, almost 100 photos, and descriptions of over 1,000 taxa. I didn’t come on board until the actual writing of the Flora was underway, so it was an even more daunting task for the OFP staff, who’d been working on collecting and organizing the data for a couple of decades. Read the rest of this entry »

First Trip to Cliffs Northwest of Bristow Prairie

westcliff@BP081514132

Looking north at the cliff face and the rocky meadow above. The longer dead grass and foliage in the front marks where there is a seep that must drip down over the cliff. Some large green and brownish clumps of Merriam’s alumroot can also be seen on the vertical rock just to the right of the large, shaded crack in the center.

Back in early June, I went to Pyramid Rock in southern Lane County (see Peak Bloom at Pyramid Rock) and got a good view of some cliffs on the west side of the ridge near Bristow Prairie. I’ve been hankering to explore them ever since. I checked them out on Google Earth and discovered they were only a few hundred feet below the High Divide trail. On my last trip to Bristow Prairie, there wasn’t time to squeeze a bushwhack in, and the weather wasn’t very good, so I had to put it off again. So on Friday, August 15, John Koenig and I decided getting to the cliffs would be our main goal, even though the plants would no doubt be finished blooming. After staying at home for over a week, waiting for the heat and thunderstorms to abate, I was raring to go. Read the rest of this entry »

The Search for Sisyrinchium sarmentosum

A fairly light-colored blue-eyed grass, but is it Sisyrinchium sarmentosum

A fairly light-colored blue-eyed grass, with rounded tepals, but is it Sisyrinchium sarmentosum? Note the winged stems and fairly narrow tepals.

According to the literature, Sisyrinchium sarmentosum (pale blue-eyed grass) is a rare species found only in a small area of the Cascades in southern Washington and northwestern Oregon near the Columbia Gorge. The Forest Service has been looking for more potential sites and has found several apparent populations farther south than the Columbia Gorge. Jenny Lippert, Willamette National Forest botanist, asked me to come along with her to a couple of these sites to take photographs, so on Wednesday, July 2, Sabine and I accompanied her to several moist meadow areas in Linn and Marion counties. Our first stop was Little Pigeon Prairie. It took us a little while to spot the blue-eyed grass because it was cloudy and before noon, and they don’t like to open up until the afternoon (I’m not much of a morning person myself!). As we headed to another nearby meadow just outside the large wetland of nearby Pigeon Prairie, suddenly the sun came out and so did the little blue stars of Sisyrinchium. It also went from cool to warm and humid very quickly—a fact that almost resulted in a major calamity for Sabine. While taking off her outer fleece, she had to take off her binoculars, which were on a harness. Before leaving the meadow, she realized the binoculars were missing but couldn’t remember where she’d taken them off and couldn’t find them anywhere. It was only after more or less giving up and heading out that she stumbled upon them again. What a relief! It’s a lesson for all us to mark all our equipment with brightly colored tape or paint—I have now put bright red tape on both my GPS and my oft-dropped lens cap. Read the rest of this entry »

Early Blooming at Elk Camp and Nevergo Meadow

Mountain shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi and marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala)

Mountain shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi) and marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala) put on a great show at the Elk Camp meadow. Note how similar this photo is to one I took here last year on June 10.

shooting star flowers go through a number of changes as they bloom. Buds start out upright, then bend over. The flower petals start out forward, then they flip back. This makes it easier for bees to do "buzz pollination" where they hang on the style and their buzzing shakes the pollen onto them.

Shooting star flowers go through a number of changes as they bloom. Buds start out upright, then bend over. The flower petals and sepals start out forward, then they flip back. This makes it easier for bees to do “buzz pollination” where they hang on the style, and their buzzing shakes the pollen onto them. Mountain shooting star has flower parts in 5s, long styles, and glandular pedicels.

With the mountains melting out fast, it is time to go willow hunting in earnest, so on Tuesday, May 20, I headed up to the wetlands at Elk Camp, Nevergo Meadow, and Saddleblanket Mountain. As it turns out, this is the exact date I went to Nevergo last year (see Wetland Bloom Starts with a Bang Near Elk Camp Shelter). Last year I was stopped by snow across the road just at the trailhead for Elk Camp and didn’t bother to go into the meadow, being quite satisfied with everything blooming at Nevergo Meadow a quarter mile earlier. This year, there were just a few very small patches of snow in the ditches. The plants were a little farther along but still quite beautiful and fresh. In fact, they were almost as far along as they were on June 10, last year (see Back to Elk Camp Shelter—Not Once But Twice). The skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) was especially noticeable as being ahead of last year. All three locations had beautiful shows of marsh marigold (Caltha leptosepala) at peak bloom with Mountain shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi) just coming on. Along the drier edges of the meadows were lots of the gorgeous blue Oregon bluebells (Mertensia bella). At the edges where the last snow had melted there were still plenty of glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum). Along the roadside were blooming Lyall’s anemone (Anemone lyallii) and round-leaved violet (Viola orbiculata). Read the rest of this entry »

Big Surprises at Fish Creek Valley

I’d been looking forward to going to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide all year, but I just couldn’t seem to squeeze a camping trip down there into my schedule earlier in the summer. Then, in late July, the Whiskey Complex fire erupted east of Tiller, just 9 miles west of Donegan Prairie, one of my planned destinations. So much for that. But last week I was lying awake in the middle of the night, my mind wandering all over the place as it often does in the wee hours, and I thought, to hell with worrying about the smoke, I’ll just go to the north end of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide. Fish Creek Valley is one of my favorite places, and there are lots of late-blooming flowers to make a trip in August worthwhile. Unlike many ideas born in the middle of the night, this one still seemed realistic in the morning, so a couple of days later, I packed up my van and headed south.

Rattlesnake Mountain looms right above Fish Creek Valley. The smoke in the air makes it seem much farther away.

Rattlesnake Mountain looms right above Fish Creek Valley. The smoke in the air makes it seem much farther away.

Read the rest of this entry »

Unusual Variability of Cat’s Ears at Bristow Prairie

Here is a sampling of the amazing variety of cat’s ears (Calochortus spp.) at Bristow Prairie. I believe they are a mix of elegant cat’s ears (C. elegans) and mountain cat’s ear (C. subalpinus) and possibly Tolmie’s cat’s ear (C. tolmiei) as well. The ranges of the first two species barely cross, and this is right about where the edges of their ranges meet—C. subalpinus to the north and C. elegans to the south. Interestingly, it is the also the border between Lane and Douglas counties. Whatever they are, they sure are gorgeous!

Calochortus tolmiei is the only one of the three that has purple-black seeds; the seeds of the others are very light (see some in the seed gallery). It will be interesting to try to find seeds later in the season and see if any are dark. It is not an easy task, though, as the capsules hang down and drop their seeds quickly.

Calochortus5@BristowPrairie Read the rest of this entry »

Colorful Wet Meadows at Hemlock Butte

Above the wetlands filled with Jeffrey’s shooting star is the rocky knob of Hemlock Butte.

I don’t usually go out on substandard days—ones where there is a good chance of rain. It’s not just that I don’t like to get wet (some Oregonian I am!), but the flowers are wet and often droopy, so it isn’t the best time for photography. But with five days in a row of wet weather forecast, I couldn’t stand the idea of missing so many days of being out in the mountains. On Sunday (June 24), it was actually pretty sunny when I got up. I figured I could get at least a half day in before the rain started if I was lucky. I headed up to Hemlock Butte to see the lovely roadside wet meadows. If it did rain, I wouldn’t be far from the car. Read the rest of this entry »

Rayless Arnicas

After much time off, I’m back to writing descriptions for my book and am trying to finish up the arnicas. Arnicas are a difficult bunch to sort out, and I’ve been struggling to gain some understanding of them for a while now. They are variable, can hybridize, and sometimes reproduce by a form of self-sowing called apomixis. Apparently this can lead to populations with different characteristics than the norm. This genus definitely has an independent streak and doesn’t like to follow the rules.

Rayless arnicas

Arnica discoidea (L) near Bradley Lake and the larger Arnica parryi (R) at Groundhog Mountain

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