Archive for the ‘Plant Identification’ Category

New Gallery of Seed Scans

Delphiniums have irregular seeds. Those of the very tall D. glaucum are much larger and a different shape than those from a population of what appear to be hybrid D. nuttalianum x menziesii from Balm Mountain (inset). It will be interesting to see if these last seeds differ from their purebred parents. The ruler increments are millimeters.

For many years, I’ve collected seeds of our native plants, both for my personal use and to share with the NARGS seed exchange, so others could grow some of our beautiful rock plants. After I bought a microscope, I discovered how much variety there is among seeds, even in plants of the same genus. In fact, some species are distinguished by their seeds. This can be hard to do with the naked eye, but it is well worth looking at small seeds under a handlens or microscope. Read the rest of this entry »

Making Friends with Flowers

Sometimes the number of plants to learn seems overwhelming, so just take them one at a time. August at Blair Lake.

Getting to know plants is a passion for me. I know I’m not alone in wanting to learn everything I can about them. But since I’m not a trained scientist, my method may be a bit different than the typical botanist. I go about it much the way I would getting to know people. The first time you take a class, join a new group, or go to a party with unfamiliar guests, it may seem overwhelming—so many names to learn. Usually you come home remembering one or two of the people that stood out the most. Perhaps they were the most gregarious or were wearing an unusual outfit. The next time you hang out with this group, you focus on a few more, and you become a little more comfortable in the crowd. Some people you’ll hit it off with right away. Others are harder to get to know, perhaps they are shy, but eventually you’ll find they can be just as interesting as the more flamboyant. And yes, there are always one or two that you never do feel comfortable with or perhaps even actively dislike. Read the rest of this entry »

New Year, New Family Names

Happy 2011! The latest Oregon Flora Newsletter just arrived, and I was pleased to see the Oregon Flora Project is ready to adopt the latest family classifications from the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG). “What is the APG?,” you may be wondering. When I first started pestering the professional botanists around me with questions about who decides what the proper botanical name for a plant is, I was surprised that there didn’t seem to be some governing body making those kinds of decisions. An individual could do research on a plant, decide it should be reclassified, and it was up to others whether they felt the research warranted adopting this new name or classification. So botanical names could be almost as localized as common names.

Fringed grass-of Parnassus (Parnassia fimbriata) is now considered to be a member of Celastraceae. We'll have to wait and see if it stays there as it has proven a difficult genus to classify.

According to the Wikipedia article, “The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, or APG, refers to an informal international group of systematic botanists who came together to try to establish a consensus view of the taxonomy of flowering plants (angiosperms) that would reflect new knowledge about their relationships based upon phylogenetic studies.” At last, a single source for plant classification! It seems that most plant authorities are now following the APG classifications, so we can expect more consensus in the future. With all the new genetic-based research bringing so much new information to light, it is a relief to have some central body overseeing classification. Read the rest of this entry »

Natural Rock Gardens at Horsepasture Mountain

One of the big thrills of the day was the discovery of a Pacific giant salamander dining on a succulent slug along the road on the way up.

Yesterday (October 15), Sabine Dutoit, Loren Russell, and I took a special visitor from Sweden to Horsepasture Mountain. Peter Korn is touring the West, speaking to many of the NARGS chapters. He was in town to speak to our chapter the night before. Peter has an extraordinary 5-acre botanic garden and nursery near Gothenberg, Sweden (click here to check out his website), where he grows an enormous collection of plants from around the world, including a great many Pacific Northwest natives. He wanted to see these plants in the wild and hopefully collect some seed. I figured Horsepasture Mountain would be an ideal spot to give him a taste of the Western Cascades. The hike is fairly quick, and the cliffs are small enough to allow one to access the front without a difficult climb up a talus slope like many cliffs I have explored.

The view from the summit of Horsepasture is a real bonus, and we were very lucky that clouds drifting above us when we arrived at the trailhead disappeared quickly. By the time we reached the top, we had a great view of many of the High Cascade peaks as well as nearby mountains including Lowder, Olallie, Tidbits, and Castle Rock. The closest peak to Horsepasture is O’Leary Mountain. There was a great display of fiery vine maples on its shrubby slopes. The sun was appreciated on this chilly autumn day. About the only thing left in bloom was tiny Polygonum cascadense and some reblooming skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata). It is biennial or monocarpic (dying after setting seed), so somewhat like an annual, it is opportunistic, blooming as long as it can get moisture. Read the rest of this entry »

Balm Mountain Really Rocks!

Hall's goldenweed (Columbiadoria hallii) blooming near the south end of the ridge.

Fall is officially here. Soon the snow will start to blanket the Cascades, and I’ll hang up my hiking vest for the winter. The last place I just had to get back to once more this season was Balm Mountain in the Calapooyas. On my previous trip (see First Exploration of Balm Mountain), I hadn’t made it all the way to the south end of the ridge. I really wanted to check it out to see where the most interesting parts of the ridge are for when I return next year to see it during peak flowering season, so yesterday (September 22), I headed back up there. This time I took Staley Ridge Road 2134, so I could drive all the way to the access point for Balm Mountain. Read the rest of this entry »

Pikas, and a Coyote, and Monkeyflowers, Oh My!

On my First Trip to Hills Peak in northeastern Douglas County (click here for aerial photo), I took a look at the top of the peak and three nearby wetlands. But there were several interesting looking spots that I did not have time for, so I decided it deserved a return trip. Boy, was I right! What a wonderful day I had Thursday (August 26), with great weather, interesting and unusual plants (even though most flowers were finished), and some great wildlife experiences, including a terrific hour spent hanging out with pikas.

Pika checking out its hay cache

Read the rest of this entry »

Third Trip to Loletta Peak

The interesting rock formations just north of Loletta Lakes and "Loletta Peak" are home to Heuchera merriamii and Penstemon rupicola.

Saturday (August 7), I returned to Loletta Peak, primarily to look for female plants of the dieocious Galium grayanum I had discovered three weeks ago (see More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas). There was still plenty blooming along the roadside. The masses of pale yellow Epilobium luteum were almost at peak as was the nice stretch of Artemisia douglasiana. For the first time, I saw the two look-alikes, Stellaria crispa and S. obtusa growing side by side in the damp ditch. At a glance, it was easy to spot the difference between the tight, almost prostrate stems of S. obtusa and the lax but more upright stems of S. crispa with widely spread out leaves. There seemed to be lots of trucks driving around the normally empty roads. Hunting season is coming up, and, alas, this is a popular place for hunting. I met one nice young man out scouting with his daughter. He quickly figured out that I “probably didn’t like that sort of thing.” I replied that I enjoy seeing animals alive in the wild, but we had a pleasant conversation about the road conditions and nearby wet meadows. He was obviously very familiar with the area, too, but looked at it from a different viewpoint. Read the rest of this entry »

Mystery Bedstraw Blooming in Calapooyas

Is this California bedstraw (Galium californicum) this far north of its normal range? No, it's Gray's bedstraw (G. grayanum), still quite rare in Oregon.

When John Koenig said he had a day free to head up to the Calapooyas with me, I was excited about showing him the wonderful spot I’d explored a couple of weeks ago and seeing if my mystery plant was in bloom yet (see More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas). So Wednesday (July 28), John and I headed back up Coal Creek Road. We couldn’t help but stop a number of times along the roadside because there was so much in bloom. The butterflies seemed to be everywhere, enjoying the flowers as much as we were. One of the plants that had drawn us both to this area many times is the rare Epilobium luteum. It was just starting to bloom. Also in the creeks and wet ditch that drain Balm Mountain were perfect Mitella caulescens, Veronica americana, masses of Senecio triangularis, and some gorgeous Epilobium glaberrimum. It may have small flowers, but they are a lovely shade of rose and are set off by attractive glaucous foliage. Glaucous foliage turned out to be the theme of the day. Farther up the road, there was a long stretch of Agastache urticifolia in full bloom. This is a real favorite of hummingbirds and large butterflies, but neither that nor flowering Castilleja miniata and pruinosa seemed to be attracting hummers. Read the rest of this entry »

Pop Quiz: Early Dissected Leaves

plant 1

Every year, when the first plants emerge in the mountains, I have to take my rusty brain and tune it back up. The first outings are always filled with “that sure looks familiar, but I just can’t remember what it is.” Learning leaves without the benefit of flowers or a whole plant can be challenging. It is especially difficult when you only see the leaf of one type of plant. Sometimes, however, they are all growing near each other, and it is easier to remember which is which.

There are a number of dissected leaves that appear early in rock outcrops that always used to confuse me, and I know have confused others. All of these photos were taken at Bearbones Mountain last weekend (6/5/10), and many were growing in the same area. See if you can sort these out. Answers are on page 2.

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Romanzoffia thompsonii and Cascadia nuttallii—Look-Alike Seep Lovers

Romanzoffia thompsonii & Cascadia nuttallii

Drifts of Romanzoffia thompsonii (L) & Cascadia nuttallii (R)

When admiring a froth of tiny white flowers growing over seepy rocks in the Western Cascades, it’s usually necessary to take a closer look before putting a name on the plant. Despite being in entirely different families, Thompson’s mistmaiden (Romanzoffia thompsonii) and Nuttall’s saxifrage (Cascadia nuttallii, formerly Saxifraga nuttallii) are very similar in appearance and enjoy the same habitat. This is an interesting case of convergent evolution. While Romanzoffia thompsonii tends to be found at higher elevations, in some places, including at Cloverpatch, they grow side by side. Romanzoffia thompsonii is an annual, while Cascadia nuttallii is considered a perennial. To me at least, this isn’t apparent from sight. Read the rest of this entry »

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