Posts Tagged ‘Blair Lake’

Beargrass Season at Blair Lake

Beargrass coming into bloom near the trailhead at Blair Meadows.

A rocky area at the edge of Mule Prairie with harsh paintbrush, cliff penstemon, and Cascade fleabane.

On June 25, I went up to Blair Lake. This was another place I hadn’t been to in peak season for quite some time, although I had been up there in late July last year (see Butterfly Day at Blair Lake). Unlike last year’s trip, there weren’t many different species of butterflies, but the flowers were gorgeous, and, for the first time here in years, I got to see the beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) in bloom! Beargrass is an odd species in that the populations seem to either bloom en masse or hardly at all. There are different thoughts about what kind of schedule it is on, but it has been blooming far more often than the “every 3 years” or “every 7 years” and other ideas I’ve heard. Coffin Mountain seems to have a mass beargrass bloom every year I make it there—although I often miss the actual flowering. Although there have been lots of big beargrass years in the last decade or so, Blair Lake doesn’t seem to be on the same schedule as other sites. I haven’t seen evidence of a big bloom year for many years. But this year, it is definitely worth visiting. There were places by the road and patches up at Mule Prairie and farther up the trail at Spring Prairie where there were a great many in bloom, but most are still budding up, so it should be impressive for the next couple of weeks at least. I don’t think anyone knows exactly what factors are required to create a big bloom year, but when there is one, it is well worth the trip to see this impressive sight (and smell, although the strong fragrance of thousands of inflorescences can be a bit overwhelming!). 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 »

Searching for Willows and More

Dodecatheon jeffreyi

A moment of sun at Blair Lake lights up a display of mountain shooting star but is not enough to dry them (or me!) off.

After seeing the lovely blooming willows at Elk Camp Shelter (see previous post), I got “willow fever”, and decided I had to go back to some of the places I’d seen large populations of the lower-growing species of Salix to see if I could finally learn to identify some of the more difficult ones. On Thursday (June 20), I headed up to Blair Lake. There was only supposed to be a 3-day break in the otherwise damp week, and I wanted to go out twice before being stuck inside again from the rain, so I took a gamble that Thursday’s forecast for a 30% chance of rain wouldn’t amount to much. On Monday, I had been up to Parish Lake Bog following a similar forecast, and the weather was gorgeous. Not so at Blair. It was tempting to turn around and leave after it started to rain within minutes of my arrival, but after 9 miles of gravel, I couldn’t be such a wimp.Thankfully, I came prepared with rain coat and rain pants, but bushwhacking through sopping wet foliage proved worse than the actual rain and eventually proved too much for my raingear. Hey, at least the sun came out for a few minutes! And I got to look at the willows that have long confused me there. I’m still not 100% sure, but I believe they are actually the same two species I saw at Elk Camp Shelter: Salix eastwoodiae and S. boothii. The former is somewhat hairy and has a slightly bluish cast from a distance, while the latter has very shiny leaves and looks much greener overall. I was surprised that at the higher elevation of Blair, the flowers were so far along, but I could still see the fuzzy capsules of Eastwood’s willow and the glabrous ones of Booth’s. Read the rest of this entry »

Group Trip to Blair Lake

The group following the narrow trail through the meadow. Lilies and lovage abound.

Last Friday (August 5), I helped lead a field trip to Blair Lake with Molly Juillerat, Middle Fork Ranger District botanist. It was a lovely day and very relaxing for me, especially not having to drive—Molly and two other Forest Service employees, Kate and Anna, took care of that. There were lots of flowers in bloom. The brightest and most noticeable plant was subalpine spiraea (Spiraea splendens). Its gorgeous bright pink flowers lined the road. A few hybrids (called S. xhitchcockii) between this species and the later blooming hardhack (Spiraea douglasii) were evident. These are somewhat cone-shaped—an intermediate form between the relatively flat tops of splendens and the narrow wands of douglasii. There were also multitudes of tiger lilies (Lilium columbianum), always a favorite. Since one of my fascinations is plants that close part of the day, I watched carefully as the pretty blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium idahoense) seemed much more abundant after a few hours. I’ve waited before for them to open so I could photograph them. It seems they are late risers, preferring to keep their petals closed up until around noon. Until then, they are much harder to spot. Read the rest of this entry »

Pond near Blair Lake

I spent the day at Blair Lake yesterday. I would have said “spent a relaxing day…” but while negotiating what passes for a path around the end of the lake, I discovered I’d lost my hat. I had to duck under and plow through those stinky Ribes bracteosum 3 times instead of once. Aargh. Thankfully, I did find where my hat had gotten knocked off and will be more careful next time I’m in jungle conditions like that.

Pedicularis@BL071809252

A colorful meadow of bracted lousewort (Pedicularis bracteosa), elephant’s head (P. groenlandica), and celery-leaved lovage (Ligusticum apiifolium)

The flowers were lovely. The Spiraea splendens and Lilium columbianum were outstanding. Most of the meadow was white with Ligusticum. That one is still confusing me. It is not particularly leafy, like the ones that grow on my property or at Lowder, but it seems way too tall to be L. grayii. Closer to the lake, the Pedicularis groenlandica and P. bracteosa made a beautiful combination. There were lots of Platanthera dilatata as well. The many graminoids had me intrigued, so I collected some and hopefully can get more of them figured out this winter. Neither my list nor the old NPSO ones have any graminoids. Read the rest of this entry »

Spring Meadow above Blair Lake

I got to go out yesterday and decided to explore the area along Road 730 near Blair Lake. I’ve been up there before with Neil Björkland on a butterfly trip and by myself another time but never had time to properly look around. Sabine came with me, and we had a very good day. Bruce Newhouse mentioned something about a wet meadow up that way that had Kyhosia bolanderi. I’m guessing that was Spring Meadow, just below Beal Prairie. I only had a few minutes down there as Sabine had strained her leg recently and wasn’t up to bushwhacking. I got there via the nice little trail to the lower of the two cute lakes and then cut east. I returned by heading north up to the road—a much longer bushwhack. I can’t wait to go back. In my 20 minutes or so I did see sundew, Spiranthes, loads of Kalmia, cottongrass, the same willow that’s so common down at Blair which I’m guessing is S. commutata or boothii, Epilobium oregonense (probably), Saxifraga odontoloma, and Trifolium howellii in a side creek and lots of more common things. I didn’t see any Kyhosia bolanderi, but without my boots (sitting in the car!) and more time, I couldn’t properly explore it.

The upper pond was also quite nice with some reblooming Kalmia, a little Sagittaria cuneata, both Spiraeas as well as the hybrid, Ranunculus gormanii and Packera subnuda [Senecio cymbalarioides] like down at Blair Lake, and lots of a little groundcovering Epilobium which I think might be E. anagallidifolium. Nice sedges there as well. The lower pond doesn’t have much of a shoreline and no aquatics either, just spiraea and some willows.

rocky outcrop above Road 730

rocky outcrop above Road 730 south of Blair Lake. Beall Prairie can be seen not too far away.

Our last exploration was up the huge outcrop along the side of the road just south of the upper pond. Along with lots of the usual Sedum oregonense and Eriophyllum lanatum, we saw lots of Selaginella scopulorum and Lupinus lepidus lobbii (some still blooming!) and some Eriogonum marifolium (also some still blooming) growing near E. umbellatum again. There were also several places there and along the rocky part of the road with Pedicularis contorta (like on the rock outcrop overlooking Blair Lake).

Before leaving, we did a fairly quick spin around Blair Lake. All the Sagittaria was done (I got some good pictures of it flowering last year in August), but there was another aquatic I can’t identify. There were no signs of any flowering structures. I know very little about aquatics, but will be studying them this winter. Could it be some type of Potamogeton?

I’ll definitely be up Road 730 next spring if possible when things will be a lot easier to identify. Can’t wait!

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