Posts Tagged ‘orchid’

Late Season Visit to Monarch Meadow

Purple milkweed going to seed stands conspicuously in the otherwise dried out meadow.

As July ended, super hot weather was predicted for the first week of August. I figured I’d better get out one more time before getting stuck inside for a week (or most of the month, as it turned out). So on July 31, I headed back to what I call Monarch Meadow, southeast of Oakridge, to look for ripe purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) seeds and any sign of monarchs. It was in the low 90’s by afternoon, so I wasn’t up for anything taxing, but a stiff breeze kept me surprisingly comfortable.

The glistening coma (tuft of long hairs) on the purple milkweed seeds and the shapely purple pods add another season of beauty to this lovely species.

A chrysalis hanging from large-flowered collomia. Monarch chrysalises are usually transparent after the butterfly emerges, so I’m guessing either this is a different species or the butterfly did not survive the chrysalis stage.

The milkweed was completely finished blooming, and many of the leaves were drying up, so I didn’t expect to see any caterpillars or adult monarchs. I hoped to maybe find a chrysalis, but that would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. But amazingly enough, some fading flowers of large-flowered collomia (Collomia grandiflora) caught my eye, and there, hanging from a leaf, was an empty chrysalis. While I can’t be sure it was that of a monarch, it was the same shape. There were butterflies in the meadow, and the first time I caught sight of orange flying by I hoped for a second it would be a monarch. Instead, it was one of many California tortoiseshells on the wing in the area. As I’d seen on my trip to Echo Basin (see previous report), tortoiseshells were suddenly arriving in the Western Cascades in great numbers. There were dozens of them flying up and down the river by Campers Flat when I went to cool off at the end of the day. So glad to have them back!

Lots of grasshoppers of many colors were jumping around the meadow. This one perfectly matched the color of the dead, non-native dogtail grass (Cynosurus echinatus).

Western rayless fleabane is not what you’d call a showy species, but the spider in the back attests to the fact that it is of interest to insects as it blooms when most other flowers are gone.

Monarch Meadow was quite dried out, as one would expect at an elevation of 2400′ after 7 weeks of drought, but there still a few flowers in bloom. On my earlier trip here in June (see Hidden Meadow Reveals a Thrilling Secret), I had spotted an odd plant I had guessed was a composite, although it didn’t even have any buds yet. It looked similar to the common leafy fleabane (Erigeron foliosus), but the growth habit wasn’t quite right. After seeing it later in the season at several other low elevation meadows in the area, and finally spotting it in bloom, I had identified it as western rayless fleabane (Erigeron inornatus), a species I’d never even heard of before. In fact, I found it in five different sites this summer. This was my first time back to this site, so I was happy to see it still blooming to confirm my guess that it was the same species as at all the other sites. As a low-elevation species, I’d missed it in the past by always moving up to higher elevations by the time it bloomed.

The tiny flowers of sticky birdbeak (Cordylanthus tenuis) appear quite late in the season. You can imagine a resemblance to the related but much showier paintbrushes (Castilleja spp.).

Sticky birdbeak (Cordylanthus tenuis) was finally in bloom. This species is also uncommon but appears frequently in the Rigdon area and in the other purple milkweed spots. After collecting some seeds of meadow plants, including some of the milkweed, whose capsules were just starting to ripen, I headed back down to Rigdon Road 21 and over to Mutton Meadow to look for more seeds to collect. The sticky birdbeak is also abundant there. A few other late bloomers were in evidence in vernally moist spots in this meadow. The airy white inflorescences of Gairdner’s yampah (Perideridia gairdneri) stood well above the other dried up plants. Their tubers must store a lot of water in the spring for them to send up the leaves and flowers after most everything else has died. The pink-flowered densely-flowered boisduvalia (Epilobium densiflorum) is a late bloomer that can be found in low-elevation seeps and vernally moist meadows. I hadn’t noticed it there before, but again, visiting areas at the end of their seasons can often be quite interesting and worthwhile. All in all, it was quite a pleasant day, even more so a month later as I write this, stuck in the house surrounded by thick smoke and unable to go back there until the rains return and douse the Staley Fire in the Rigdon area.

Chaparral rein orchid (Platanthera [Piperia] elongata), also known as long-spurred piperia, is a late-blooming woodland orchid (in our area anyway). Although uncommon in Oregon, it grows in a number of places in the Rigdon area, so finding it in the forest on the way up to Monarch Meadow wasn’t a surprise.

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