Posts Tagged ‘Pinus’

Life Among the Ruins

The devastation left by the Rainbow Creek fire of September 2009. Black Rock in the distance is right across from the trailhead.

On Tuesday (August 30), I left the Hemlock Lake campground and drove the 18 miles or so east along the ridge to the Whitehorse Meadows trailhead at the northern end of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide. I wondered what might still be in bloom at the relatively high trail at about 5700′. Just a mile or so before the trailhead, I stopped at a favorite spot, a lovely roadside wet slope. It was filled with Parnassia cirrata, Kyhosia bolanderi, Erigeron aliceae, and there were also some lovely leopard lilies (Lilium pardalinum). It looked like things would be great along the trail. Then I noticed some burned trees above the wetland. Hmm. It wasn’t until I came around the corner and saw Black Rock, the prominent feature in this area, completely surrounded by dead trees, that I realized what had happened. What a shock! One of my favorite trails utterly devastated. The trail meanders slowly downhill over 3 miles to the large Whitehorse Meadows. Until just before the Whitehorse Meadows, almost no trees had survived this fire except a few in the many small patches of meadows, outcrops, and wetlands along the way. How did I not know this area had burned? It wasn’t until I got home and called the Diamond Lake Ranger District office of the Umpqua National Forest that I found out it burned in the fall of 2009, just a couple of months after my last visit here. The fire was named after Rainbow Creek, a tributary of Black Creek that starts nearby. It burned over 6,000 acres. It occurred around the same time as the Tumblebug Fire, which was much closer to me and kept me away from southern Oregon entirely. For a dramatic aerial photo of the fires, see Earth Snapshot. Read the rest of this entry »

Specialties of the North Umpqua

Kalmiopsis fragrans growing within sight of Bohemia Mountain in Lane County (still with some snow on top!)

I just went on my first overnight camping trip of the year (June 26, 27). While I can do some areas of the North Umpqua in Douglas County on a long day trip, it is tedious spending that much time driving, and there isn’t much time left for exploring when I get there. So, as often as I can stand it, I go on short one or two night trips to get farther afield. Any more than that and I can’t keep track of everything I’ve seen and it takes too much time going through my photos and plant lists when I return. For this trip, I wanted to explore the area near Steamboat and along the Lane and Douglas county borders. There are a number of wonderful plants in Douglas County that have rarely, if ever, been found just north in Lane County. It seems like a worthy challenge to discover some of these on “our” side of the county line.

The chief specialty of this area, and one of the rarest and most revered plants in Oregon, is kalmiopsis, named for its flowers’ resemblance to Kalmia (mountain and bog laurel, for example). Its name is used for the Native Plant Society of Oregon’s yearly journal. There are two species, both found nowhere outside of Oregon. The more famous is Kalmiopsis leachiana, namesake of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in the Siskiyous. The species found in Douglas County is now known as Kalmiopsis fragrans. Its leaves are indeed aromatic, the undersides being covered with small glands. This stunning, low-growing shrub clings to shaded outcroppings of a specific porous rock that has a distinctive purplish color—like it has had blackberry juice spilled on it. I’ve heard it referred to as tuffaceous rock, but I know zip about geology. The higher sites I know of were in full perfect bloom (for its protection, locations are not posted publicly!). This plant is tantalizingly close to Lane County—only about 7 miles from the border—but has never been discovered outside of eastern Douglas County. Read the rest of this entry »

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