Posts Tagged ‘Senecio’

Second Year of Sierra Nevada Blue Surveys

A male Sierra Nevada blue kindly sitting on my finger for a portrait at Bradley Lake

Last year, Joe Doerr, Willamette National Forest (WNF) wildlife biologist organized several trips to the Calapooyas to survey a lovely little butterfly known variously as Sierra Nevada or gray blue (Agriades or Plebejus podarce), which is at the northern end of its range in the Calapooyas (see More Butterfly Surveying in the Calapooyas). This year, we returned to many of the same areas we visited last year to see how they were doing. Our first trip was July 11. Joe and I were joined by John Koenig, Lori Humphreys, and Joanne Lowden, Middle Fork District wildlife biologist.

Bradley Lake is one of the prettiest subalpine wetlands I know of in the Western Cascades.

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Butterfly Survey at Groundhog Mountain

Elephant head (Pedicularis groenlandica) blooming in a boggy section of the wetland at the end of Road 462.

Elephant’s head (Pedicularis groenlandica) blooming in a boggy section of the wetland at the end of Road 462.

While the Sierra Nevada blues (Agriades [Plebejus] podarce) were out and about, Willamette National Forest Service wildlife biologist Joe Doerr organized one last group butterfly survey. Now that we knew they were definitely established in the Calapooya Mountains (see the previous post, More Butterfly Surveying in the Calapooyas), we wanted to know if they had moved north across the Middle Fork of the Willamette. The area around Groundhog Mountain has an extensive network of wetlands, most of which have abundant mountain shooting stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi), its host food plant, as well as lots of bistort (Bistorta bistortoides), its favorite nectar plant. If they were going to populate anywhere to the north of the Calapooyas, I thought Groundhog would be the ideal spot, although I had no real expectations of finding them there since I’d been there over three dozen times and never spotted them. Still, it was worth checking. And any data is important. So on Monday, July 11, Joe, Cheron Ferland, Lori Humphreys, and I, along with 4 botanists from the Middle Fork district headed off to Groundhog. Read the rest of this entry »

Cripple Camp Shelter and Beyond

An incredibly beautiful form of marbled ginger (Asarum marmoratum) at the Camp Comfort campground along the  South Umpqua.

An incredibly beautiful form of marbled ginger (Asarum marmoratum) at the Camp Comfort campground along the South Umpqua. These are as beautiful as any cyclamen one can buy for the garden.

Having gotten such a late start the day before (see previous post, Exploring the West Side of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide), I’d also gotten into the Camp Comfort campground quite late and had only had enough time to see there was a lot of marbled ginger (Asarum marmoratum) under the big trees in this pretty spot. No one else was staying in the campground, so in the morning (July 14) I walked all around it. I couldn’t believe how many plants and how many gorgeous forms of marbled ginger there were. Alas, this uncommon woodland perennial doesn’t grow in Lane County or anywhere north of Douglas County, so it is always a treat to see. The white coloration varies quite a bit from plant to plant. Some are barely distinguishable from the common long-tailed ginger (Asarum caudatum), others have a pale triangle in the center, while the best forms have a white center and white veining. In this area, I even found some that were frosted white all around the edges, not just on the veins. Needless to say, I got a later start leaving for my hike than I had intended, but since I came to see plants, it really didn’t matter if they were on the trail or right by my campsite! 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 »

The Day of the Caterpillar

Rangers buttons (Sphenosciadium capitellatum) attracts lots of insects, including bees, as seen here.

Rangers buttons attracts lots of insects, including bees, as seen here.

The scintillae (sparkling blue scales) on the wings of this Anna's blue are especially conspicuous.

The scintillae (sparkling blue scales) are especially evident on the lower wings of this pretty female Anna’s blue.

On August 2, Sabine Dutoit, Nancy Bray, and I went up to Groundhog Mountain for a relaxing day of enjoying flowers and butterflies and whatever else we came across. We started our day in the small sloping wetland that heads downhill to the east off of Road 2309. While most of the flowers, even in the wetlands, are finishing up early this year, it was the perfect time for Cascade grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata) and rangers buttons (Sphenosciadium capitellatum). The latter is found mainly in the southern part of the Western Cascades. It is always fun to come across. The unusual flowers have open umbels of soft, dense, spherical umbellets, the kind of thing you just have to touch. I told Nancy that this was a good host food plant for Anise swallowtails, and, sure enough, before we left the wetland, she’d found a caterpillar chewing on the leaves of a rangers buttons.

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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 »

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