Posts Tagged ‘Table Rock’

The Quest for Enemion Flowers at Table Rock

Clackamas iris (Iris tenuis)

Yesterday (July 29), my husband Jim and I were invited to join Ed Alverson of the Nature Conservancy on a trip north to Table Rock Wilderness to meet up with Daniel Mosquin of the UBC Botanical Garden. I’ve been wanting to get Jim up to see Table Rock’s huge cliff for years, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to head up there with trained botanists, especially if I didn’t have to do the driving. Neither Ed nor Daniel had ever been to Table Rock either. Daniel, whom some of you may recognize from Botany Photo of the Day, was on a mission to photograph the rare Enemion hallii that grows there. He was down in Oregon on other business just for the weekend, so we were crossing our fingers that we could find it in bloom.

Last year (see Rock-hopping at Table Rock Wilderness), it was blooming beautifully on July 22. We were a week later on an even later-blooming year, and I’d seen it blooming well earlier in July on a drier year, so I had high hopes. I started to get a little nervous as we walked along the old road that now serves as the beginning of the trail. The Penstemon serrulatus that was blooming so profusely last year was just beginning. Are we still several weeks later than last year, already a late year? One bonus was that we found the last blooms of another, even rarer plant, Clackamas iris (Iris tenuis), which was completely finished on last year’s trip. This Oregon endemic is found almost entirely in Clackamas County. It reminded me a lot of some Iris japonica I have in my garden, with its wide leaves and spreading habit. It turns out it is the only western American species in the crested iris group (section Lophiris), which includes most of the prettiest irises in my garden including I. gracilipes, I. lacustris, I. cristata, as well as I. japonica. The rest are Asian or eastern North American, so Clackamas iris is a real anomaly.

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Rock-hopping at Table Rock Wilderness

Anyone who has read my blog reports probably can tell that cliffs are my favorite habitat. There’s just something awe inspiring about seemingly delicate flowers clinging to life high up on sheer rock. How do they even get there? There must be a lot of luck involved getting a seed into a tiny crevice on the side of a cliff where the roots can take hold. The contrast between the ephemeral flowers and age-old rock also appeals to the artist in me.

Fool's huckleberry (Menziesia ferruginea) growing on the giant talus slope

The cliffs at Table Rock have to be some of the most amazing in the Western Cascades. Over 300′ high in places, they stretch for almost 500 yards on the northeast-facing side, above the trail, and almost as much facing east—an area that looks too scary to explore. They have also created massive talus slopes. The trail crosses the talus, which in places continues over 200′ both above and below. This much rock creates what must be the equivalent to a major metropolitan area for pikas. Read the rest of this entry »

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