First Trip to Cloverpatch in 4 years

Cloverpatch is a great place, but I hadn’t made it there in 4 years. I had decided yesterday that I was going to stay home today and finish vacuuming, do laundry, and take care of lots of paperwork piling up on my desk. Forget that! When I woke up this morning and had actually slept well (quiet cats for once) and saw that it was not so hot, I hightailed it for Cloverpatch.

I had 4 plants in mind to find and photograph. Out of thousands of budded up Castilleja tenuis in the main meadow along the trail, only one was in bloom, but that was all I needed to get a good closeup of the individual flower. In the uppermost and easternmost meadow (off trail) I found a nice patch of Castilleja attenuata, the other ex-Orthocarpus, to get a similar closeup. Check and check.

Woodsia scopulina

Woodsia scopulina

The next plant was much more of a challenge. I first found Woodsia scopulina in that uppermost meadow in 2004. On my last trip there in 2005, I tried in vain to relocate it. It just wasn’t on the rock face I thought it was on, and there are so many up there. And with all the Cystopteris fragilis everywhere, it’s hard to pick out a Woodsia from a distance. Little did I know when Sabine and I were discussing the large Arctostaphylos (canescens or a hairless columbiana—Ken Chambers thinks they should be lumped and I agree) up at the very top of the meadow, that the ferns were just on the other side of the nearest outcrop, 10 or 15 feet away. Today I searched many rock faces before I stopped in frustration, threw up my hands and cried “I just can’t find it!” (with a few other choice words sprinkled in). No sooner had the words left my mouth when I realized I was looking right at them! Now I don’t know how I ever found them in the first place, 5 small plants tucked away on this large rock face. Near them were a few fading Dodecatheon pulchellum and lots of gorgeous Cascadia (Saxifraga) nuttallii (it was going gangbusters in all the seeps up top). Both much more conspicuous plants. I was so relieved to have found them, that they are still there, and that I wasn’t imagining them. And I now have photos of the whole area and a GPS location so I won’t lose them again. One of these days, I’ll try to search the rest of the many rock faces up there to see if there is more. And someday, I’d like to search all the meadows since the trail cuts through only a few.

My last target plant was Lomatium triternatum. I had once or twice seen it in the main meadow, but couldn’t remember exactly where and had no decent photographs of it, since I rarely come across it (and they sure are hard to photograph!). On the way out, I saw lots of L. dissectum, hallii, and utriculatum, but no triternatum. On the way back, there they were, right by the trail. There seems to be only one small area on the east side where the trail hits the meadow. A couple of dozen and they were in perfect bloom. What luck! I must have been so enthralled with all the Balsamroot on the way out that I didn’t notice the little lomatiums. Actually up close the balsamroots are kind of going over, but they still add a lot of color. The Wyethia are just starting. This is the only place I’ve been where they grow mixed together. You can really see how Balsamroot has reflexed phyllaries while Wyethia’s stay forward. The Wyethia are a slightly more orange shade of yellow as well. Lots of Calochortus tolmiei in there as well.

Rubus nivalis

Rubus nivalis in bloom

While there is a lot to see on the Cloverpatch trail, I probably wouldn’t suggest going there this year if you don’t go really soon. While the seeps are still pretty wet, the rest is bone dry. Most of the belly plants I thought I might study were dried already or drying up although the annual clovers are blooming okay. Even the masses of Camassia leichtlinii everywhere weren’t really blooming. There were lots of buds at the top of each inflorescence, but most of the flowers seemed to have shriveled up soon after opening. In most years with a wetter May, this would be fabulous right now, but everything is moving very quickly in the steep meadows. I sure hope it rains soon. Hopefully it won’t affect all the Clarkias there which usually wait till it is dry anyway. The very first 2 Clarkia purpurea were open. The death camas are just starting as well.

Another plant I’ve wanted to see in bloom but rarely have is Rubus nivalis. The only solitary flowers I’ve ever found and photographed were reddish. Hitchcock calls them dull purplish or pink with white in parentheses. This is the first time I’ve hit the bloom period and there were quite a few in bloom, though squinny as always. But they were all white. Maybe the pink fades to red, because I’ve never found more than one or two in bloom, so they were probably about done. Have any of you seen them in bloom? I’ve still never seen a berry.

Balsamroot at Cloverpatch

One last interesting find was Artemisia douglasiana growing along North Shore Drive at the base of Lookout Point on the way back to Westfir. I’ve been by there many times and can’t imagine how I missed it before.

All in all it was a very successful day, especially because it could have been ruined by a thunderstorm. By the time I was up top, the sky to the east was quite dark, Diamond Peak had disappeared and there was a lot of low rumbling in the distance. But it was tracking somewhat to the north and didn’t cloud up where I was until I was most of the way back.

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