To the Top of O’Leary at Last!

I’m finally back doing Lane County sites and thought some of you might be interested in my trip yesterday to O’Leary Mountain. All that rock on the top that you can see from Horsepasture has been calling me for years. I did the old trail along the front in 2006 and also went part way up the ridge another time, but this time I went up before doing Horsepasture, so I wouldn’t run out of time. I dragged Jim with me and unfortunately it was a lot cloudier up there than it was when we left home, so the view was limited and the lighting pretty bad. The last time he came with me we had the same bad luck. No wonder he doesn’t hike with me very often. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the botany pace! Still, I accomplished my small missions. One was to reach the summit, and the other was to find the Minuartia rubella that Hickman listed for O’Leary. There is also a more recent vouchered specimen from Herm Fitz in 1979.

To get to the top, you just stay as close to the ridge as possible. The north slope is too covered with thimbleberries and other shrubs to plow through. There is a lot of open rocky habitat along the ridge, and it is filled with wonderful plants. Only asters, Columbiadoria, goldenrod, and a few stray flowers of earlier blooming stuff were left. Next year I must go up and see them when they are still in bloom. At the very top, we climbed over the ridge to the south side outcrops. I found 3 more plants of Heuchera merriamii there. I reported it from the north-facing talus slope of O’Leary several years ago, but those pictures are gone, so I had no proof of them up there anymore. There’s also a little Trifolium kingii var. productum which is also on Horsepasture.

Minuartia rubella

Minuartia rubella in seed

There are a number of plants of Minuartia rubella scattered around the top of O’Leary. While their leaves are still quite green, they are all in seed (I collected some and pray they germinate!) and so covered with dry flower stalks that from a distance they look like small beige puffs. This is only the second place I’ve ever seen Minuartia rubella. I know it is listed for a number of sites, but other than Mt. June where it is fairly common, I simply haven’t been able to find it.

I’ve never been to Rebel Rock, but Hickman also lists it at Bohemia, Browder Ridge, and Three Pyramids, and there are several specimens and reports from the great Cone Peak/Iron Mtn area. I’ve looked but never managed to relocate it at any of those sites. I climbed Lamb Butte once, where Bruce & company have a sighting, but I wasn’t looking for it at the time.

I know I’ve brought this up before, but has anyone seen this cutie anywhere other than at Mt. June? I just don’t think there is very much of it around in the Cascades. Hickman’s sightings are old, and the Douglas County and Devil’s Peak specimens are even older. I sure would like to find some more. Maybe it is disappearing.

One Response to “To the Top of O’Leary at Last!”

  • Update: Some of the seeds of Minuartia rubella have just germinated! Like the tiny seeds, the cotyledon leaves are very small.

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