Bloom Coming on at Heckletooth

Madia elegans

Madia elegans in all its glory.

After the bad weather and resulting delayed blooming season, it was a joy to be out yesterday (June 12) at Heckletooth Mountain. The flowering season is finally coming on strong there, and Rob Castleberry and I enjoyed seeing the meadows starting to come alive with flowers. The gorgeous spring-blooming type of tarweed (Madia elegans) were starting their show of bright yellow in the large sloping meadow. On the summit slope, they were still only in bud. They seem to be taller than I’ve seen them before, no doubt because of the copious rain they’ve received. As we returned through the lower meadow at 4pm, many of the flowers were starting to close up for the day. I was actually surprised to see so many still wide open. I remember them closing earlier in the past. Perhaps they couldn’t get enough sun either!

Phacelia linearis

The white form of Phacelia linearis in the large, steep, west-facing meadow

Other annuals are also benefitting greatly from the wet spring, including all three species of blue-eyed Mary—Collinsia parviflora, C. grandiflora, and my favorite, C. rattanii which might better be called purple-eyed Mary. One of the less common species found on these lower mountains in Lane County is the white-flowered form of Phacelia linearis. Normally lavender to purple on the east side of the Cascades where it is common, it is nearly always white here on the west side. It was blooming well in the lower meadow and getting started in the rocks on the top. The annual clovers were also coming into bloom. Most of the meadow areas were filled with the lovely Trifolium willdenovii (or willdenowii depending which authority you follow). I had recently seen tiny, flat-bottomed Trifolium microdon at Horse Rock Ridge and Cloverpatch. It is a low elevation species I’d never noticed before this year. Sure enough, it was blooming in the lower western section of the summit meadow along with T. microcephalum, T. albopurpureum, and more T. willdenovii. Curiously it was the only area I saw with a mix of clovers, but perhaps they weren’t quite blooming elsewhere.

Trifolium microcephalum and microdon

Trifolium microcephalum (L) has the typical bowl-shaped involucre, while T. microdon (R) is flatter and widest on the bottom.

Near the clovers was a beautiful drift of death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum formerly Zigadenus venenosus). I don’t think I’ve ever seen it bloom this much up here. Showing promise of an equally great show in another week or so were the buds of Calochortus tolmiei and more Madia elegans. While the main population of balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) is in the large lower meadow, nearby there were a few plants blooming up here as well. Earlier in the week, I had been at Horse Rock Ridge admiring balsamroot. For some reason, I had decided to sniff the giant blossoms. They were definitely fragrant, and quite pleasant, but what was the unusual aroma? Gerry Carr suggested chocolate! Sabine wasn’t so sure, but then she’s not a chocoholic like me. Here at Heckletooth, I gave it another try. Rob agreed with me that if it wasn’t chocolate, it was similar—maybe closer to carob or some other bean or grain—quite unexpected for a flower. How did I never notice this before? And why would such a large, showy flower be scented? Surely it didn’t need it to attract pollinators.

Mimulus pulsiferae

The adorable Mimulus pulsiferae is only a few inches tall.

One of the special plants at Heckletooth is the rare candelabrum monkeyflower (Mimulus pulsiferae). I had once found it along the summit ridge hiding in the bare ground of a few small openings between the masses of manzanita. I was hoping to locate the spot again as it seemed about the right time for it to bloom. Not only did Rob and I relocate it, we saw it everywhere, both in the manzanita openings and along the edge where the ground was still open. As a tiny annual, it can’t compete with larger species and only ventured out a little farther into the meadow where rodents had disturbed the ground. Accompanying it were several other little annuals including immature Githopsis specularioides, Heterocodon rariflorum, and the first few equally tiny pink flowers of Mimulus breweri. This would be a great year to try to locate new populations of this species. I’ve found it in the past at Bearbones Mountain, Castle Rock, Tire Mountain, and Youngs Rock (see Another Youngs Rock Goodie), but I suspect it might be at a number of other lower elevation mountains. Its diminutive stature and short season of bloom make this one easy to miss.

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