Third Trip to Loletta Peak

The interesting rock formations just north of Loletta Lakes and “Loletta Peak” are home to Heuchera merriamii and Penstemon rupicola.

Saturday (August 7), I returned to Loletta Peak, primarily to look for female plants of the dioecious Galium grayanum I had discovered three weeks ago (see More Interesting Finds in the Calapooyas). There was still plenty blooming along the roadside. The masses of pale yellow Epilobium luteum were almost at peak as was the nice stretch of Artemisia douglasiana. For the first time, I saw the two look-alikes, Stellaria crispa and S. obtusa growing side by side in the damp ditch. At a glance, it was easy to spot the difference between the tight, almost prostrate stems of S. obtusa and the lax but more upright stems of S. crispa with widely spread out leaves. There seemed to be lots of trucks driving around the normally empty roads. Hunting season is coming up, and, alas, this is a popular place for hunting. I met one nice young man out scouting with his daughter. He quickly figured out that I “probably didn’t like that sort of thing.” I replied that I enjoy seeing animals alive in the wild, but we had a pleasant conversation about the road conditions and nearby wet meadows. He was obviously very familiar with the area, too, but looked at it from a different viewpoint.

Female plants of Gray’s bedstraw (Galium grayanum) have very hairy seeds.

It seems to get easier to get up onto the peak each time I do it, and I was up to the summit in no time. I was pleased to find a number of female plants of the Galium covered with cute little hairy seeds. These looked just like the photo Charlene Simpson e-mailed of one she saw years ago in the Siskiyous. On the small north slope, where they had barely begun blooming last time, I even found a few with some fresh flowers. The two-pronged stigma was quite evident. The four anthers were tiny, evidently sterile. I spent quite a while trying to get decent photos, but the light kept changing as the clouds built up. Getting the tiny flowers in clear focus in the stiff breeze while balancing on a gravelly slope turned out to be too much of a challenge, and none of the flower pictures came out very well. I checked around the entire area and with binoculars down the steep slope of the chasm. The balance between male and female plants seemed about equal. My only explanation for why none of my photos from my last trip (see Mystery Bedstraw Blooming in Calapooyas) showed female flowers is that the pistillate flowers might open a bit later than the staminate ones (like those of filberts), and none of the females had been open yet.

The small flowers of Kelloggia can be either 4- or 5-lobed.

While on top of the peak, I went to check on another flower that John and I had found there a couple of weeks ago, Kelloggia galioides. There was plenty of it still blooming. The specfic name, galioides, refers to its similarity to a Galium, and, in fact, Kelloggia is in the same family, Rubiaceae. It is uncommon in the Western Cascades, found mainly near the Cascade crest. Interesting that there would be two unusual species from this same family growing so close together. I also went to see if any of large-flowered wirelettuce (Stephanomeria lactucina) was open yet. Unfortunately, it still hadn’t started, and the buds hardly seemed bigger than 3 weeks before. What a tease! I found another area where it was growing well, farther downslope, with larger buds but still no pretty pink flowers. Another trip may be required to see this uncommon composite, the first I’ve ever seen of it in the Western Cascades.

A pale yellow form of Oregon sunshine. There are several similar plants along Hills Creek Reservoir.

After checking out this peak on the last two trips, I’d spent some time at the wetlands of Loletta Lakes and at Bradley Lake. I kept running out of time to check out another cool rocky spot near Loletta Lakes I had discovered last September. Since it was probably nearing the end of its bloom period, unlike the rest of the nearby wetlands I had yet to check, I figured I’d better do that next. This is another unnamed high spot just north of Loletta Lakes. The road to it deadends at a quarry cut out of its south side. The gravel was filled with bright yellow Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), and there were several lovely pale yellow plants. Both forms seemed to be enjoyed equally by some lilac-bordered coppers. On a talus slope that slides down to the west, I watched a pika calling and also saw a golden-mantled ground squirrel enjoying a snack.

Heuchera merriamii has compact clumps of cute, fuzzy flowers.

It’s only a little scramble to a gravelly slope decorated with odd-shaped rock formations and the top of this peak. Not surprisingly, many of the same plants were in bloom here that I’d just seen on Loletta Peak including Eriogonum compositum, umbellatum, and marifolium, and Monardella odoratissima. There was no sign of any of the rare Galium grayanum or Stephanomeria lactucina however. Many early-flowering plants like Delphinium menziesii and Lewisia triphylla were still evident although completely dried up, but rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) and Hall’s goldenweed (Columbiadoria hallii) had not even started. What I had found here last year was another special favorite of mine, Heuchera merriamii, so I was expecting to see it again. I was surprised that it was in perfect bloom so late, however. These adorable plants were tucked into divets and crevices in the rocks. One rock in particular had several long strings of Heuchera blooming along the vertical cracks. After I got down off the summit, I only had about 15 minutes until I had planned to head home, but that was enough time to run down to the bottom of the talus slope where there was a small wetland. I was pleased to see many Parnassia cirrata in early bud. Something else to look forward to on my next trip up to this endlessly fascinating area.

One Response to “Third Trip to Loletta Peak”

  • John Koenig:

    Tanya, great photo of Galium grayanum. So glad you were able to find female flowers with seeds.

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