New Cryptantha at Eagle Creek Road Quarry

This old quarry may not look like much, but several plants that are scarce in Lane County grow here including the pretty pink Ageratina occidentalis starting to bloom in the center of the photo.

Yesterday (August 21), I sort of took the day off from exploring the Western Cascades to join Gerry Carr, Dick Halse, Stu Garrett, and Barbara Ertter for a trip up to Fuji Mountain. Barbara is a Potentilla expert from the Jepson Herbarium who lives in Idaho, and she wanted to see the rare Potentilla up there. While Fuji is a High Cascade peak, the upper trailhead is accessed from the same road as Hells Half Acre. I wanted to show everyone the interesting old quarry spot along Eagle Creek Road 5883 that Sabine and I had discovered after our last trip to Fuji Mountain in 2007 (see Unusual Botanical Spot on Eagle Creek Road), just up from the Hells Half Acre trailhead, so after our successful hike to Fuji, we made a stop on the way back. The Ageratina occidentalis was coming into bloom and the lovely Parnassia cirrata was just starting to open. The green-flowered alumroot (Heuchera chlorantha), so abundant along the road, was just about finished. I was also able to show Richard Halse, an expert with our rockcress, an Arabis/Boechera that I’d seen there before. Alas, it was too over the hill for him to identify.

Cryptantha torreyana, one of many look-alike annuals in this difficult genus

Earlier in the morning, I had done some exploring there and found a small Cryptantha growing in the rocks along the side of the road. These tiny white-flowered species and their close relatives Plagiobothrys are incredibly difficult to identify, and I know very little about them. The main identification mark is the nutlet—a type of fruit, so my old photographs are not much help, and only now do I have a microscope, which allows me to get a closeup view of the tiny seeds. I was really happy to be among professional botanists who could help me figure this one out. I brought a snippet back and looked at it last night. The seed had a groove down the middle with a little “V” at the end (click here for seed page with photo). I was dismayed when I discovered this was not the right seed for C. affinis, my first guess. I figured I’d work on it this morning, but Gerry beat me to it. Apparently, this is more special than I thought, as he identified it as C. torreyana, more commonly found in eastern and southwestern Oregon, and a first for Lane County! Now I’m going to have to figure out what the other little Cryptantha that I’ve seen in the Western Cascades are, a daunting task, as obviously my previous IDs were just guesses.

The upper section of the waterfall along Eagle Creek Road

After everyone else departed, I took some time to explore the waterfall just downhill of MP2 on the way back. While there isn’t much water falling this late in the summer, it is still an impressive sight. It must be at least 100′ up to where it spills over the top. I could see the yellow flowers of Arnica lanceolata (formerly amplexicaulis, in my opinion a more fitting name because the leaves clasp the stem—amplexicaulis—and aren’t very lanceolate). On the way up to get a closer view, I found Oxalis trilliifolia still flowering in the creek at the base and was able to get some good photos of Angelica genuflexa. It wasn’t too hard to get up to the midpoint of the falls, just below where the water sprays over a more vertical part of the cliff. The Arnica were starting to go to seed, but there were many pretty flowers left. I could see a little faded bronze bells (now Anticlea occidentalis) in the spray, one of its favorite habitats. The surrounding dry rocky areas were covered with dried plants of Gilia capitata and some type of Madia growing along with mock-orange shrubs. It must have been beautiful earlier in the season. Someday, I’d like to head around through the woods and try to get up even higher. From the Google Earth view, you can see other outcrop and small meadow areas higher up the slope.

3 Responses to “New Cryptantha at Eagle Creek Road Quarry”

  • Lori Humphreys:

    After hiking to Hell’s Half Acre (9/16/2011) we stopped at the waterfall and found 3 Tailed Coppers on a roadside Ribes lobbii. Thank you for compiling plant lists. I was really surprised to see gray rabbitbrush and oak on Verdun Rock.

  • That’s really exciting about the tailed coppers! Thanks so much for letting me know Lori.

  • Lori Humphreys:

    They may have been on a Ribes roezlii

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