Seed Season at Grizzly Peak

With the summer almost over, earlier this week (September 16), I finally made it down to southern Oregon. After a day of plant shopping and visiting with friends from NARGS, I spent another day up on Grizzly Peak. Most of the flowers are gone, but there are plenty of seeds and other interesting things to see, and I really enjoy any chance I get to see the unusual plants that show up at the southern end of the Western Cascades.

Red baneberry (Actaea rubra) is especially common at the southern end of the Western Cascades. Its showy fruit adds a lot of color to the forest this time of year.

Last year, Kelley Leonard and I were excited to see some double-flowered Delphinium glaucum in one of the large patches near the beginning of the trail (see Double Delphiniums). It appeared they were actually creating seed, and instead of the usual three follicles per flower, there were many more. Double flowers tend to be sterile, so it would be very lucky to find fertile seeds. This time, it didn’t take me long to spot several double-flowered plants, even though there were only a few flowers left at the tops of some of the tall inflorescences. Unfortunately, the doubles are in fact sterile. They had formed clusters of follicles, but they were all shriveled up. In contrast, the normal flowers were setting copious amounts of seeds in their fully formed follicles. Even these, I’ve had trouble growing. Someone, maybe slugs, always eats the tiny seedlings of these and every other Delphinium I’ve tried to grow. But there’s always hope. A plant this beautiful is worth numerous tries to get it established in the garden.

This exceptionally pretty, silver-colored Pacific chorus frog was hanging out in the meadow with a small wetland.

Just to be different, I headed counterclockwise around the main loop part of the trail this trip. Over in the area facing north where there is a small wetland, there was Perideridia gairdneri still blooming and some pretty pink Polygonum spergulariaeforme in the dry spots. The latter is probably the showiest of the many inconspicuous, late-blooming, annual knotweeds. There were still seeds left in the the capsules of Erythronium klamathense, which is among the earliest flowers to bloom. Because the capsules are upright, the seeds only fall out when the capsules are jostled. That makes their seed much easier to collect than a plant like Calochortus whose downward-facing capsules disperse the seeds as soon as they are ripe. Of course, when I go to grab the remaining Erythronium seeds, I often clumsily knock them right out of the capsule scattering into the dirt, demonstrating how effective this type of capsule is at sending the seeds out a distance. I also found some dried up Cryptantha with some remaining seeds (technically nutlets). In this case, I wanted to see the nutlets, not to grow these inconspicuous annuals but because they are often the only way to definitely ID this confusing genus.

Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) is one of the last flowers to bloom.

Trichostema oblongum is known as mountain blue curls even though this species has pink flowers in the Cascades.

When I reached the burned area to the west, I was pleased to see some pink flowers remaining in one of the seepy areas there. The first was Epilobium densiflorum (formerly Boisduvalia densiflora), a plant I only see at low elevations up in Lane County, although I had seen it here before. The other was Trichostema oblongum, an unusual late-blooming annual in the mint family. I’ve only seen this is one other site before. It was on the list for Grizzly Peak but was new for me there. The first of the Heuchera cylindrica var. alpina grow on the outcrops in this area. Heuchera have very tiny seeds, but they are easy to collect because you can just tip the tiny capsules into your envelope and lots of clean seed will fall in. In contrast, Eriogonum (buckwheat) seeds are a real pain to deal with. The flowers of Eriogonum have only sepals, which persist as they dry out. To get to the seed, you have to collect lots of this dry floral material and then rub it in your hands until the sharply pointed seeds pop out. It is one of my least favorite plants to collect. But there are a number of lovely Eriogonum species at Grizzly Peak, including the uncommon (but abundant here) E. sphaerocepahalum, so I guess I have to suffer a little for my plant lust.

The pretty pink flowers of Baker’s globemallow (Iliamna bakeri) give way to these unusual seed capsules.

There were lots of beautiful yellow rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) in bloom at the far end of the loop where the view looks down upon Ashland. Not many insects on them compared with last year (see Pollinator Party at Grizzly Peak), but that is because it was mostly overcast all day. The tantalizing clear blue sky could be seen over the California border but didn’t really reach Grizzly Peak until I was heading back to the car. High among the burned trees above this rocky area, a pair of dark birds were flying around. I didn’t hear any tapping, but when I pulled out my binoculars, they turned out to be Lewis’s woodpeckers! I can’t remember ever seeing them in Oregon, but that’s probably because I don’t actively birdwatch much these days. These birds look very different from our other woodpeckers. They have dark backs with a gray collar of sorts and pretty rosy-pink breasts. It’s good to see the burned trees being used. Fire is a natural thing, and burned habitat is appreciated by a number of species, both plants and animals. Many of the plants here, including the rare Iliamna bakeri, appear to have come in or at least become more abundant after the fire in 2002. It will be interesting to watch the changes on this wonderful mountain as it continues to heal from the fire.

2 Responses to “Seed Season at Grizzly Peak”

  • John Koenig:

    Thanks for a most interesting report Tanya.

    On a trip to Grizzly Peak in early September of this year, I saw two Acorn woodpeckers at the edge of the burn area, CCW on the loop trail. Also here were several white-breasted nuthatches and yellow-rumped warblers (Audubon’s).

    Where I’ve never failed to see Lewis’s woodpeckers is at Jenny Creek along the eastern edge of the Soda Mountain Wilderness within the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Also they were up at Pilot Rock along the PCT. On rare occasions they’ve even been spotted here in the southern Willamette Valley at Buford Park.

    I too, find the seed capsules of Iliamna bakeri fascinating and there were even some yet fresh flowers hanging on. It’s always a lovely surprise coming across this plant. Throughout the burn area I also noted quite a few dried up remains of Lomatium macrocarpum which seems to be more common in southern Oregon. Of course the towering Delphinium glaucum and red-fruited Actaea rubra were the most spectacular as your wonderful photo shows!

  • Kris:

    Hi Tanya, that frog is outstanding. Great find!

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