Early But Lovely at Eagles Rest

The cool spring has allowed the snow queen to keep blooming well into the much later fairy slipper season.

Yesterday (May 5), Sabine and I spent the afternoon exploring the rocky summit of Eagles Rest. It was exactly five weeks since my previous trip (see Blooming Begins at Eagles Rest), and I wanted to catch the next wave of blooms. The cold, wet, miserable April weather has kept things from moving along as quickly as they might have this time of year, so I figured it would take this long to see a real change. As soon as we stepped into the woods at the beginning of the trail, we were thrilled to see a carpet of western trilliums (Trillium ovatum) and fairy slippers (Calypso bulbosa) at the peak of their bloom. There were at least 50 of each in a fairly small area. All the trillium were facing south toward the light. Snow queen and evergreen violets were still blooming here as well. The fairy slippers continued all the way up the trail and were even perched on shaded mossy rocks up at the top. This alone was worth the trip. The sun was trying to break through a mostly cloudy day. We weren’t the only ones a little chilled—we saw two separate garter snakes trying to warm up as we headed to the top.

Romanzoffia sitchensis likes cool, damp habitat.

After lunching on top, we headed down along the ridge to the west end of the summit. An old NPSO plant list from 1994 includes Sitka mist maiden (Romanzoffia sitchensis), and I figured the most likely place for it would be on the north side of the summit. Once I got down a way, I was able to look back across the sheer vertical wall hidden on the shaded north side. Sure enough, it was covered with the distinctive lobed leaves of Romanzoffia. While it wasn’t blooming yet, nor could I get within 30 feet of any plants, it certainly had the gestalt of R. sitchensis. Not only are the leaves larger overall than R. californica, but the enlarged base of the leaves overlap and flop somewhat above the roots in the ground. The hairy bulbil at the base of R. californica is underground and makes the plant seem much more stable in its vertical niche. We were able to compare these two when we found the latter growing and budding up in a south-facing seepy spot near the base of the rocky summit.

Plentiful buds on mission bells (Fritillaria affinis) promise a great bloom before the month is out.

From there we headed around the south-facing side marveling at all the dwarf Fritillaria affinis covered in buds. They seemed to be everywhere on the mossy rocks and hiding under the manzanitas. It is going to be amazing in a couple of weeks. The fawn lilies (Erythronium oregonum) are also budded up in the shade but none were open yet. It is still pretty early here. A single white flower stood up above the lacy foliage of the uncommon cutleaf daisy (Erigeron compositus), but there are many buds, so it will be a pretty display later in the month. Several harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) had begun. We also found some paintbrush with unlobed leaves—this may turn out to be the same odd one that is at Mt. June that may be a hybrid with C. pruinosa—yet another reason to come back in a few weeks.

Sabine searches for out-of-reach plants near the bottom of the open rock.

One of the main things in bloom at the moment is Lomatium hallii, copious amounts of which were in full bloom all down the rocky slope. We noticed the flowers are actually fragrant—not sweet but pleasant. Adorable chickweed monkeyflower (Mimulus alsinoides) and some common monkeyflower (M. guttatus) also decorated the rocks. The seepiest spots had thick patches of exquisite rustyhair saxifrage (Micranthes [Saxifraga] rufidula). Partway down, we cut back out through the woods to the trail, but when the trail passed by some more rock, we headed out again and this time followed the rock all the way down to the base. It was easier than it looked. This gave me a reasonably good view back up to the front of the steepest part of the cliff. While there were a few still-bare clumps of rabbitbrush and more Lomatium, there was little else growing on the vertical rock. We weren’t far from the road at this point, so we skipped the remaining part of the trail and headed through the thick salal back to the car. Coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus), with its menthol-like fragrance was in full bloom along the main road and worth a stop. I’m looking forward to coming back for the peak Fritillary season and to see what other delights will be on display then.

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