Return to Cloverpatch’s Lower Meadows

One of the many seeps covered with lovely Cascadia nuttalli

Finally we have a good stretch of dry weather! I’ve been trying to bring some friends to Cloverpatch to see the lower meadows, but the weather hadn’t been cooperating. But yesterday (May 7), it was gorgeous—low 70s and sunny—perfect hiking weather. John Koenig, Sabine Dutoit and I headed over to Cloverpatch to see the area I visited for the first time back in February (see Further Exploration of Cloverpatch).

On our way in, this gorgeous stand of striped coralroot (Corallorhiza striata) in a shaft of light caught our eye, but we missed it on the way back.

Once again, the fairy slippers (Calypso bulbosa) were outstanding all along the trail. We also spotted an especially large clump of spotted coralroot at the beginning of the trail. A little farther along, the pretty purple Howell’s violet (Viola howellii) was in bloom along with some mission bells (Fritillaria affinis). When the trail hit the main meadow, we cut straight down and headed left around the cliff back into the woods. It was easy to relocate my route down to the lower meadows, but it was still slow going because of the steepness. My companions had a harder time going downhill than I did, but on the way back, I was the one struggling with the steep uphill. Still, it was worth the trip.

While Sabine relaxed, John and I relocated the seep I had found on the first trip. At that time, a single Thompson’s mistmaiden (Romanzoffia thompsonii) was in flower. Now the seep was a froth of little white flowers. At first glance, it appeared most of these were the strikingingly similar Nuttall’s saxifrage (Cascadia nuttallii), but upon closer investigation, it turned out that the Romanzoffia was blooming as well. The two were growing on top of each other, the Cascadia reaching just a bit taller. It still fascinates me how these two species from different families have evolved to be so incredibly similar (see Romanzoffia thompsonii and Cascadia nuttallii—Look-Alike Seep Lovers for a side by side comparison). We eventually found quite a number of seeps sparkling with these two species. The most unusual site was at the cliff where I was so surprised to discover Heuchera merriamii. Here, not only were they blooming in the seepy rocks at the base of the cliff, there were frothy masses of white flowers under a huge overhang—no doubt fueled by water coming through the rock. As they are easy to confuse up close, I can’t say for sure what these were high above my head, but the height suggested Cascadia.

Water seeps out of the rock under a large overhang, giving plants such as Cascadia a chance to grow without rain ever touching them.

The flowers of fiddleneck are fairly small but are so bright and cheery. The inflorescence will be more noticeably coiled as the flowers age.

We made an interesting discovery at the first seep. John spotted the little orange flowers of common fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii var. intermedia). I’ve never seen that in the Cascades. It turns out the few sightings of it in the Oregon Flora Project Atlas are all over 40 years old. We didn’t see many plants, but they were just starting to bloom, so there could be many more. They usually like disturbed habitat. Considering this meadow also had lots of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and a little Scotch broom at one end, it has clearly suffered more disturbance than the upper meadows.

John and I also explored another large cliff to the east. Unfortunately, it was hidden behind a lovely oak forest filled with poison oak. Once you’ve run into a little, you might as well go through the rest and just wash everything when you get home. I’m crossing my fingers I got it all off since I am definitely susceptible. Also under these and all the other oaks were lots of unfurling coastal shield-fern (Dryopteris arguta) and blooming Pacific hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum grande). From below, the cliff was quite impressive. Lots of monkeyflower was blooming in the wet cracks. There was quite a variety of sizes of both leaves and flowers. Presumably, it is all Mimulus guttatus—it amazes me how variable this species is. I scanned the rock with my binoculars and was pleased to find some more small patches of Heuchera merriamii.

Hound’s tongue seems partial to the dappled light of open woods.

We caught up with Sabine for a while but then ditched her for a bit longer to take a quick look at the lowest meadow. We didn’t go very far, but we did find some more balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) just starting to bloom as it had been in the meadow by the trail and a little more gold star (Crocidium multicaule), also missing from the meadow area we’d just been through. One unusual plant caught our eye. It appeared to be a cherry of some sort. The flower buds were in a long raceme, which would suggest choke cherry (Prunus virginiana), but each bud had a conspicuous bract, something that didn’t appear in any of the photos or descriptions I looked at when I got home. I consulted with Bruce Newhouse who agreed it was a cherry because of the galls on the leaves and the glands on the petioles, neither of which I’d noticed. John dug up an old photo with bracts, and I finally found a reference online that mentioned there being early deciduous bracts on choke cherry. So our first guess was correct, but sometimes it takes a lot of digging before one can be sure of an ID. I certainly learned a lot more about this plant that I rarely see.

We also learned a lot more about these lovely lower meadows. But it is still early in the season, and so much is yet to bloom, so hopefully, we’ll be able to return in several weeks to see what else we can find.

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