Paintbrushes at Eagles Rest

The masses of western trillium (Trillium ovatum) were fading to a beautiful deep wine color.

Yesterday (May 10), Nancy Bray and I enjoyed the lovely weather by spending a few hours up at Eagles Rest. I was up there both May 5 and May 20 (see Spring Moving Slowly at Eagles Rest) last year, and the blooming was right in the middle of those two trips. That would not be so surprising except that last year the flowers were so far behind because of the cold spring. I guess it really has been damp and cool up until now, so the lower elevations are still later than “normal”. On the other hand, the deep snowpack pushed the higher elevation plants as much as a month late last year. This year, the snowpack has been pretty poor. From the top of Eagles Rest, Mount June could still be seen covered with snow last year on May 20. Yesterday, even with the binoculars, I could only see a touch of snow on the north side of Mt. June. And with the several weeks of dry, sunny weather we’re having, the mountain bloom shouldn’t be nearly as late as last year.

A lovely yellow form of harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida).

As they were last year in May, the trilliums right near the upper trailhead were outstanding. The woods all along the trail were filled with fairy slippers (Calypso bulbosa). After lunching at the top, I convinced Nancy to explore the steep area to the west of the summit. Most things were not really blooming yet. Both the fawn lilies and fritillaries were still in bud. The bright yellow flower heads of Lomatium hallii provided the only real color. Nancy spotted something yellow lower down the steep slope. It was subtle, but the shade of yellow wasn’t the same. It turns out it was a gorgeous, pure yellow harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida). I’ve only seen them a handful of times, so I was pleased. There were also some red-flowered paintbrushes getting started here and there. Nancy pointed out that there was a lot of deep red in the leaves of the red-flowered plants, but not a touch of red in the yellow plant. It’s an albino of sorts, missing all red pigment. We studied the few actual flowers that had begun. The narrow tubular flowers are overshadowed by the showy bracts and easy to miss at this stage. The calyx lobes on harsh paintbrush are usually in two pairs of rounded lobes. This was true of the red ones we looked at. Oddly, the calices of this yellow plant were somewhat irregularly lobed.

Stands of blooming Fritillaria affinis (mission bells, fritillaries, chocolate lilies, or whatever you like to call them!) were coming into bloom on mossy shelves in the rocks.

The unlobed leaves of frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa) are covered with forked hairs.

We explored the front of the summit area for a short while. The lovely cutleaf daisy (Erigeron compositus) were covered with nodding buds, but we only spotted a few blooming flower heads. Something else to look forward to. The seepy spots had quite a bit of rustyhair saxifrage (Micranthes [Saxifraga] rufidula) with their bright white flowers and glossy deep green leaves. We continued to find budded up fritillaries. There are scores of them in this rocky area. It wasn’t until we got to the lowest areas where we finally spotted them in bloom. Despite their somewhat cryptic coloration, their flowers are extraordinarily handsome. Seeing them never fails to give me a lift. In this same area, we finally spotted some of the frosted paintbrush I had seen before. These later bloomers hadn’t even started budding yet (For a photo of these plants in bloom, see Peak Season at Eagles Rest from last June). The leaves are clearly different from harsh paintbrush—in bloom just a few feet away—as they have no lobes and narrower blades. They also have at least some forked hairs. That’s what makes them look “frosted.” Through the handlens, I could see these were covered with forked hairs. Often in this area of Lane County, there aren’t that many, and I’m guessing they are hybridizing. These look like the real thing, however.



One Response to “Paintbrushes at Eagles Rest”

  • Beautiful pix both here and on Flickr. The chocolate Fritillarias look good enough to eat! You put a lot of work into taking the pictures and putting together your posts and I’m happy that you do.

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