Quick Return to Bristow Prairie

A lilac-bordered copper, a snowberry checkerspot, and a pair of mating Hoffman’s checkerspots all sharing the same leafy fleabane (Erigeron foliosus)

I was so excited about finding Columbia lewisia (Lewisia columbiana) at Bristow Prairie (see previous post) that I contacted Molly Juillerat right away. Although she is now the deputy ranger for the Middle Fork Ranger District, her old post as district botanist hasn’t been filled yet, so she’s still the main botanist and the one other local person I know who has been to all the other lewisia sites in the district. I was thrilled that she was able to arrange her schedule to see the lewisia that same weekend, on June 30th. I wanted to get back quickly before the plants finished blooming and became hard to spot again.

Ruby, Michelle, and Molly in the wetland at the north end of Bristow Prairie

Dusky horkelia is a member of the rose family.

Molly and I were accompanied by her friend, Michelle, and her faithful dog, Ruby. We originally planned to walk the north end of the High Divide trail but decided instead to check out the roadside plants, go to the rock garden, explore the main Bristow Prairie, and, of course, to see the Columbia lewisia. While out in the prairie, I relocated the patch of dusky horkelia (Horkelia fusca) that I had found on the Lane County side of the main prairie during one of the butterfly surveys a couple of years ago. I hadn’t had a GPS with me on that trip, so I only had a vague recollection of where I’d spotted it. The prairie is so large, it would be hard to spot the plant out of bloom, but luckily it was in flower. Although we’d seen it on the Douglas County side in a number of spots, there were no other records of it in Lane County. This time, I was able to make a waypoint so I can find it in the future.



Ruby cooling herself off in the wetland

We were surprised to see this chorus frog hopping around in the forest.

Even more exciting for me, as we were wandering around the north end of the main prairie, we found an area of wetland I guess I hadn’t come across before. It was filled with sparse-flowered bog orchid (Platanthera sparsiflora) in perfect bloom. Seeing as there were also mountain shooting stars (Dodecatheon jeffreyi) and bistort (Bistorta bistortoides), I searched for Sierra Nevada blues. It only took a few minutes before I spotted both females and a male! It seemed odd to me that after such bad luck looking for them in the large wetland at the lake earlier in the week, it would be so easy to spot them in this much smaller area. This new population is almost a half mile away from the lake and about the same distance away from the population at the north end of the trail. It is also a little farther north than either of those two sites, making it the most northerly population known so far. And to Joe Doerr’s delight, it is on the Willamette National Forest side. The dividing line between the Willamette and the Umpqua national forests goes right down the spine of the ridge, putting the other two, more westerly sites in the Umpqua National Forest.

Male (blue) and female (brown) Sierra Nevada blues

The weather was perfect, we also saw lots of other butterflies, I was able to collect some seed, spend some time with friends, and even get some dog time in with Ruby. I couldn’t have asked for a better day! Here are some more photos from our terrific trip.

The rock garden was still blooming beautifully with pink farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena), red frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa), bluefield gilia, and yellow and white buckwheats (Eriogonum umbellatum and E. compositum).

A female Sara orangetip nectaring on bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) along with another insect

Pale swallowtails are large enough to nectar from the long tubes of western columbine (Aquilegia formosa).

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