High Season at Lowder Mountain

The rock garden along the ridge in all its peak-season glory: bright purple small-flowered penstemon (Penstemon procerus), pink cliff penstemon (P. rupicola), yellow western groundsel (Senecio integerrimus), and white Calochortus

These small bees seemed to be particularly interested in the abundant fern-leaved lomatium (Lomatium dissectum).

On July 6, I spent the day on Lowder Mountain. I’d heard that Road 1993 was in good shape (It’s one of the few reliably well-kept roads these days), and I hadn’t been there since I led a hike there when our Native Plant Society chapter hosted our Annual Meeting back in 2016 (see Back to Back Trips to Horsepasture and Lowder Mountains). I drove east under overcast skies but thankfully broke out into full sun on my drive up to the mountain. It was gorgeous all day until around 5pm when the clouds took over again, so I really lucked out. The flowers were beautiful, and I pretty much had the whole mountain to myself. And although I was once again disappointed by the paucity of butterflies, there were oodles of bees to keep me amused. Here are some photographic highlights.

When I saw the bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) in bloom along the ridge, I instantly remembered a previous trip to Lowder earlier in 2016 (same link as above) when someone noticed the bees had been collecting blue pollen. The pollen of gilia is indeed blue. I hadn’t thought to look for that in the 4 years since, but when I checked the gilia I’m growing at home, the honey bees were also covered with blue pollen. Funny how the mind works (or doesn’t as the case may be) that I had forgotten about it completely until I was in the very spot we’d seen it before, and then it instantly came to mind. There’s so much in our minds that seems to be lost until you find the key to trigger the memory!

There’s even more rock garden paralleling the trail below this area. It’s much seepier and filled with moisture lovers like monkeyflower (Erythranthe) and slim-leaf onion (Allium amplectens) as well as lots of gilia.

For some unknown reason, there are a great many odd forms of Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) in the area. Many seemed to be either missing the petal-like ray florets or else the ray florets were missing their rays—not sure which, but they aren’t nearly as showy. It didn’t seem to bother this interesting little bug, though.

On the summit, the Newberry’s knotweed (Aconogonon davisiae) was in bloom. There didn’t see to be any pollinators taking interest in the hundreds of plants. Upon closer investigation, there did seem to be small flies and lots of ants on the flowers.

The clouds never really lifted in the valley and looked like the crest of a wave coming over the ridges to the west. The heat of the day seemed to keep them at bay until late afternoon.

On the way up the trail, I pulled out my phone at a small opening that is filled with buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.). There’s a larger meadow down below, and I’d wanted to check the aerial image. For the first time, I noticed that there was also a hidden open area above this spot. On the way back down the trail, I still had enough energy left to go check it out. From the brown spot in the aerial, I’d figured there’d be some rocky habitat, and indeed, there was a large, gravelly area near the top, surrounded by much lusher foliage. Among the blooming gilia, I was thrilled to find a large number of Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii) going to seed in the gravel. Lots more was still in bloom in the surrounding areas. There’s a great view of Olallie Mountain to the east, but by then, the clouds were rolling in. I will definitely return here on future trips.

4 Responses to “High Season at Lowder Mountain”

  • Jeffrey Caldwell:


    Love that shot of the bee with the blue pollen!


  • Cindy Roche:

    Tanya, we hiked up Bachelor Mountain yesterday. There were thousands of black caterpillars on the Ceanothus velutinus. Have you seen them elsewhere?

  • Cindy,
    Not knowing what they look like, I can’t say for sure what they are, but California tortoiseshells use Ceanothus velutinus and can have big years where they apparently cover the plants. I’ve never been lucky enough to witness that. Lucky you!

  • Karl Anderson:


    The close-up photo of Eriophyllum lanatum without long rays, clearly showing the five petals on each floret, is amazing. It gave me an “aha” moment. I’m puzzled too, about the origin of the larger outermost florets. From a quick’n’dirty search on Google Scholar, it appears floret development in Asteraceae is controlled by genetics (possibly involving transposons, i.e. “jumping genes”) and position in the composite head. Fascinating stuff.

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