Summer Starts with a Rainbow of Colors at Tire Mountain

The great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) was stunning. We simply had to climb up the wet, rocky slope to get a better look.

Even the clovers were growing en masse. Tomcat clover (Trifolium willdenovii) might be the showiest of our annual clovers.

On Thursday, June 23, I was accompanied by Adam Schneider, visiting from Portland, for a trip to Tire Mountain. Like me, Adam spends a lot of his time photographing wildflowers, although he gets farther afield than I do. He also has a terrific website, Northwest Wildflowers, with great photos, location information, and more. After such a rainy spring, I figured the plants would be in great shape, and they did not disappoint. It was hard to figure out what to focus the camera on—it was all gorgeous. Hopefully, the ground is still moist enough and the current heatwave is short enough that it won’t dry things out too much. Get there soon, if you can!

Great camas and seep monkeyflower (now called Erythranthe microphylla, I believe) spilling down the wet slope above the trail. The actual tree-covered summit of Tire Mountain is the high point on the left.

Looking across the main meadow from up on the ridge, you can see some swathes of colorful flowers in the distance. Cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola) and harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) light up the rocks in the foreground.

Adam photographing flowers in a damp area of camas, monkeyflower, saxifrages, and larkspur.

Several years ago, I noticed that the flowers of Mertens’ saxifrage (Saxifraga mertensiana) reflex as they mature until the seed capsules are completely bent backwards. I’ve never seen this mentioned in other floras. As I’m currently editing the Saxifragaceae treatment for the Flora of Oregon, I’m hoping to find out if this is true everywhere or just in the Western Cascades. If anyone sees this plant in fruit, send me a photo or let me know what you see! The saxifrages grow on the north-facing side of the ridge, where a strong breeze made it hard to photograph the delicate flowers.

So much color! Dark purple Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), light purple large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora), and pink rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta). 

Here I am sniffing the rosy plectritis. When it grows as abundantly as this, you really don’t need to lean over though, and it can actually be too potent sometimes. Photo courtesy of Adam Schneider.

I kept my eyes open for bees all day, but this little one was among the few I spotted and was able to photograph, enjoying the large-flowered blue-eyed Mary. Grammatically, it may be hard to tell who was enjoying the flower from that sentence, but actually it was both the bee and me!

Like the bees, butterflies were surprisingly sparse for so many thousands of great nectar plants available. But just as we were heading back in the late afternoon, I spotted two checkerspot caterpillars. This is the first time I’ve seen them on an annual Castilleja, narrowleaf owlclover (Castilleja attenuata), although they frequently use the larger perennial paintbrushes. Tomcat clover can be seen in the background.

4 Responses to “Summer Starts with a Rainbow of Colors at Tire Mountain”

  • Susan Hebert:

    You are amazing! Thank you for this report.

  • Jeffrey Caldwell:

    Sometimes the pollinator population may be “lost” among huge fields of flowers — relatively — so many flowers, so few pollinators …

  • Lori Humphreys:

    The bee is a metallic blue female Andrena. White patch of short hairs medial to the eyes, and pollen on hind legs (not under abdomen) differentiate her from a metallic blue Osmia.

  • Tanya Harvey:

    Thanks, Lori!

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