NPSO Annual Meeting Trip to Tire Mountain

Mark Turner never goes anywhere without all his photography gear, and he was determined to get us all to pose for a group photo by the beautiful display of deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)—the classic photo op at Tire Mountain. We grumbled a little, but everyone dutifully stopped, and another helpful hiker ended up taking some pictures of all of us, including Mark.

The west end of the main “dike” meadow had a very good display of Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii). Among them were an unusual number of white- and pale purple-flowered plants.

On the last day of the Native Plant Society of Oregon‘s 2023 Annual Meeting, I took a group of plant lovers to Tire Mountain. It had been a couple of weeks since Molly Juillerat and I did our prehike (see Early Season at Tire Mountain), and it was even drier than on that trip. But I was relieved to see how many perennials were just carrying on as usual, so there was still plenty to see—even if the trail wasn’t up to its usual June splendor. While the rest of the Sunday trips for the meeting were supposed to be only half day, everyone was warned this would be a longer day and could leave early if they needed to. But the weather was just perfect for hiking, and everyone was having such an enjoyable day of botanizing that we all returned to the trailhead together. Thanks to all the participants for being such troopers! And thanks to Willow Elliot and Angela Soto for getting everyone organized in Eugene before meeting me in Lowell. Here are a few highlights.

The large east-facing meadow had some pretty spots of harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), barestem lomatium (Lomatium nudicaule), but it didn’t look as though there’d be much of a show of annuals this year.

The highlight of the day for me was seeing dodder (Cuscuta sp.) in one of the south-facing meadows. Both Lauren Meyer and Angela Soto spotted these after I had already walked past this spot. One of the wonderful things about leading hikes is having so many pairs of eyes to spot new plants. This was my 52nd trip to Tire Mountain, yet I had never seen it there before and have only seen it in a handful of other sites. Every trip is special!
Dodder is a strange-looking parasitic plant whose orange fishing line-like stems wrap around host plants. These were especially small plants with no flowers, so I will have to return later in the season and look for their tiny flowers or seed capsules to be able to ID the species.

We hit the peak season for deltoid balsamroot just right. As I often do, I asked people to smell the balsamroot and tell me what the fragrance reminded them of. Most people don’t think to put their nose up to the flamboyant flowers. I was pleased to hear two votes for chocolate—what always comes to mind for me. Lauren, on the other hand, did not find the odor pleasant at all. Fragrance is definitely very subjective. I wonder if the many other species of balsamroot are also scented. This is the only species in the Western Cascades, so I rarely get to see—or smell—any of the others.

The forest plants hardly seemed affected by the drought. There were lots of western waterleaf (Hydrophyllum occidentale coming into bloom). This species often has some pale mottling on the leaves. This one only had a little, but it is still a good diagnostic character in this genus, at least in the Cascades.

The group ambled up the ridge of the dike meadow, on our way to the hidden spot on the north side of the ridge, just down to the left of this photo.

We settled down for lunch in my usual spot on the north side of the ridge from the main meadow where we could have some peace and quiet away from the weekend bikers and other hikers. It is so strange to see the rocky areas so dry when there are still early blooming spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) in such good bloom.

Few flowers look even more beautiful as they age, but this western trillium (Trillium ovatum) had left behind the snow white of its youth to turn a glorious shade of bright pink. Is there a lesson here in aging gracefully for those of us in our senior years?!

One Response to “NPSO Annual Meeting Trip to Tire Mountain”

  • Leigh Blake:

    Hi Tanya!!!

    I tried writing to you via the “email” address…didn’t work!! I WOULD love to get to go to the NPSO meeting!! Great photos…good to see mark Turner there…Lovely HIKE!! Wish we could get together… I so Appreciate you…and loved your art too!!! Happy end of June…rain today…we hope…a little drizzle…nice cool days

    many hugs!! Leigh

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