First Botanizing Trip of 2024

While looking at the flowers on the cliffs, Lauren spotted a bald eagle sitting in a dead tree above us!

Sadly, the population of shining geranium (Geranium lucidum) at the base of the cliffs near milepost 7 is starting to spread up onto the rocks despite attempts to remove it. Here you can see how similar the geranium leaves (bottom) are to the lovely native California mistmaiden (Romanzoffia californica, top) that grows abundantly there. I tried to at least pull out the ones on the cliff so no one else would accidentally pull the mistmaiden. We looked carefully at the leaves and noted good distinguishing marks are the small tips on the lobes of the glabrous mistmaiden leaves vs. rounded lobes on the slightly hairy leaves of the geranium.

As is my tradition, my first botanizing of the year was to Hills Creek Reservoir south of Oakridge on March 17th. It’s such a relaxing way to start the year. I was joined by fellow Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO) members Nancy Bray and Lauren Meyer. We made a number of stops along Road 21 as far as Big Pine Opening across from the bridge that leads to Coal Creek and Staley Creek roads. It didn’t seem worth going any farther as there were still patches of snow in the ditches. Lots of snow up higher as well. It was a lovely warm day, however, and we enjoyed the beautiful gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) and other early flowers. And while not abundant, we did see four species of butterflies: California tortoiseshells, unidentified blues, an anglewing, and a mourning cloak. Seeing butterflies always starts my spring fever. Here are some photos of our (mostly) pleasant day.

Glaucous spring beauty (Claytonia exigua ssp. glauca) is a miniature plant fit for a doll house. It grows in a few piles of scree at the base of the cliffs.

The low point of the day for me was discovering that the Fremont’s silktassel (Garrya fremontii) that had been regrowing by the boat ramp had once again been cut down. The first time was over 10 years ago. I had been watching it grow back every year and was so happy it had finally recovered enough to bloom again in 2021. This time, tragically, not even a branch was left. It looked like there might be growth buds on the small base of the stump, so maybe it will be able to recover once again. I checked with Jenny, the district botanist, and apparently the culprit wasn’t the Forest Service, so I’m not sure who to yell at, but I would like to get to the bottom of why someone would cut this lovely native and leave invasive scotch broom standing right next to it. To see what it looked like in 2010, see Hills Creek Reservoir Starting to Bloom.

We all had a chance to get up close and personal with friendly California tortoiseshells.

Before turning around, we made one last flower stop at Big Pine Opening to see if the beautiful Shelton’s violets (Viola sheltonii) were in bloom under the oaks, and indeed they were.

After lunch at Everage Flat Picnic area, we chatted with a man camping there who turned out to be Lou, the husband of another NPSO member we know. We exchanged some favorite interesting sites in the area. I told him about “Many Creeks Meadow,” just around the corner off Road 2129, and he told me about Pine Creek Falls. On our way back, we drove a couple of miles up Road 2124 to see it. It was gushing over a rock face below a number of Pacific yews. I’m so happy to know about this great spot. On the way up, we passed a small pond with a deafening chorus of frogs, but unfortunately the concert stopped as soon as I pulled over.

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