Deer Creek Road Awash in Gold

There weren’t as many butterflies as I would have expected on a warm, sunny day, but then most of the blooming flowers like monkey flowers weren’t good for nectaring butterflies. I did watch this California tortoiseshell visiting a number of the abundant rustyhair saxifrage (Micranthes rufidula). This surprised me because I rarely see tortioseshells nectaring at all, and I can’t remember seeing any butterflies on the saxifrage even though it seems like a good plant for a butterfly with lots of easily accessed small flowers.

On April 19, I spent a relaxing day looking at early blooming, low-elevation flowers along Deer Creek Road 2654 off the McKenzie Highway. The mile or two west of Fritz Creek is a wonderful place to see moisture-loving plants along the road as long as there is still moisture. Sweeps of various shades of yellow covered the road banks, including gold stars (Crocidium multicaule), seep monkeyflower (which used to be Mimulus guttatus but I’m pretty sure is now Erythranthe microphylla as E. guttata was kept for the larger perennial), chickweed monkeyflower (E. alsinoides), and Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii). I didn’t check out the hidden meadows above the road, which peak a little later in spring—plus I was feeling too lazy for the steep climb.

I had heard that last year’s Lookout Fire had burned across Deer Creek, so I was concerned about possible damage along the road and up in the hidden meadows on the north side of Deer Creek. There was some evidence of burning on the ridge above the side south of Deer Creek as well as a little on the drive in, but I was relieved to see the north side—at least the low elevations—got spared. The fire probably jumped the creek higher up.

Here are some photographic highlights.

The first bank I came to was covered with gold stars. My timing was perfect as they were mostly in full bloom, but there were enough going to seed for me to collect plenty for my property. They’re still not really getting established at home, so I have to add more seed every year if I want to see their cheery flowers at home in early spring.

Many of the rocky banks were covered with the annual seep monkeyflower.

A few banks were covered almost exclusively with chickweed monkeyflower. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much in one place. I’m not sure why the two species were mostly growing separately. Some small difference in microhabitat perhaps.

Fresh fronds of Indian dream fern (Aspidotis densa) unfurl above last years foliage. Gold stars grow alongside.

Although most of the flowers I saw were yellow or white, Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii) added a beautiful touch of complimentary purple to the gold stars and Hall’s lomatium in a few spots. Most were still in bud, so they should put on a better show soon.

Several of the seeps are home to the diminutive Thompson’s mistmaiden (Romanzoffia thompsonii). At first glance I thought I’d missed their bloom. Then I realized much of the moss they grow on had been scoured off the vertical rocks and was lying in a pile near the bottom. There must have been a hard downpour to do so much damage. Some of them seemed to be carrying on in the loose moss.

Shining chickweed (Stellaria nitens) is a common annual of low to moderate elevation meadows and roadsides. However, its delicate stature, little leaves, and tiny white flowers that only open in the sun make it hard to spot.

The Lookout Fire hit some of the ridge above the side south of Deer Creek.

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