Beetles and Botany at Bearbones

Angela, Leela, Sol, and Lauren exploring the north side of Bearbones Mountain a little below the summit. We were surprised to see rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) growing in the cooler conditions of the north-facing slope. More common to the south and east, it usually grows in hotter, drier sites. The purple tinge on the slope was a large sweep of large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora).

Stunning cliff penstemon lights up the rocky ridge. The two rocky slopes in the nearest ridge are Spring Butte. The small prominence behind and to the left is “Mosaic Rock” where I went in May (see Long-awaited Return to Mosaic Rock). The large ridge beyond that is Staley Ridge.

Bearbones Mountain is a former lookout site with a 360° view, and it is a really interesting area botanically, but the trail is little known, rarely used, and hard to find now that the hiker symbol post is gone. I’ve been trying to bring people up there for years to see its hidden treasures. On June 9th, I introduced it to four more botanically minded folks, two of whom work for the Middle Fork district of the Willamette National Forest where it is located but hadn’t been there yet. The flowers were even better than when I’d been there a couple of weeks before (see First Trip of the Year to Bearbones Mountain). The cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola) was outstanding, and there were plenty of other beautiful wildflowers to keep everyone satisfied. We also saw interesting insects although I was again disappointed in the relative lack of butterflies. Everyone enjoyed the beautiful weather and great view. It’s a good place to get oriented when you’re in the southeastern part of Lane County. Hopefully my younger friends will bring other flower lovers up here in the future.

The most unusual sighting of the day was these beetles eating a large fungus. Our intrepid naturalists later identified these as two different species. The larger are ironclad beetles (Phellopsis porcata), named for their incredibly tough exoskeletons. Apparently both the larvae and adults eat fungi in old growth forests, so we were in the right place to see them. The smaller beetles look like Pippingsköld’s bark-gnawing beetle (Peltis pippingskoeldi), which are also known to eat fungi.

One of four species of monkeyflower we saw in bloom, this miniature annual is Brewer’s monkeyflower (Erythranthe breweri).

Spring phacelia was even farther along than on my previous trip. Here it is blooming alongside its perennial cousin varileaf phacelia (Phacelia heterophylla ssp. virgata), still only in bud.

Angela looks amused watching Lauren climbing back up the rocks on the cliffy side of the ridge.

Looking over the north side of the ridge, there was a colorful display of Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), broadleaf stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium), and cliff penstemon.

Lauren, Leela, and Sol had to leave earlier than I wanted to, so Angela and I drove separately and stuck around for some more exploration. Road 189 is a logging road that wraps around the east side of Bearbones. It goes through National Forest, private land that had been logged a few years ago, and back into National Forest near the ridge off to the northeast of Bearbones that I call “Bearscat Ridge” because it is close to Bearbones and I saw bear scat on my first trip there in 2006. I hadn’t been down that road in many years and remembered it being quite brushy. On my earlier trip, I’d driven partway down the road and discovered it was much clearer than years ago (before it was partly logged) and I could get close enough to walk the rest of the way to where I had accessed Bearscat Ridge almost 20 years ago. I didn’t have time on that trip, but this time, Angela and I went to explore it a bit. The road was in very good shape until past the private land. Small water bars all along the last National Forest stretch discouraged me from driving anymore, so we walked the rest of the way. The walk was easy, and I was impressed with the magnificent old growth forest we passed. Some of the trees were even larger than the majestic ones along the trail at Bearbones.

Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) appears on some of the lower levels of the ridge, along with a bright yellow sweep of seep monkeyflower (Erythranthe microphylla) and death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosus).

Angela and I were trying to photograph this pretty McCulloch’s forester moth as it flitted about nectaring on rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) when all of sudden it stopped. Unfortunately, it had been grabbed by a waiting crab spider. Not the photo I was hoping for.

On Google Earth, I had noticed a large steep meadow below the road that I wanted to explore, but upon reaching that area, it looked too steep to find in the amount of time we had (and with the energy we had left), so we continued down the road. Not surprisingly, the trees had grown up since I’d been there, and I could only get a small glimpse of Bearscat Ridge after climbing up a steep bank. However, we did see two small meadows, one on either side of the road. We spent a very pleasant hour botanizing them. One of them had quite a bit of spring phacelia (Phacelia verna), and both had the tiny candelabrum monkeyflower (Erythranthe pulsiferae). Although we hadn’t seen the monkeyflower earlier in the day, both grow up on the side ridge at Bearbones. But it is still good to find more populations of these uncommon species. One of these days, I’ll plan a whole day to explore this area in more depth.

Candelabrum monkeyflower is easily overlooked. It is an annual usually found in gaps in meadows and shrubby areas. It was just starting here in the meadow below Bearscat Ridge, so it probably hadn’t started yet up on the ridge above at Bearbones Mountain.

Angela photographing rosy plectritis and seep monkeyflower in the lower meadow below Bearscat Ridge.

One Response to “Beetles and Botany at Bearbones”

  • Leigh Blake:

    Such PERFECT ROCK GARDENS!!! This is what I wish more people understood about “Rock gardening”… What great country…and …ho hum…your knowledge never fails to amaze me!!! Beautiful photos… I love the fungus eating beetles… such wonderful little creatures…

    I will look up Bear Bones Ridge…and hopefully get up there some day…just a wonderful spot!!

    Thank you Tanya!!

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