Friends and Flowers at Bristow Prairie

I first started hiking with Molly Juillerat in 2008, soon after she first became the botanist for the Middle Fork District of the Willamette National Forest, what I consider my “home” district since it is the closest to me and where I spend most of my time botanizing. In 2017, she was promoted to deputy ranger and a few years later to ranger in charge of the Middle Fork District. While her j0b has always kept her busy in the summer—especially these last few years of organizing the response to the large fires in the district—we’ve always tried to get out together at least a couple of times a year. I’ve made it a point to show her and other official botanists any interesting plants I find. With all the duties the Forest Service employees have, they don’t usually have the freedom to poke around cliffs and bogs the way I do, and I want to make sure they know where there are rare and unusual plants that need to be protected. I’ve always enjoyed getting out to these botanically interesting places with Molly and her dogs. Read the rest of this entry »

Baby Insects in the Rigdon Area

I believe this interesting insect is the nymph of a bush katydid. It looks like it might have just molted as you can see an empty shell under the flower of snapdragon skullcap (Scutellaria antirrhinoides). It sure is cute!

A hairstreak caterpillar wrapped around the fruit of rose checkermallow.

Low elevation seeds were starting to ripen, and the weather was still cool (little did I know then how hot it would get!), so on June 24th, I decided to spend a day collecting seeds around the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County. I had vague plans of the favorite places I wanted to stop by but ended up changing my plans all day. I had planned to head straight south of Hills Creek Reservoir, but as I left Oakridge, I remembered that the stretch of roadside meadows along the north end of the lake (east of the dam, less than 2 miles on Road 23) was the only easy place in the area to get silver lupine (Lupinus albifrons) seeds. When I arrived there, they were mostly gone, but the seeds (technically mericarps) of rose checkermallow (Sidalcea asprella [malviflora] ssp. virgata) were ripe and abundant. That reminded me I had seen caterpillars on them in the past. Once I started looking, I spotted at least 9 greenish to pink slug-like caterpillars—most likely those of gray hairstreaks. A great start to the day! Read the rest of this entry »

Monitoring an Invasive at Tire Mountain

The stretch of deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) along the trail is always a favorite spot for photographs.

Emily looking at an almost solid spread of knawel that was yellowing as it died back.

Many years ago, I noticed a weed in the large meadow at Tire Mountain I call the dike meadow because of the prominent dike at the east end. It is called Scleranthus annuus and goes by the unusual name of annual knawel. Like some other members of Caryophyllaceae, the pink family or carnation family, it has inconspicuous, petalless flowers. It would be easy to miss if it didn’t spread so badly. I’d more or less forgotten about it and hadn’t realized how large the population had become, in spite of passing it numerous times over the years. Luckily, Bruce Newhouse had noticed and called attention to it to the botanists at the Middle Fork District of the Willamette National Forest. On June 20th, I accompanied Leela Hickman, the assistant botanist, along with seasonals Sol and Emily and a crew of four interns from the Student Conservation Association to take a look at the knawel. Of course, we looked at all the native wildflowers as well. Leela was the only one of them who’d been to Tire Mountain, and that was on the trip I led for the Native Plant Society of Oregon last year (see NPSO Annual Meeting Trip to Tire Mountain). So other than seeing how bad the knawel had spread, everyone enjoyed the beautiful display of wildflowers and the many interesting insects at one of the best wildflower trails in the district. Read the rest of this entry »

Glorious Day at the Summit of Cone Peak

The steepest part of the 700′ climb up to the summit from the trail is when you’re almost at the top. But you want to go slowly to look at all the flowers anyway.

Sheila and I were intrigued by this dead tree. Pileated woodpeckers commonly make rectangular-shaped holes in dead trees, and there were some higher up, but I’ve never seen them carve up a tree so thoroughly. We thought it looked like a totem pole. You can see the huge pile of wood chips at the base. There was a smaller one on the other side of the trail.

Sheila Klest and I had planned to go to Cone Peak the previous week, but I had to cancel at the last moment after barely sleeping the night before. Even if I could have handled the long drive and hike, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it on two hours of sleep. It’s tough finding a time when Sheila can get away from her native plant nursery, Trillium Gardens, so I was relieved she was able to reschedule to go up there with me on Thursday, June 13. Coincidentally, that the was the exact date and day of our previous trip (see A Rainbow of Colors at Cone Peak and Iron Mountain), but we hadn’t made it to the summit that time, and the bloom season was a little farther ahead of this year.

I had wanted to get up there as early as possible to see the first flowers while there were still a few snow banks left. My early-season trip with Sabine Dutoit back in 2008 (see Top of Cone Peak Starting to Bloom) is still one of my favorite experiences. While it was later in June, that was an above-average snow year, so we walked over snow drifts with snowmelt species blooming in the newly bare spots to get to the top of Cone Peak where the bloom was gorgeous. What makes Cone Peak such a great place to see very early flowers is that you can hike from a paved road that is cleared of snow in June. Most of my other high-elevation spots require going up long gravel roads, so the earliest plants are often done before the roads are clear of snow and downed trees. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Mistmaiden Meadow Pretty as a Picture

The rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) was kicking in but not quite at peak bloom yet. There was also lots of slender cryptantha (Cryptantha affinis) and coastal manroot (Marah oreganus). The great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) had just barely started.

Shooting stars have downward-pointing flowers with reflexed petals in order to accommodate buzz pollination by bumblebees. There were lots of bumblebees taking advantage of the abundance of beautiful shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum) throughout the meadow. I was disappointed by the relative lack of butterflies but happy to see some pollinators.

On June 7, I took my husband, Jim, to see “Mistmaiden Meadow” on the west edge of Sourgrass Mountain. Although he’s not particularly interested in plants, we both feel safer if he’s familiar with all the places I visit regularly, in case he ever does have to come to my rescue. There are nice rocks and a view, and it was a lovely day to get out. If he’d stayed home, he would have spent the day doing chores like wood-splitting, so at least it was a nice change of pace.

The slope was still quite moist and lush with lots of colorful flowers. We’d missed the very earliest bloom, but there was still lots of the sweet Thompson’s mistmaiden (Romanzoffia thompsonii) that I named the site after. The very similar Nuttall’s saxifrage (Cascadia nuttallii) was just starting but will soon take over the seepy slopes. It is worth visiting this lovely and quiet spot multiple times during the flowering season. I was able to confirm my mystery cherry from my last trip last year (see Late Season at Mistmaiden Meadow) as choke cherry (Prunus virginiana) and added four other new species to my growing plant list for the site, so it felt successful as well as relaxing. And seeing a bear run across the road in front of us on our way home was like the cherry on top of a sundae—and the most exciting part of the day for Jim! Here are some pretty pictures of our very pleasant day. Read the rest of this entry »

First Trip of the Year to Bearbones Mountain

I was able to get close to some beautiful cliff paintbrush (Castilleja rupicola) on my way up the north side of the summit. Most of the other plants I saw were out of reach.

I recently heard from Chad Sageser that he had cleared the roads (2127 and 5850) to Bearbones Mountain of fallen trees. What a hero! With all the interesting early plants on this old lookout site, I decided to head up there as soon as possible. On May 31, I drove up there by myself. I’d missed the earliest flowers—only a couple of glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) were still blooming—but the rest of the flowers were beautiful, and there was more spring phacelia (Phacelia verna) than I’d ever seen before. I was a bit tired, so I didn’t make it as far down the side ridge as I usually go. I also wanted to save a little energy for a quick but steep trip up to the top of Big Pine Opening (the big open slope along Road 21 at the intersection of Rd 2135) at the end of the day. This is the lowest site of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) we know of in the Middle Fork district, so I wanted to see how far along the bloom was. Here are some highlights.

Looking to the northeast from the summit, you can see the snowy Three Sisters in the distance. You can also see the extensive damage of the 2022 Cedar Creek Fire, which burned from Waldo Lake all the way to west of Blair Lake. The nearby ridge I named Bearscat Ridge, but I haven’t been back up there since 2007.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking About Climate Change at Youngs Rock

The north side of Youngs Rock is hard to get close to. Although there’s no talus, the slope is still quite steep and slippery, and the rock outcrops are not all stable. It reminds me of a Japanese garden. With binoculars, I could see lots of blooming Oregon fawn-lilies and a single cliff paintbrush, but I didn’t feel comfortable trying to get close to them like I did when I first started coming here.

The south side of the rock is really craggy and supports many interesting plants in its cracks. It’s open but also really hard to get up close to because of the slippery and steep talus at its base. Better have binoculars!

On May 26, Lauren Meyer and I spent a beautiful day hiking up to Youngs Rock. It was sunny but only in the low 70s—pretty much perfect. In my work for the Flora of Oregon, I had just read through a draft copy of a chapter on climate change that will be part of the third and final volume of the flora. I couldn’t help but look at what we saw along the trail through the lens of climate change. We discussed it quite a bit as well. The Youngs Rock trail follows a south-facing ridge in the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County. We hiked the middle stretch—my favorite part through a string of meadows—from about 3100′ to Youngs Rock itself, an impressive pillar rock, at about 4500′. There are a number of plants here that are near the most northerly edge of their range. These include whisker brush (Leptosiphon ciliatus), ground rose (Rosa spithamea), birdbeak (Cordylanthus sp., I’m still unsure how to distinguish the species), and many-stemmed sedge (Carex multicaulis). I’d only discovered the latter a couple of years ago (see Back to Lower Meadows of Youngs Rock) and was surprised at how much more there was along the lower stretches of the trail. I’ll admit I don’t spend much time on graminoids, and this sedge looks more like a rush (Juncus spp.) than a sedge. Farther up the trail, where we didn’t go on this trip, is the most northerly site (so far) for galium broomrape (Aphyllon epigalium). With the caveat that I’m not a scientist, I would think these meadows might adapt to climate change fairly well and could even become home to more species adapted to the hotter regions to the south, though I suspect  blooming periods might move up. Read the rest of this entry »

Long-awaited Return to Mosaic Rock

The more-or-less east end of the rock above the road.

I spotted a small area of spring phacelia at Mosaic Rock. This is a new site for this easily overlooked species, which is only found in Douglas and southern Lane counties.

My husband isn’t excited about little plants the way I am, and waiting for me while I try to photograph butterflies isn’t his favorite way to spend the day either. So we don’t hike together all that often. But he does really like rocks, and I’d been wanting to take him to the amazing rock formation in the Rigdon area that Sabine and I named “Mosaic Rock” (43.4808°N, -122.4539°W) back in 2011 (see Amazing Rock Feature Worthy of a Name). It’s a magnificent example of columnar jointing, and the cracks provide a foothold for several special cliff-loving plants, including cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola) and Merriam’s alumroot (Heuchera merriamii). It’s several hundred feet high in places, about 1400′ long and less than 200′ wide, and reminds me of a giant that looks like a flying saucer or frisbee that crashed into the ground on its edge. While I had driven by it many times in the last decade since you pass under it on the way up to Bristow Prairie, I hadn’t explored the rock itself since that first trip. We finally made it there on May 20, on a perfect sunny but cool day. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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