Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

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.

Looking west, there’s a good view of nearby Bohemia Mountain (left) and Fairview Peak (right). This area burned last year in the Bohemia Fire, which started in late August. Thankfully, we had an early rain at the end of August, or this might have burned more extensively.

With high, thin cirrus clouds, it was the perfect day for some interesting atmospheric phenomena. I mistakenly climbed up the steep north side of the summit slope from farther down than usual. I won’t try that again! But I got this cool view of a colorful halo around the sun. Later there was even a partial second halo.

The death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum) was just coming into bloom on the side ridge among Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta), spring phacelia, and Olympic onion (Allium crenulatum).

I didn’t see as many insects as I’d hoped, but this bee was enjoying Sierra sanicle (Sanicula graveolens).

Smallflower woodland star (Lithophragma parviflorum) and large-flowered Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) were abundant in this section of meadow along the south side of the side ridge.

I hesitated to post this photo as it is rather gruesome, but I was fascinated that these three checkerspot butterflies were so enthusiastically feeding from a deer carcass at Big Pine Opening. I would have been less surprised to see anglewings or some other species that are commonly seen on scat, but there must have been some great minerals to be had from this poor deer. I wondered if the deer had been hit by a car and just managed to crawl off the road a bit before dying. Nature carries on, but it still makes me really sad.

Typical purple milkweed has glaucous leaves and wine-colored flowers. The milkweed was just starting to bloom up on Big Pine Opening.

One of the things I wanted to check on in the milkweed patch at Big Pine Opening was the weird plant I discovered in 2019 (see Three Trips in a Row to Rigdon). It has gotten larger, but it is still a brighter shade of green than the normal purple milkweed. I was surprised and excited to see that it was blooming for the first time, but something was very odd about the flowers!

Here’s a close up of the abnormal inflorescence of the unusual plant. I picked a single flower from a normal plant for comparison. Milkweeds have an unusual flower structure. In addition to a calyx and corolla, there’s a corona consisting of 5 petal-like structures call hoods. In the center, the stamens and styles are fused together into what is called the gynostegium. I checked the reproductive parts of a weird flower under the microscope, and it was indeed a milkweed although the corona was certainly reduced. The back of the normal flower shows an small, inconspicuous, dark purple calyx. The petals are purple, and the corona starts out white and turns purple. I think what is going on with the unusual flowers is that the large green outer structures are actually the calyx. The corolla lobes are still purple but much smaller than normal. Peeking into the still opening corolla, I could see the gynostegium and a very small corona. How bizarre!

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 »

More Botanizing Near Hills Creek Reservoir

The gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) were even more outstanding than the previous trip. They can continue to bloom for a long time as long as it stays moist.

We went to Many Creeks Meadow, as I was hoping to see the numerous Pacific hound’s tongue (Adelinia grandis, formerly Cynoglossum grande) that grow there. I’ve been having great luck seeding them around my property, and this is one of the best sites I know for seed (technically nutlets).

After days of weeding on my own property during another sunny stretch, I was ready to go out botanizing again before the rain returned. It’s still quite early, so on April 2 (4/2/24 for those like me who like numbers!), I headed back to the reservoir to see how things were progressing. It’s undoubtedly the best place I know in early spring as it tends to be warmer in the southeastern corner than in the rest of Lane County. Nancy Bray joined me again. After a half hour trying to weed the offending patch of shining geranium (Geranium lucidum) along the cliffs (I’d remembered a bag this time!), we spent a lovely, relaxing day enjoying the flowers and butterflies and the perfect sunny, 70° weather. We made a number of stops and hiked up the steep rocky meadow of Many Creeks Meadow off of Road 2129. We also spent a while watching birds in the reservoir. A number of mergansers, mallards, and a few buffleheads and Canada geese were foraging in the shallow waters of the southeast corner, while violet-green swallows had returned to the cliffs. Here are some photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Right Back to Groundhog and Warner Mountains

From the ridge above the talus slope on Warner Mountain, you can see northeast to nearby Logger Butte (the rocky spot at the top left-middle catching a little light). Talus is the favorite habitat of western boneset (Ageratina occidentalis). Its pinky purple flowers have been replaced by fluffy seed heads. While it is found at mid to high elevations, I have a plant I grew from seed that has been blooming well in my rock garden for 20 years or so.

After my previous outing (see A “Berry” Surprising Day at Groundhog and Warner Mountains), I contacted Jim Pringle, the author of the Flora of North America Gentianaceae treatment, who also assisted us with the treatment for the Flora of Oregon. He’s the person I’ve been communicating with about gentians for many years (see The Quest for Enemion Flowers at Table Rock). I attached some photos to my e-mail, including a scan of a specimen I had collected from the Warner Mountain bog for the OSU herbarium a couple of years ago. He pointed out that there was a small rosette at the base of the plant. I hadn’t recognized that as a rosette because it was so small relative to the whole plant. Read the rest of this entry »

Late Season at Mistmaiden Meadow

Beautiful fall color in the thickets of oval-leaved viburnum that grow on the slopes of Mistmaiden Meadow

In the wetland along Road 140, there were still trillium-leaved wood sorrel (Oxalis trilliifolia) in bloom. Its leaves are similar to the far more common Oregon wood sorrel (O. oregana), but the flowers are in clusters and bloom later, and they grow in very wet spots.

Thank heavens for the wonderful rain on August 31! I had been so worried we’d have to wait until October for some decent rain, like last year. We got 3/4″ of an inch at my house, probably more in the mountains. That was followed by almost a week of cool, cloudy weather, and even a little more rain. It tamped down the fires, reduced the smoke, and made it much easier for the firefighters to contain the fires. In fact, The Forest Service reduced the south end of the closure area near the Bedrock Fire. That meant I could finally return to “Mistmaiden Meadow” near Sourgrass Mountain, where I had hoped to survey throughout the flowering season. My last trip had been on July 7 (see Fourth Trip of the Year to Mistmaiden Meadow), and I’d planned to go back on July 23 until I realized the Bedrock Fire had started the day before. I had missed two whole months, so I was really anxious to get back. On September 6, the first nice day I had free after the welcome cool and rainy weather abated, I headed up there. Read the rest of this entry »

Dodder at Patterson Mountain

The meadow by the Lone Wolf Shelter was quite pretty with lots of scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja miniata) and celery-leaved lovage (Ligusticum apiifolium), but the smoke was unpleasant, so I didn’t stay long. Weeks later, this little smoke would have seemed like a good day!

A tangle of mountain dodder in the rocky meadow at Patterson Mountain

On Sunday, July 23, I left the house planning to head back up to “Mistmaiden Meadow” for my fifth every-other-week-or-so survey. As I headed toward Lowell, something looked terribly wrong. I could see an ominous bank of gray smoke to the east. I stopped to call my husband to see if he could find out where it was coming from—I don’t have a data plan on my phone, so I couldn’t check that way. It turns out the Bedrock Fire had started the afternoon before by the Bedrock Campground along Big Fall Creek Road 18. Obviously, I didn’t want to go anywhere near the fire, so Mistmaiden Meadow was out of the question. I had no idea in which direction and how far the smoke was going to move, but I also didn’t want to bail on going on an outing. I made a quick decision to go to Patterson Mountain. It was one of the closest trails to Lowell, slightly west of the fire, and south of Highway 58—the fire being over 10 miles north of the highway. I figured the smoke would mostly blow to the east, and if I was wrong and had to come home early, at least I wouldn’t have driven too far. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Balm Mountain’s Slippery Slopes

The slope right below the lookout site is extremely steep and slippery. I didn’t even attempt going down there, although someday I think I might get to the bottom by following the trees down along the north edge. The tallest points in the distance are Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey.

Great arctics have a two-year life cycle, so the adults tend to be abundant every other year. This year is an “off year,” but I’ve seen several this summer.

Balm Mountain, the highest point in the Calapooyas, has been one of my favorite places ever since I discovered it in 2010 (see First Exploration of Balm Mountain). Several times I’ve walked the trailless ridge between the old lookout at the north end and the high point at the south end, starting at both the north and south ends. What I’d never had time or energy to do was to head down the steep, gravelly slopes on the east side at the north end of the ridge. On July 18, I was on my own, so it seemed like a good time to see how much of this was traversable. Most of my friends either can’t or wouldn’t want to negotiate such a steep and unstable habitat, and I’d never ask them to. I also wanted to spend some time watching butterflies, which are particularly abundant in rocky areas of the Calapooyas when the mountain coyote mint (Monardella odoratissima) is in bloom; it had just been starting at Potter Mountain when I was there a couple of weeks earlier (see Finally Back to Potter Mountain). Read the rest of this entry »

Staying Cool at Quaking Aspen Swamp

We hit peak bloom for the sundews. These are great sundew (Drosera anglica or perhaps hybrids of anglica and the nearby D. rotundifolia).

It wasn’t a big day for butterflies, and in fact a good percentage of the ones we saw had fallen prey to the sticky sundews. This looks like another thicket hairstreak (see previous report for a photo of a live one) or Johnson’s hairstreak.

Molly Juillerat e-mailed me to see if I wanted to go out on Sunday, July 16. It was supposed to be hot, around 90° in the Valley, not my first choice of a day for an outing. But I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to go out with Molly, especially as we both knew that since she’s the district ranger, if (most likely, when) a fire started in the Middle Fork District, she wouldn’t be able to go hiking and would have to focus on fire management. Whether from active fires or smoke drifting from farther away, these days one can’t count on hiking in the Cascades in August.

This turned out to be a good decision as the Bedrock Fire started the following weekend, on July 22. Molly had been out of state the previous week, and her dogs, Loki and Pico, had a lot of pent-up energy from being left at home and were also in need of a day in the mountains. We decided to head up to Quaking Aspen Swamp—an easy half-mile hike and a wetland with lots of moisture and no hot rocks to burn the dogs’ feet. Read the rest of this entry »

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