Archive for the ‘Habitat’ Category

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 spots 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. 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.

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!

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 »

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 »

Autumn at Hills Peak

The fall color was outstanding in the wetland east of Hills Peak, mostly from the vast stretches of bog huckleberries.

A Cascades frog floating in one of the many channels near the lake.

On October 5th, John Koenig and I headed up to Hills Peak at the east end of the Calapooya Mountains. We both wanted to get in one more trip to the Calapooyas before winter, and we were looking for an easy trip—especially after John had injured his knee on our last trip out together (see Butterflying on Coal Creek Road). There are many places of interest around Hills Peak, so we can never see them all. On this trip, we made three stops: a wetland, the top of the peak, and the talus at the north end.

It was a gorgeous fall day. The clear blue sky was heavenly after months of smoke. We headed first to the large wetland east of the peak off of Road 2154, where there is a shallow lake and bog. While there was little left in bloom, the fall color was outstanding. The backlit huckleberries made the area look like it was on fire—but in a good way. Read the rest of this entry »

Last Day of Summer at Lopez Lake

Lopez Lake has a lot of interesting and uncommon aquatic plants. Near the inlet of the lake, you can see the large, spreading leaves of alpine pondweed (Potamogeton alpinus), the narrow, upright leaves of small bur-reed (Sparganium natans), and the delicate, feathery, trailing stems of lesser bladderwort (Utricularia minor). Earlier in the season, the surface of the wider part of the lake is decorated with the showy white flowers of arumleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria cuneata).

The pretty pool of pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) at Zen Meadow was almost completely dried out. The large fruits were ripening. I’d never looked closely at the capsules or seeds before.

On September 22, I accompanied Alan Butler and Dave Predeek for a trip to the Lopez Lake area, southeast of Oakridge. Neither of them had been there before, so I wanted to show them the lake and some of the other interesting sites along Road 5884. It was officially the last day of summer, but it seemed like a beautiful fall day to me. It was only my fifth trip to Lopez Lake over the course of 11 years, and it was the latest in the year I’d been there. Things were much drier than on my past trips—not surprising considering how long it had been since we’d had real rain, and there were very few flowers left, but it was an interesting trip nonetheless. We headed all the way up the road to the talus slope first, and then stopped at the small hidden wetland John Koenig and I named “Zen Meadow” before walking down to Lopez Lake. On our way back, we checked out another hidden wetland and—new for me—a hidden lake. Here are some photographic highlights of our terrific trip. Read the rest of this entry »

A “Berry” Surprising Day at Groundhog and Warner Mountains

The star plant of the day was probably western mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina) with its shiny red berries. It was abundant along the roadsides. The large meadow in back is on Little Groundhog Mountain, more or less the south end of Groundhog Mountain.

In late summer, the gorgeous berries of wax currant (Ribes cereum) ripen, and the leaves develop a waxy coating.

After hearing from my friend Doramay Keasbey that Road 2120 was actually in pretty good condition, I decided I really needed to get back to Groundhog Mountain sometime this year. I used to go multiple times a year as it is one of my favorite places and has so many different interesting botanical spots to check out. With the fire danger finally reduced and the smoke no longer affecting the area (unfortunately for Doramay, it was pretty bad for her and her friend Pat when they went in early August), I was finally able to return on September 13. I was accompanied by fellow Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO) member Angela Soto, who had never been to this terrific botanical area. Due to the smoke and fire danger, I didn’t get out much in August and went alone as I was never sure until morning what the air quality would be like. It was wonderful to get back to “business as usual” and to be able to take another plant lover with me. Read the rest of this entry »

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