Archive for the ‘Forest’ Category

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 about 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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

Return to Tidbits

My first pika of the year! As soon as we reached the talus, I stopped to look for pikas. My husband spotted this one right away. It actually appeared to be running toward us, but I’m guessing it was just looking for its own safe spot. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a clear view before it disappeared under the rocks.

On July 11, My husband, Jim, and I were joined by our friend Peter Gallagher on a trip to Tidbits Mountain. It had been 5 years since I’d been there, but Jim hadn’t been for 20 years, and it had been quite a while for Peter as well.

On our way back to the car, we passed this wasp with an impressive ovipositor (not a stinger!). Apparently, it is a Norton’s giant ichneumonid wasp (Megarhyssa nortoni). According to Wikipedia, they live in the forest, where their larvae are parasitoids of the larvae of horntail wasps.

It was interesting to see how the combination of above-normal winter snowpack and early summer drought manifested in the bloom period. The spring flowers were long gone in most places. As I expected, the gravelly areas west of the summit were completely toasted with only a few species still in bloom. 2012 was also a high snowpack year but followed by a “normal” spring. My trip that year on July 9 (see Off the Beaten Track at Tidbits) was completely different with gorgeous flowers covering the south-facing gravelly slope of what I call “the wall.”

I was surprised, however, that not only were there fresh spring flowers on the north-facing talus slope, there were several patches of snow remaining along the edges of the bottom slope. The trail was also in worse shape than I’ve ever seen it. We had to negotiate many fallen trees. The last section of road wasn’t in great shape either, and we wished we had parked at the bottom and walked after almost getting stuck going up. Still, we enjoyed our hike. No matter the season, the rock formations are always gorgeous. Here are some photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

NPSO Annual Meeting Trip to Tire Mountain

Mark Turner never goes anywhere without all his photography gear, and he was determined to get us all to pose for a group photo by the beautiful display of deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)—the classic photo op at Tire Mountain. We grumbled a little, but everyone dutifully stopped, and another helpful hiker ended up taking some pictures of all of us, including Mark.

The west end of the main “dike” meadow had a very good display of Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii). Among them were an unusual number of white- and pale purple-flowered plants.

On the last day of the Native Plant Society of Oregon‘s 2023 Annual Meeting, I took a group of plant lovers to Tire Mountain. It had been a couple of weeks since Molly Juillerat and I did our prehike (see Early Season at Tire Mountain), and it was even drier than on that trip. But I was relieved to see how many perennials were just carrying on as usual, so there was still plenty to see—even if the trail wasn’t up to its usual June splendor. While the rest of the Sunday trips for the meeting were supposed to be only half day, everyone was warned this would be a longer day and could leave early if they needed to. But the weather was just perfect for hiking, and everyone was having such an enjoyable day of botanizing that we all returned to the trailhead together. Thanks to all the participants for being such troopers! And thanks to Willow Elliot and Angela Soto for getting everyone organized in Eugene before meeting me in Lowell. Here are a few highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

NPSO Trip to Grassy Glade

The group checking out the monkeyflower and annual clovers in the areas of Grassy Glade that were still moist.

Someone spotted several morels along the edge of Staley Creek.

On Saturday, June 3rd, I took a group of folks attending the Native Plant Society of Oregon‘s Annual Meeting (first one since the pandemic!) to Grassy Glade and Staley Creek Bridge. We didn’t have as much time as I would like for a field trip as we had to get back to Eugene in time for the banquet and other evening festivities. But it was a perfect day for a field trip, and we had a chance to look at some of the diversity of the Rigdon area, exploring both the meadows and dry forest at Grassy Glade and the wet creekside habitat and lusher forest along Staley Creek. Unfortunately, the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) that I had hoped to show everyone still wasn’t in bloom, and in fact didn’t look much farther along than it had been the week before on my prehike (see Planning Trip to Grassy Glade). It was new plant for many people, however, and they enjoyed the handsome foliage. Hopefully, everyone found something new and interesting. Here are some highlights of our trip.

White-tip clover (Trifolium variegatum) is a common annual clover of seepy meadows, but it is often quite tiny and easily overlooked.

This interesting looking underwater growth in Staley Creek is Nostoc parmelloides, a cyanobacteria that forms colonies in cold creeks. I hadn’t noticed it on my previous trips but had seen it up in the Calapooyas a few years back (see More Discoveries along the Calapooya Crest). Tiny midge larvae develop in the flattened colonies.

Some of us were lucky enough to spot the dipper in the usual spot right where the water plunges down at the narrowest part of the creek. Unfortunately, it flew off before everyone got to see it. I could not relocate the nest that I had seen on previous years (see More Exploration Near Grassy Glade).

I was happy to see the tiny candelabrum monkeyflower (Erythranthe pulsiferae) was still blooming well. It’s an uncommon plant that most people hadn’t seen before.

Although we were trying to get back to Eugene by 4:30, I couldn’t help making a quick stop to show people all the paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) on the reservoir cliffs. We also saw the lovely pale yellow Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) that has been growing right by the road for many years.

Planning Trip to Grassy Glade

I do hope that some of the beautiful purple milkweed will be in bloom on our upcoming trip to Grassy Glade!

Beautiful harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) blooms along the road by Hills Creek Reservoir.

On Saturday, May 27, I headed out to the Rigdon area to plan the field trip I’m leading for the Native Plant Society of Oregon Annual Meeting the following Saturday. I want to give people a taste of the interesting plants in this area that are more common to the south, especially the lovely purple (or heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) that I’ve written about so many times. I’ve been crossing my fingers that we will see some in bloom somewhere, but with the crazy shift in weather this spring, it’s hard to anticipate how the plants are going to react. There are lots of great places in the Rigdon area, but I wanted to know which would work best for our non-trail field trip.

I drove straight to Grassy Glade and parked along the side road near the beginning of the meadow. I did a quick spin through the meadow, which was half baked and half moist. On the road in, I had noticed some of the potholes were partly filled with water. Obviously, some of the thunderstorms that I’d heard had occurred out here had blessed the area with some much-needed moisture—there hasn’t been a drop for almost three weeks at my house. My guess is that some of the meadow had already dried out before the rain, while the moister parts had been refreshed before the annuals died. Spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum) and many species of clover (Trifolium spp.) had started along with the cute narrow-leaf owl’s clover (Castilleja attenuata). Read the rest of this entry »

Very Early Look at Patterson Mountain

A very early look at the wet meadow near the Lone Wolf Shelter. Snow lingered on the far side of the meadow and behind the thicket of Douglas’ hawthorns (Crataegus gaylussacia). John and I only walked over as far as where the meltwater was flowing across the meadow. No drying out here yet!

Crab spiders regularly hide on flowers (can you spot it?) awaiting unsuspecting pollinators, but I’ve never seen one on skunk cabbage before!

John Koenig will be leading a trip to Patterson Mountain for the Native Plant Society of Oregon Annual Meeting the first weekend of June, so I joined him and his wife, Deborah, for a look at the trail on May 25. We were very relieved to find the road open, although there was a large snowbank just past the trailhead parking, so we probably couldn’t have even gotten to the trail much earlier. We had to cross a couple of large mounds of snow, and there were still some patches in the meadows, so the flowering season had only just begun. While the deep snow pack was melting fast from the hot, dry May we’ve been having, I’m guessing that—unlike Tire Mountain (see Early Season at Tire Mountain)—the plants here were all protected from the heat waves by the snow. Not only is Patterson Mountain several hundred feet higher in elevation than Tire Mountain, but its more level areas are able to collect far more snow than the steep slopes of Tire.

 

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