Archive for the ‘Habitat’ Category

Butterflying with an Expert at Bristow Prairie

Neil Bjorklund at the rock garden all geared up for a day of butterfly photography.

One of the odd cat’s ears (Calochortus sp.) I’ve seen so often at Bristow Prairie. Not only does it have two extra petals, it’s not clear which species it is.

It had been almost 20 years since I’d had the opportunity to go out in the field with butterfly expert Neil Bjorklund. Neil’s website Butterflies of Oregon is the resource for the butterflies of our state, and he was a co-founder of our local chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA). On June 28, we headed up to Bristow Prairie, one of my all-time favorite spots. Neil had been to Bristow Prairie a number of times, but he hadn’t been to the small wetlands that—as far as we know at present—are the northernmost outposts of Sierra Nevada blues. He also wasn’t aware of the south-facing bald I call “the rock garden” or “Lewisia Point,” two other excellent places to see butterflies. Our trip was mutually beneficial—I showed him my favorite spots, and he taught me a lot more about identifying butterflies. Read the rest of this entry »

“Mistmaiden Meadow” Still Outstanding

Rosy plectritis paints the hillside pink as Daniel and Angela climb back up “Mistmaiden Meadow.”

Bramble green hairstreaks are really hard to tell from Sheridan’s green hairstreaks; the former has less green on the underside of the forewing and less conspicuous white markings. The best way to tell is to look around for the host food plant as they don’t travel very far from it. The road here is lined with big deervetch (Hosackia crassifolia), the main host food plant of the bramble. Sheridan’s uses buckwheats, none of which grow there. This is where a botany background really helps in learning about butterflies.

Continuing my periodic surveying of what I’m now calling “Mistmaiden Meadow,” the steep meadow on the west flank of Sourgrass Mountain, I headed back up on June 25. This time I was accompanied by fellow NPSO member Angela Soto and her partner, Daniel. My plan was pretty much to follow what Sheila Klest and I did a couple of weeks before (see Shooting Stars are Stars of a Great Day), going to Mistmaiden Meadow and then on to Elk Camp and Nevergo Meadow. Before we even got to the meadow, we had to stop for a small roadside wet spot on Road 1912 when I spotted devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus) out of the corner of my eye. This striking spiny shrub is not that common in southern Lane County, so I don’t see it too often. I’m not sure how I missed it on my previous two trips, although it probably hadn’t leafed out on my first trip this year (see Early Look at Meadow on Sourgrass Mountain).
This spot was just before the intersection where we turn left onto Road 140. Read the rest of this entry »

Insect Watching at Grassy Glade and Nearby

As soon as I arrived at Many Creeks Meadow, I spotted this pale swallowtail nectaring on the first mountain thistle (Cirsium remotifolium) flower heads.

I believe this is a Hoffman’s checkerspot—or maybe it’s a northern—I still can’t sort them out!

Although I’d already been to Grassy Glade twice this year (see NPSO Trip to Grassy Glade and Planning Trip to Grassy Glade), I hadn’t seen the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in bloom yet. On June 21st, I headed back out to Rigdon to stop at some of my favorite low-elevation spots. I started the day at “Many Creeks Meadow,” hidden away just a little way up Youngs Creek Road 2129. There were still patches of moisture to keep the wildflowers and butterflies happy. The showy tarweed (Madia elegans) was quite lovely, and there were some Oregon geranium (Geranium oreganum), narrowleaf mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia), and rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) still in bloom. I had hoped to find ripe nutlets of Pacific hound’s tongue (now Adelinia grandis) as this is one of the best places I know to find it. Although a number of inflorescences had been eaten, there were still plenty of nutlets to collect, so I was off to a good start to the day. Read the rest of this entry »

Shooting Stars are Stars of a Great Day

The population of the seep-loving beautiful shooting star was more gorgeous than I had imagined in “Mistmaiden Meadow.”

Did it just snow? Nuttall’s saxifrage coats the rocks at “Mistmaiden Meadow.”

I was really anxious to get back to the steep meadow on the east side of Sourgrass Mountain after my first trip of the season (see Early Look at Meadow on Sourgrass Mountain). Exactly two weeks after the first trip, on June 13, Sheila Klest and I went to see what was in bloom. We weren’t disappointed. It was even prettier than we expected. As soon as we stepped out into the upper part of the slope, we were greeted with a sweep of pink rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta). There was much more moisture than there had been at nearby Tire Mountain the week before (see NPSO Annual Meeting Trip to Tire Mountain). Tire Mountain is known for similar drifts of color in wetter springs, but this year was rather disappointing. Here, however, the moisture from the above-normal snowpack on Sourgrass was trickling down to the meadow and keeping it fresh in spite of a month with little or no rain. 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.

Early Look at Meadow on Sourgrass Mountain

Thompson’s mistmaiden was abundant on the seepy parts of the slope (which is most of it!).

I was surprised to find this checkerspot caterpillar wandering around some wholeleaf saxifrage (Micranthes integrifolia), which is definitely not a host food plant. Neither is Thompson’s mistmaiden, the little flowers popping up among the saxifrage leaves. There must have been some paintbrush nearby.

My last report of 2022 was about two late-season trips to hidden meadows in the area near Saddleblanket and Sourgrass mountains (see Exploring Two New Meadows). I was really excited about getting to see the meadows in bloom this year, especially the large one off of Road 140 on the west flank of Sourgrass Mountain. Having already been to nearby Tire Mountain (see Early Season at Tire Mountain), I had seen the lush green meadow from the north side of the ridge, and I knew the road was clear to Windy Pass. On May 30, Nancy Bray accompanied me, hoping for a first look at the early spring flowers in the big meadow. We had also planned to try to get to the other meadow and nearby Elk Camp and Nevergo Meadow, just a few more miles to the north, but we were stopped by a single patch of snow blocking Road 140. Luckily, we were only half a mile from the first meadow, so we walked the rest of the way up the road, which was clear of snow except in some ditches. There were still some glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) and fresh western trilliums (Trillium ovatum) in the freshly melted-out ditches and road banks on our way up. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Early Season at Tire Mountain

Spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa) is one of the treats for those who do early botanizing in rocky areas. The yellow flowers of spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum) were just starting to appear.

My first caterpillars of the year! These two checkerspot caterpillars have overwintered as small caterpillars, so they may have woken up recently. Between the spines and the distasteful iridoid glycosides in the harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), they are well protected from predators and can relax in the open.

Both Molly Juillerat and I are leading trips to Tire Mountain during the Native Plant Society of Oregon‘s annual meeting next week, so on May 20, we headed up there together to see if the road and trail were open and how the plants were looking. The cold, wet April slowed spring down, but the hot and dry May weather that followed created an odd combination of the flowers barely having started, while the moss was already dried out. The typically great show of annuals, including seep monkeyflower (Erythranthe microphylla), large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora), rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta), and bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata) will probably be disappointing, but hopefully the deep roots of many of the perennials like deltoid balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) and the four different species of lomatium (L. hallii, utriculatum, nudicaule, and dissectum) will still be tapping April moisture for a while. And, of course, we are still praying for rain in June before the actual summer drought starts! Read the rest of this entry »

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