Archive for the ‘Roadside’ Category

Searching for Color on Halloween

This handsome madrone (Arbutus menziesii) is growing on Rabbitbrush Ridge. It was laden with bright red berries. Beneath it is an unusually colorful, low-growing Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana). In the foreground are the silvery stalks of rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa). The species’ abundance here elicited my name for this steep, rocky ridge.

One goal of my outing was to come home with seeds of the very late-blooming autumn knotweed (Polygonum spergulariiforme). I have a small population on my property that I’m working on expanding. Anything still blooming at the end of October is worth having, no matter how small its flowers.

With the days getting shorter and colder and the damp days increasing (I’m not complaining—after this summer I’m so thankful for wet weather!), I was looking for a dry and, hopefully, sunny day for one last trip into the mountains before winter really sets in. While the sun was playing peek-a-boo behind the clouds all day, at least it was dry on October 31, and I was able to head out to the Rigdon area. I decided to stay at fairly low elevation given the clouds and limited time and headed for Grassy Glade, stopping along the way for anything that looked colorful or interesting. And once I got to Grassy Glade and walked down to the end of the road past the meadow, I had just enough time to head down to “Rabbitbrush Ridge” where the last flowers of rubber rabbitbrush were still in evidence. It was a pleasant if unexciting day—hopefully enough to sustain me until the flowers reappear in February and March. I didn’t expect there would be much to photograph, but as you can see, I found plenty of interesting plants on my end-of-season trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Studying Gentians at Warner Mountain

Few flowers are as gorgeous as gentians in full bloom. While most of these were single-flowered, a number of them had three flowers to a stalk. The Cascade grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia cirrata) was also coming into bloom, although these three buds hadn’t opened yet.

After several years of bad timing, I finally hit the perfect time to collect milkweed seed at Grassy Glade.

Since the bog gentians (Gentiana calycosa) had only just started on my previous trip to Warner Mountian (see Warner Mountain Botanizing), I was determined to get a better look at them, so I returned by myself on August 9. By this time, the Middle Fork Complex fires had started (after a July 29th thunderstorm went through the district), and finding a day when the smoke wasn’t too bad was difficult. But I was getting tired of being stuck at home, I figured it would only get worse as the summer wore on, and the day seemed like it might be okay. I drove through heavy smoke between Lowell and Westfir, just south of the Gales Fire, and was questioning my plans, but it wasn’t so bad heading south along Hills Creek Reservoir. My first stop was to Big Pine Opening to look for purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) seed, but it had already all blown away, so I continued on to Grassy Glade, a couple of thousand feet higher in elevation. Not only were the milkweed pods still cracking open, but I was above the smoke, so I was very pleased and spent a little while there collecting seeds and wandering around before continuing on to my main goal.

From the end of the road at Grassy Glade, I was above the smoke that had settled into the valleys and over Hills Creek Reservoir overnight, but it continued to rise all day. Warner Mountain is on the upper right of the photo, still above the smoke at this point.

While listening to a pika under the rocks I was standing on, I admired the magenta bracts covering the filberts (Corylus cornuta) from a small shrub above me. I’ve only seen them turn this color high in the mountains. Perhaps it has to do with cold temperatures. I have no idea what the benefit would be to the plant, but I wish the filberts on my property were this beautiful.

Heading up to Warner Mountain, I noticed the road seemed to be in better shape than I remembered. When I came to some road maintenance vehicles parked along the side, I was thrilled that the Forest Service was dealing with the potholes at last. My joy was short-lived, however, as they hadn’t finished the job. The dirt and gravel had been dumped but none of the grading done. It was not a pleasant few miles going over the rough road. I was quite relieved to finally make it past the road work (about at the intersection of the road that connects with 2129 and 2120) without flatting a tire; that had happened to me once when they were grading the road up to Table Rock Wilderness in Clackamas County a few miles ahead of me, and I never want to repeat that.

My first stop was up at the lookout. Some barking above alerted me that the woman staffing the lookout was up there with her dog. We chatted a bit, and she told me the smoke came and went every day, getting a bit worse in the afternoons, as I could see it was starting to do. I had thought about going back via the lower part of Road 2120 to avoid the rough road and was glad to hear that was the way she came up every day. I used to go to Groundhog Mountain that way, but the upper part of the road was getting pretty bad, so I hadn’t been on it in years. That made me more relaxed about my return.

I was very glad to see more of the rare green-flowered wild ginger (Asarum wagneri) growing in the talus slope. While it was well past blooming, it can be recognized by the very wide, floppy leaves. In bloom above it was pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea).

Like the previous trip, I headed out the ridge north of the lookout. This time, I went farther to the north before heading down. It got quite brushy, but I was able to reach an open section of talus slope where I thought I’d seen western boneset (Ageratina occidentalis) from the road once while driving by. Sure enough, it was there and in bloom. I really love this pretty plant. Its late-blooming pinky purple flowers are beloved by bees and butterflies. I have a plant in my rock garden that I grew from seed many years ago. Both species of wild ginger were creeping among the rocks and under the many shrubs. Some heavenly scented mock orange was still blooming. While the few mock orange plants on my property grow in damp woods, in the Cascades, they are most frequently found in talus slopes and on cliffs. The rest of the many shrubs had finished blooming and were covered with an array of colorful fruits: bright red bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata), almost black cascara (Rhamnus purshiana), and unusually bright red to magenta filberts.

Western boneset is a late-blooming rayless composite, reminiscent of a purple goldenrod, and is a great source of nectar for butterflies and bees. It especially loves talus slopes and rock piles. Underneath it was growing the common long-tailed wild ginger (Asarum caudatum), which though commonly found in the forest, also likes talus slopes, if they’re cool enough.

My favorite denizen of talus slopes is the adorable pika. I looked around for clues that they occupied this talus and was happy to see scat although I didn’t see any caches. But while examining the filberts, I heard the wonderful exclamations of a pika right underneath me. That made my day! I waited a while, but no little face popped up to see what I was doing. Still, it is reassuring to know they are there.

I was stunned to see the water continuing to flow well from the source spring. It had been over 7 weeks since the last rain, and of course, the weather had been excessively hot. It was great to be somewhere that wasn’t totally baked.

Ants were crawling deep down in many of the gentian flowers I looked at.

From the lookout area, I headed back west to the gentian bog. The gorgeous blue gentians were in very good bloom at this point. I spent quite a while looking carefully at the plants and the flowers in particular. I opened several up to see the inside of the deep tube. I was surprised to see tiny ants running around at the base. I looked down into a number of other flowers and saw ants in many of them. They must have been getting nectar. I wonder if they were contributing at all to the pollination. Even though there seemed to be far fewer bees around, they are much more efficient pollinators, but every bit helps.

I collected a gentian plant for the OSU Herbarium as this is the only location I know of in the area with this species growing in a bog the way it does in the High Cascades. I wrote about the morphological differences I had noticed between the rock and bog forms of the gentian in a post 10 years ago (see Singing the Blues at Tidbits). Most of the differences (leaf size, general growth habit, stem color) could be attributed to the difference between growing in sunny bogs vs. shady rocks. But one thing I’ve noticed that seems more significant to me is that the calyx lobes in the bog ones are arranged unevenly. I haven’t noticed that in ones I see growing in rocky habitat. These bog gentians were very similar to the ones from Jefferson Park in that character as well as the others. Still no conclusions on my Gentiana calycosa mystery, but I’m gathering more good data!

I tore this bog gentian flower so I could see it flattened out. Notice how the calyx lobes are unevenly spaced: three on one side and two on the other. The plants I’ve seen growing in rocky areas have five evenly spaced lobes that are bent outward. This doesn’t seem like an adaptation to habitat.

On my way home, I made a brief stop at Moon Point and walked some ways down the trail before deciding that the smoke was getting worse. I headed home by turning at the main intersection before reaching the part of the road that was in the middle of being regarded. There is a little pond on the way down. I decided to make a quick stop there to see if I could find anything interesting. Old floating-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton natans) and pond lily (Nuphar polysepala) were growing in the pond. But I was most happy to see a number of large chinquapins (Chrysolepis chrysophylla) in full bloom along the roadside. They were attracting ants, bees, a pine white, and golden hairstreaks—and best of all, I was able to get some fresh flowers for my gray hairstreak caterpillar at home to munch on (see previous post, A Stowaway from Eagles Rest)! Knowing that it was unlikely I would be able (or willing ) to go out in the smoke again, that was a great way to end the day and my summer botanizing.

Exciting Day at Spring Prairie

A rufous hummingbird nectaring on Cooley’s hedgenettle

An Anna’s blue on a fading lupine. I’ll have to come back when they are in bloom to try to ID the lupines.

On July 25, Nancy Bray and her husband, Herb, invited my husband Jim and me to join them on a trip to Blair Lake and nearby Spring Prairie. It was a bit hazy from fires to the south but otherwise a lovely day. When we got to the intersection of Road 733 that goes up to Spring Prairie, we made a quick decision to go up there first. I was pleased to see the road was in better shape than I remembered (no more trench down the middle of one section) as it had been quite some time since I’d driven up there although I had walked up the trail from Blair Lake last year (see Beargrass Season at Blair Lake).

We drove straight up to the edge of Spring Prairie and parked the car. On getting out, I immediately noticed lots of butterflies flying about in the large, mostly beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) meadow. Other than some fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) blooming farther downhill, nothing was in flower. So what were all these butterflies doing here? Growing among the beargrass was quite a bit of lupine (Lupinus sp.) with immature fruits. The butterflies all seemed to be Anna’s blues (Plebejus anna). If you guessed that they use lupines and other legumes as host plants, you’d be right. They appeared to be mating and laying eggs. I started searching the plants carefully. It took only a few minutes to spot the first egg, looking much like a tiny white sea urchin shell after the spines fall off. I’d never seen one before, but I recognized it from the similar hedgerow hairstreak eggs I’d seen a couple of years ago. What a great start to the day! I continued to look for eggs and found quite a few more, laid on stems and pods as well as leaves. Read the rest of this entry »

Warner Mountain Botanizing

A western white (?) met its demise in this patch of round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).

An outstanding show of scarlet paintbrush below the lookout. I was surprised there weren’t more hummingbirds fighting over it.

My most exciting day of last year was finding explorer’s (or bog) gentians (Gentiana calycosa) at Warner Mountain (see Hidden Bog on Warner Mountain). I wanted to spend some more time looking at the population there this year, and I also wanted to share the hidden site with some friends, so on July 22nd, John Koenig, Sheila Klest, and Betsy Parry joined me for a trip to Warner Mountain. It was three days earlier than last year’s trip, but with this year’s extreme drought and heat, I was sure the blooming would be quite a bit earlier. I had also decided boots would be unnecessary as it would most likely be drying out. Boy, was I wrong! I was quite astounded, in fact, to find the bog not only still quite wet, and all the little creeks still running well, but the gentians had barely started. It was pretty much exactly the way I had found it on July 25, 2020. Considering it was a month after the awful record-breaking heatwave and no rain for longer than that, I couldn’t believe how fresh and moist everything was. Where was all this water that appears at the top of the bog coming from? The bog is only about 150′ lower than the top of the ridge above it, so it is not like it is getting water trickling down from much higher up. Read the rest of this entry »

Butterflying in the Calapooyas

A serene image of yellow pond lilies (Nuphar polysepala) at Bradley Lake

A female Sierra Nevada blue nectaring on sticky tofieldia. This common wetland plant turns out to be very interesting. Scientists have recently discovered that the tiny insects that get stuck in the sticky glands on the stems are actually absorbed by the plant—it’s partly carnivorous! Thankfully, it’s incapable of catching large insects like butterflies. I wish I’d read this before I was up there so I could have looked for insects on the plants.

I was so happy to have gotten back to the Calapooyas (see Return to Loletta Peak) that when Alison Center contacted me to see if I could tell her where to find Sierra Nevada blues or join her for a trip up to where I’ve seen them, I jumped at the chance to go with her. Alison is not only the president of our local North American Butterfly Association chapter, she’s now the wildlife biologist for the Middle Fork District of the Forest Service. And she’d never been up Coal Creek Road to Loletta Lakes or Bradley Lake, so this was actually “work” for her!

So on July 8, we headed up Coal Creek Road 2133 to the wetland east of Loletta Lakes where Molly and I had just seen the Sierra Nevada blues. As it was only five days later, I was pretty sure they’d still be there—and indeed they were, still flitting about and drinking from sticky tofieldia (Triantha occidentalis). There were other butterflies and bees, so we enjoyed watching all the insects. Read the rest of this entry »

NPSO Field Trip to Moon Point

Relaxing by the lookout. The foliage of beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax) is really soft comfortable to sit and lie on.

Heading down the overgrown trail. The tall foliage on the left is alpine knotweed (Aconogonon phytolaccifolium).

On July 10, eleven (vaccinated) nature lovers gathered at the Middle Fork Ranger Station in Westfir for a field trip to Moon Point sponsored by the Native Plant Society. Jenny Moore, district botanist, was the official leader of the trip, but since she hadn’t been to Moon Point before our pre-hike a month earlier (see Early Bloomers at Moon Point), she asked me to co-lead. What with the pandemic, it was the first field trip I’d led in quite a while.

We had a lovely day up at Moon Point. The plants had grown like crazy since our earlier trip, so the trail looked very different. While a number of flowers were past peak with this summer’s heat and drought, there were still some showy species like skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata) and mountain owl’s clover (Orthocarpus imbricatus) in good bloom as well as inconspicuous ones like blunt-sepaled starwort (Stellaria obtusa). There were plenty enough flowers to attract quite an array of insects. Everyone was really inquisitive and as interested in all the butterflies and other insects as they were in flowers. We went all the way out to the point at the end of the trail, and on the way back most people bushwhacked with us over to the lake. Read the rest of this entry »

Groundhog Mountain Reconnoiter

The roadbanks along Road 451 were painted blue with large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) and Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii). There were also large clumps of early blue violet (Viola adunca) to complete the color scheme.

After crossing the rough road, we parked to admire the view near Logger Butte and decide where we wanted to go first. I was thrilled to find some butterfly eggs on the rockcress (Boechera sp., maybe acutina) along with an adult Julia orangetip (sorry, ours aren’t Sara orangetips anymore!), possibly the mom of the eggs.

With the Burke Herbarium Collecting Foray only a week away, but with a lot of work to do and taking time off for the foray, we decided it was our last chance to scope out potential sites, so we should split up. So on June 17, Jenny Moore, Middle Fork District botanist, and John Koenig headed up Coal Creek Road, while Jenny Lippert, Willamette National Forest botanist, and I went up to the Groundhog Mountain area. With many of our previous routes to Groundhog becoming less drivable, we decided to try the relatively short (~10 miles of gravel) and direct route from Road 21 up Road 2135. I’d never done this, but I knew members of the North American Butterfly Association were going up that way. Since we were in the big Forest Service vehicle, this was a good opportunity for me to check out the road without testing myself or my smaller vehicle. I used to drive up any road to check it out, but after all the flats I got, and with the loss of money for upkeep and the subsequent degradation of Forest Service roads, those days seem to be long gone.

Going through the private timber land, the road was actually fine and the forest quite pretty. I was surprised because I had seen very large clearcuts in the Seneca land from last year’s trip to Groundhog; they must have been off of some side roads. When we hit the National Forest land, the road condition worsened, but it was still okay. Then we reached the part I’d seen on Google Earth where there is no protective forest, just rocks on one side and a big dropoff on the other. Since I wasn’t driving (thank you Jenny!), I didn’t get too anxious, but we decided we shouldn’t send the herbarium folks that way, and after visiting several spots at Groundhog, we headed back the long way (~15 miles of gravel) past the Warner Lookout. Read the rest of this entry »

First Trip of the Season to Bristow Prairie

While the rock garden area wasn’t quite as floriferous as usual, the east end had a lovely display of Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), and there were barestem lomatium in bloom everywhere.

The naked stem hawkweed (Crepis pleurocarpa) grows right in the middle of the trail.

On June 4, John Koenig and I went to Bristow Prairie in the Calapooyas. It was our first trip of the year here, but we’re planning to show this area to some folks from the Burke Herbarium in Washington in a few weeks, so we’ll be back soon.

We started our day by hiking the trail from the north trailhead (once we found it—the trail sign is now smashed under a fallen tree!). We were hoping to catch the early flowers, and there were still a few patches of snow in the road ditch, but the warm dry spring had already moved the rock garden area along. There were no exciting discoveries this trip, and there were surprisingly few butterflies or other insects for such a sunny day, but I thought I’d share some photos. Read the rest of this entry »

Relaxing Day in Rigdon

On Sunday, May 9, I went for my first outing in almost a month—just too much to do at home, and the drought discouraged me from going to my favorite seepy spots that I’d planned on, like Deer Creek. I was really happy to be able to go out with my friend John Koenig, whom I hadn’t seen since last summer. Being vaccinated now is such a relief, and it is wonderful to safely hang out with others who are also vaccinated (if you’re hesitating—don’t!). We decided it might still be too early to try to go to higher elevations, even with all the warm weather, so we headed down to Hills Creek Reservoir and the Rigdon area to check out some of our favorite haunts. We had some vague plans but mostly just played it by ear, stopping wherever looked interesting. We ended up spending lots of time watching butterflies. We also had to warm up our “botany muscles,” trying to remember forgotten names.

At Everage Flat, we spent quite a long time watching butterflies on the Pacific dogwood flowers. This echo azure is enjoying the fresh flowers in the center of the showy bracts.

After a look at the gorgeous silvery lupine (Lupinus albifrons) at the north end of the reservoir and a brief stop to admire the blooming paintbrush on the cliffs along the reservoir, I pulled into Everage Flat Picnic Area (just south of the intersection of Youngs Creek Road 2129) as it occurred to me that we should see if the Howell’s violet (Viola howellii) was still in bloom. I expected it to be a very quick stop, so I even left my (all-electric) car on. But upon seeing that the large Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) in the sunny center of the picnic area was in perfect bloom and appeared to have butterflies flying around it, I parked the car for real. Our 2-minute stop turned into a 2-hour one! Read the rest of this entry »

On the Menu at the Butterfly Café

From the west opening on the bluff next to Sacandaga campground, you can see the snow on the area that burned in the 2009 Tumblebug Fire.

I was so happy to see so many handsome male catkins on the Fremont’s silktassel (Garrya fremontii) next to the bridge and boat ramp at Hills Creek Reservoir. This lovely native plant was accidentally cut down by a Forest Service crew while working on nearby weedy shrubs a few years back. It has been slowly recovering ever since.

One of the best benefits of having a remote job doing layout and design is that I set my own hours. Or in other words, I can usually play hooky when I feel like it! When I saw that the forecast for Oakridge was supposed to be in the 70s (!) on Wednesday, March 31, I dropped everything to see how things were progressing down in Rigdon. And after spending several weeks focusing on butterflies while preparing my slide show on “Favorite Plants of Butterflies of the Western Cascades” for the North American Butterfly Association and the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council (you can view the recording here), I couldn’t wait to spend a day with some butterflies. Read the rest of this entry »

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