Archive for the ‘Roadside’ Category

A Seepy Spring at Deer Creek

About the only thing blooming well in the large middle meadow was the gold stars sprinkled across the rocks. Snow can be seen on Carpenter Mountain not so far away.

One of the numerous places water cascades down the road banks between the 3 and 4 mile markers on Deer Creek Road.

I’m thrilled that the last month or so has been so cold and damp. It’s been much less stressful than last year’s hot and dry spring. But it has meant that I haven’t gone out botanizing much. Deer Creek Road off the McKenzie Highway is a wonderful place to go when all the small creeks and seeps are flowing off the road banks. And above the road banks, there are a number of rocky meadows above the road west of Fritz Creek. So when we had a break in the rain last Wednesday, May 4, I decided to go check it out.

I had planned to stop at Cougar Reservoir first, to see what was blooming on the cliffs along the reservoir, but the road was closed well before the cliffs. That section north of the reservoir burned in the Holiday Farm Fire two years ago, so they were undoubtedly logging the dead trees along the road. That meant I had a lot more time to spend at Deer Creek Road, so instead of a relaxing walk along the road, it seemed like a good time to climb up to the big meadows above the road, something I hadn’t done since 2017 (see A Return Look at Deer Creek Meadows).

Fritz Creek was gushing with high water coming from upslope. A bird whizzed by me. My first thought was that it must be a dipper, but it turned out to be a rufous hummingbird zipping low above the water.

It was still early, but it looks like it will be a fabulous season, especially if the rain keeps up. The gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) were still blooming well, but some had started going to seed. I spent quite a while collecting seed since that was one of the reasons I chose this destination. I’ve been able to get some blooming on my property every year, but it still isn’t self-sowing well, so if I want to see it at home, I guess I’m going to have to collect some seed every year. There was also Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii), Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora), and monkeyflowers (Erythranthe microphylla? and alsinoides) in bloom, but the latter probably won’t be putting on a big show until later in the month.

The most easterly meadow in this stretch is tantalizingly close to the road, but the banks are too steep for direct access.

Menzies’ larkspur and Hall’s lomatium blooming in the rocky meadow at the top of the easternmost meadow. The grayish clump in the middle is northern buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum) coming out of dormancy. The large, bushy, brownish purple one is a hotrock penstemon (Penstemon deustus). It often turns purple in the winter but is green by summer.

The climb up and down the steep 300′ slope to the largest meadow was tricky as always, but it really doesn’t take that long. And I think I’d better come back in a few weeks and do it again when peak season starts. On the way back down, I checked the aerial view on my phone to see if I could get over to the opening to the east. It looked pretty simple, and I’d always wanted to check out that most easterly meadow. The road bank is too steep to access it directly, but when I first arrived that morning, I had checked out the woods right by the edge of Fritz Creek where it goes under the road and decided it might be accessible from that way. But rather than go down to the road and back up again, I went across from the first meadow, easily accessed the top of the eastern meadow, and went back down through the woods. That meadow was quite pleasant, especially because since it is the end of a ridge, it wasn’t as steep-sided. I’ll definitely follow that route again next time.

A nice comparison between the green comma (top and left), hoary comma (middle), and California tortoiseshell (bottom). When they are busy flying around, it can be hard to distinguish them with their similar coloring. Note the green comma has light dots totally surrounded by dark brown on the edge of its hind wings.

This friendly hoary comma is lighter overall with no greenish “lichen” markings below like the green comma and fewer dark spots on the top of the hind wings than the similar satyr comma.

After that, I walked down the road to the most westerly meadow to see if the beautiful shootingstar (Dodecatheon pulchellum) was budding up yet (it wasn’t). On the way, I passed a large gathering of butterflies at a seemingly random spot on the road. There were 2–3 dozen California tortoiseshells and anglewings drinking and fluttering about (no small butterflies, but I saw a few blues, a Julia orangetip, and several Moss’s elfins over the course of the day). My guess was that some animal must have peed there, and the butterflies were enjoying salt and other nutrients left behind. I decided to do a scientific experiment and made a contribution of my own a few feet away. When I came back from checking out the western meadow, there were two gatherings of butterflies—at least 9 were checking out my spot. I’m certainly not the only one to have tried this, check out this article for a more detailed experiment (Butterflies Really Seem To Like Drinking Cougar Pee).

The green of the green comma is more blue in this individual, but it still adds to his camouflage whether on bark or gravel.

I spent a while photographing the anglewings, having already taken pictures of tortoiseshells that had been following me around earlier in the day. There were both green commas (Polygonia faunus) and hoary commas (P. gracilis). The green commas use willows (Salix spp.) as their host food plant, and the hoary commas like currants and gooseberries (Ribes spp.). Both willows and currants could be seen in the area, so it wasn’t surprising to see them there. I really wanted a better photo of an anglewing, so after they got somewhat used to my presence, I got some sweat on my finger (another good source of salt!) and tried to slide my finger under several butterflies. The green comma I tried it with wasn’t interested, but a hoary climbed up on my finger and drank happily while I got some good photos. I’m looking forward to another good butterfly and wildflower day soon, but in the meantime, I will be very happy if it keeps on raining!

2022 Botanizing and Butterflying Season has Begun!

The first California tortoiseshell to land on my hand

This very odd filbert (Corylus cornuta var. californica) catkin caught my eye near the river. Normally the female flowers with their red-violet stigmas are in a small cluster that is separate from the long, dangling male catkin. But this inflorescence had several females mixed in with the males. What happened here?

While it wasn’t a terribly difficult winter weatherwise (though not nearly enough rain), it is always a joy to see the first flowers of late winter and spring. And with them, the reappearance of the first butterflies. On Tuesdays, I often have meetings for my job with OregonFlora, but this past week, my meeting was postponed for a day. That turned out to be very fortunate as Tuesday was the most beautiful day of the week: clear and sunny and the first day of the year to reach 70°. I took advantage of it to head out on what has become my annual first botanizing trip of the year out to Hills Creek Reservoir and the Rigdon area along Road 21. I stopped at all my usual haunts. First along the reservoir to see the gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) blooming. It hasn’t been wet enough for an outstanding year, but they are still such a welcome sight. The paintbrushes (Castilleja) are sending up new leaves that are noticeably reddish. The Sierra gooseberry (Ribes roezlii) was just barely in bloom.

Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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