Archive for the ‘Rock and Cliffs’ Category

Saxifrages and Toads near Loletta Lakes

The photographic highlight of the day had to be this cluster of trilliums visited by a pale swallowtail. The butterfly was as enthralled as we were and stayed for at least 10 minutes, allowing me to get over 40 photos from every angle.

For months, I’ve been working on and off to finish editing and doing the layout for the Saxifragaceae treatment for Volume 3 of the Flora of Oregon (I finally finished it so I felt I could take a break to write this report, however late). I had enough space to add a couple of illustrations and wanted to do two of the more interesting species, rusty saxifrage (Micranthes ferruginea) and Merten’s saxifrage (Saxifraga mertensiana). Our lead artist, John Myers, does most of the illustrations, but he has so many to do right now that I’m contributing a few of the species I’m familiar with.

Both these species are unusual in that they are able to produce asexually by vegetative offsets. Rusty saxifrage has tiny plantlets in the inflorescences that replace most of the flowers except the terminal ones. These drop to the ground and form colonies of clones beneath the mother plant. Mertens’ saxifrage often produces clusters of red bulblets in the inflorescences. Like the rusty saxifrage, these replace the lower flowers. From what I’ve read, it produces these bulblets in most of its range. In the Western Cascades, however, I’ve only seen them in a few populations. One of these is along Coal Creek Road 2133 on the way up to Loletta Lakes. Read the rest of this entry »

Beautiful Spots on the Road to Spring Prairie

The river of large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) washing down the hillside was punctuated by the bright red of harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida).

A lovely grouping of naked broomrape (now Aphyllon purpurea) parasitizing rustyhair saxifrage (Micranthes rufidula).

After spending time in the Spring Prairie area of eastern Lane County last year (see Exciting Day at Spring Prairie), I was anxious to get back there and do some more exploring. Way back in September of 2007, Sabine Dutoit and I had climbed up a big rocky slope just above Road 730 that leads to Spring Prairie (see Spring Meadow above Blair Lake). But it was late in the season, and all I remembered was seeing the dwarf lupine (Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii) that I associate more with the High Cascades—it is fairly common along the road near Santiam and Willamette passes. I had vowed I would return the following year when it was in bloom. But I didn’t. Now it is 15 years later, so I was long overdue to check it out during peak blooming season. How had it fallen off my to-do list for so long? I guess there are just too many interesting places to go. Read the rest of this entry »

Gorgeous Day at Grizzly Peak

Siskiyou onion (Allium siskiyouense) was one of the standout wildflowers of the day. Its bright pink flowers lit up every rocky open area.

The variety of Camassia quamash here, var. breviflora, looked very different to me than what I have at home and usually see in the Cascades. Common camas I’m familiar with can be distinguished from great camas (C. leichtlinii) by its bilaterally symmetric flowers. But these were radially symmetric, and the inflorescences were tighter. They were in bloom in several seepy areas along the trail.

On June 30th, the second day of our short trip to the southern edge of the Western Cascades, my husband, Jim, and I headed slightly north to Grizzly Peak. We unplugged our car, now thankfully fully charged, and left Green Springs Inn after a very quiet and pleasant stay. We headed up to the east side of the Shale City Road loop and drove this narrow but paved road to the intersection of BLM Rd 38-2E-9.2, where there is a sign for the trailhead. I’ll admit that I was nervous until we saw the sign as I usually came up from Ashland where there are lots of signs pointing the way to the trailhead, and this way there wasn’t any road sign on Shale City Road at all. Thankfully we had a map and were pretty sure we were on the right road.

The day was perfect—clear and sunny but not at all hot. There were a number of cars in the parking area of this popular trail, but we only occasionally passed a small party of hikers, so it seemed much quieter than one might imagine. There were lots of flowers in bloom, including many that I rarely see. There were also a decent number of pollinators though not as many butterflies as I have seen on other trips. Here are some photos from the day.

Buckwheats were already in bloom, and this sulphur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum) attracted a couple of cedar hairstreaks as well as several different beetles.

More of the same Peck’s phacelia (Phacelia peckii) that I’d seen the day before on Hobart Peak was in a number of open areas. It was a bit fresher and far more prevalent than I remember from past visits, probably from the above-normal moisture this spring. While looking at old lists, I noticed some confusion about whether the annual species here was Pringle’s (P. pringlei) or Peck’s phacelia. In a paper I found online (OregonFlora hasn’t completed the Phacelia treatment yet), the split in the key between the two similar species was that Peck’s has hairy filaments, which these did.

Eaton’s fleabane (Erigeron eatonii) is another species I rarely see. On Grizzly Peak, it seems to occur only in open areas in the large meadow in the center of the loop section of the trail. The Peck’s phacelia could be found alongside it there.

Bloomer’s fleabane (Erigeron bloomeri) is very cute with its button-like rayless flower heads. It grows in the rocky area just south of the loop trail. There’s now a pretty obvious path through the area that reconnects with the main trail.

This area was all new to Jim, so he spent quite a while enjoying the views. Happily, that gave me more time to photograph flowers! There is a good view of Mount Shasta from the off-trail area south of the main trail.

As we headed back, I was able to catch one quick photo of a large marble, a butterfly that only comes this far west near the California border. It was nectaring on bluedicks (now Dipterostemon capitatus).

The burned area at the south end of the trail is continuing to recover. It had been 8 years since I’d hiked this trail, so the young ponderosa pine and other conifers I had seen before were noticeably larger. Great polemonium (Polemonium carneum) was in full bloom in this area as well as just about everywhere along the trail.

There were more bees than I had seen anytime so far this year. Bumblebees were especially abundant, and seemed to bee enjoying a wide variety of flowers. While I’m not sure of the bee species, clockwise from the upper left, the flowers are roundleaf alumroot (Heuchera cylindrica), Bloomer’s fleabane, Siskiyou onion, and candy flower (Claytonia sibirica). Note the pink pollen on the bee on the candy flower.

Changing Waves of Flowers on Two Trips to Bristow Prairie

I was impressed that the whole group was willing to climb down the rocky ridge I call “Lewisia Point” to see one of the few populations of Columbia lewisia south of the Columbia River Gorge area. The lewisia is growing in the rocks by some low-growing serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia). Click on the photo to blow it up to see the lewisia’s delicate pink flowers.

A tiny bee enjoys the very small flowers of Thompson’s mistmaiden, a Western Cascade endemic.

For years, I have been planning to lead a trip up to Bristow Prairie for the Emerald Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. I always ended up having other commitments or others were leading trips around the same time. But, at long last, there were no conflicts, and on Saturday, June 25, Jenny Moore, Middle Fork district botanist, and I brought a group up to Bristow Prairie. It was a very hot day in the valley, and I was surprised at how hot it was even at over 5000′, but I’d already planned a fairly tame exploration of some of the highlights of the diverse area, so I thought it was doable in the 80° heat. We followed the same route I’d taken for a prehike on Monday, June 20, the first day of nice weather after I’d heard from Chad Sageser that the snow had melted and that he’d cleared the last of the trees off the road (thanks again, Chad!). The plan was to go to “Lewisia Point” first to see the rare Columbia lewisia (Lewisia columbiana) and the nearby shaley area, which has a number of annuals that like the moisture that remains there after the snow melts. Then back to the meadow to make a loop over to the rock garden, across the meadow to the lake and surrounding wetland, and then back to the road. Read the rest of this entry »

Monitoring Siskiyou Fritillary at Bearbones Mountain

Jenny taking notes about the Siskiyou fritillary population on the south ridge. The downslope gravel was awash with spring phacelia, Olympic onion, and Menzies’ larkspur.

The old growth forest is quite impressive along the trail. The trail itself is so little used as to be hard to follow if you haven’t been on it before. We had to cross over a number of large logs and small branches (I moved what I could to make the trail easier to follow), but it is worth it to see all the interesting species and beautiful flowers as well as the view from the top.

Middle Fork District botanist Jenny Moore had never been to Bearbones Mountain and had mentioned to me earlier in the year that she’d like to go check it out. After getting an e-mail last week from Chad Sageser that he’d cleared the roads (2127 & 5850) to Bearbones (thank you Chad!!), I suggested we head up there on Wednesday, June 15, the one day of the week that was supposed to have some sun. Luckily, both Jenny and Sheila Klest were able to make time to go out hiking that day. After all the rain we’ve had (yay!), and a trip to the Ochocos the week before, I was really looking forward to getting back to the Western Cascades. This was also my first trip to higher elevations (Bearbones tops out at 4910′).

After missing the trailhead last year (see Return to Bearbones Mountain), I made sure to have the map on my phone ready. Chad had warned me that Road 5850, which leads to the trailhead, had been prepped as a firebreak when there were so many fires in the area last year. The edge of the road was logged, making it even harder to spot the trailhead, and forcing us to start our hike by climbing over a large pile of branches. The blooming dogwoods at the beginning of trail also helped me recognize the spot, and someone (Chad?) had left some red flagging across the road, but if you want to try the trail, having a map and GPS are a must, as there is no longer any trail sign. Jenny was interested in seeing the firebreak as one of the projects of the Forest Service is to figure out how to heal the roadsides after the disturbance and hopefully to replant with natives that are less flammable and lower growing. We all wondered why the downed trees and branches are left to dry out. It doesn’t seem to make any sense to create a firebreak and then leave all the flammable material in place. Maybe I’m missing something. Read the rest of this entry »

Spring Again at Coal Creek Bluff

Looking north across the slope to Moon Point and Youngs Rock. I hadn’t seen such a pretty show of monkeyflower on my past visits.

On Wednesday, May 25, Nancy Bray accompanied me on a trip to the place I named “Coal Creek Bluff.” I had heard that the Forest Service would be further decommissioning the old Road 210 that I use to access the site to protect Coal Creek from further erosion. I wasn’t sure what this entailed, so I was anxious to find out if I would still be able to access this lovely spot, one of our purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) sites in the Rigdon area. The last time I was there (in 2020, see Followup Milkweed Count at Coal Creek Bluff), I couldn’t make it to the last place you can park before a big washout on the old road. I managed to scratch my brand new car trying to turn around after coming upon a fallen tree. So this time, I just decided to park at the old gate where there is a large area to turn around and do the extra walking. I was surprised to find the road completely clear all the way to the final parking area. Darn! We could have shortened our walk. Next time I’ll know. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Clear Skies at Last on Lowder Mountain

From where the trail first reaches the ridge, there’s a good view of the Three Sisters with fresh snow.

One of the few butterflies I saw, this orange sulphur was sitting on the silvery leaves of Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), while the gorgeous purple leaves are those of sticky cinquefoil (Drymocallis glandulosa). The little flower on the left is Cascade knotweed.

Technically autumn started on September 22 this year. But for all intents and purposes, fall started with the first real rain on September 18. What a relief!! After the seemingly endless hot and smoky summer, following an unusually hot, dry spring, it was hard to remember what rain sounded like. We got at least 2 inches at my house; the patter of raindrops on the skylight above my desk was music to my ears. And finally, with the fires no longer spewing out smoke, I could go out again! It had been four weeks since I’d managed to sneak in a half day seed-collecting trip to Cloverpatch on a relatively clear day. I could hardly wait to get up in the mountains. On Monday, September 20, it was dry—or at least it wasn’t raining. I headed up to Lowder Mountain under clear blue (not dirty brown!) skies. Everything was still pretty wet from the rain, and it was quite cold up there when I stepped out of the car (not that I’m complaining!). My original plan was to bushwhack around Quaking Aspen Swamp, but not wanting to be drenched, I decided staying on the trail would be wiser and headed up Lowder Mountain instead, both trails starting from the same spot. Read the rest of this entry »

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