Archive for the ‘Plant Identification’ Category

Big Surprises at Fish Creek Valley

I’d been looking forward to going to the Rogue-Umpqua Divide all year, but I just couldn’t seem to squeeze a camping trip down there into my schedule earlier in the summer. Then, in late July, the Whiskey Complex fire erupted east of Tiller, just 9 miles west of Donegan Prairie, one of my planned destinations. So much for that. But last week I was lying awake in the middle of the night, my mind wandering all over the place as it often does in the wee hours, and I thought, to hell with worrying about the smoke, I’ll just go to the north end of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide. Fish Creek Valley is one of my favorite places, and there are lots of late-blooming flowers to make a trip in August worthwhile. Unlike many ideas born in the middle of the night, this one still seemed realistic in the morning, so a couple of days later, I packed up my van and headed south.

Rattlesnake Mountain looms right above Fish Creek Valley. The smoke in the air makes it seem much farther away.

Rattlesnake Mountain looms right above Fish Creek Valley. The smoke in the air makes it seem much farther away.

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Unusual Variability of Cat’s Ears at Bristow Prairie

Here is a sampling of the amazing variety of cat’s ears (Calochortus spp.) at Bristow Prairie. I believe they are a mix of elegant cat’s ears (C. elegans) and mountain cat’s ear (C. subalpinus) and possibly Tolmie’s cat’s ear (C. tolmiei) as well. The ranges of the first two species barely cross, and this is right about where the edges of their ranges meet—C. subalpinus to the north and C. elegans to the south. Interestingly, it is the also the border between Lane and Douglas counties. Whatever they are, they sure are gorgeous!

Calochortus tolmiei is the only one of the three that has purple-black seeds; the seeds of the others are very light (see some in the seed gallery). It will be interesting to try to find seeds later in the season and see if any are dark. It is not an easy task, though, as the capsules hang down and drop their seeds quickly.

Calochortus5@BristowPrairie Read the rest of this entry »

Colorful Wet Meadows at Hemlock Butte

Above the wetlands filled with Jeffrey’s shooting star is the rocky knob of Hemlock Butte.

I don’t usually go out on substandard days—ones where there is a good chance of rain. It’s not just that I don’t like to get wet (some Oregonian I am!), but the flowers are wet and often droopy, so it isn’t the best time for photography. But with five days in a row of wet weather forecast, I couldn’t stand the idea of missing so many days of being out in the mountains. On Sunday (June 24), it was actually pretty sunny when I got up. I figured I could get at least a half day in before the rain started if I was lucky. I headed up to Hemlock Butte to see the lovely roadside wet meadows. If it did rain, I wouldn’t be far from the car. Read the rest of this entry »

Rayless Arnicas

After much time off, I’m back to writing descriptions for my book and am trying to finish up the arnicas. Arnicas are a difficult bunch to sort out, and I’ve been struggling to gain some understanding of them for a while now. They are variable, can hybridize, and sometimes reproduce by a form of self-sowing called apomixis. Apparently, this can lead to populations with different characteristics than the norm. This genus definitely has an independent streak and doesn’t like to follow the rules.

Rayless arnicas

Arnica discoidea (L) near Bradley Lake and the larger Arnica parryi (R) at Groundhog Mountain

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New Gallery of Seed Scans

Delphiniums have irregular seeds. Those of the very tall D. glaucum are much larger and a different shape than those from a population of what appear to be hybrid D. nuttallianum x menziesii from Balm Mountain (inset). It will be interesting to see if these last seeds differ from their purebred parents. The ruler increments are millimeters.

For many years, I’ve collected seeds of our native plants, both for my personal use and to share with the NARGS seed exchange, so others could grow some of our beautiful rock plants. After I bought a microscope, I discovered how much variety there is among seeds, even in plants of the same genus. In fact, some species are distinguished by their seeds. This can be hard to do with the naked eye, but it is well worth looking at small seeds under a handlens or microscope. Read the rest of this entry »

Making Friends with Flowers

Sometimes the number of plants to learn seems overwhelming, so just take them one at a time. August at Blair Lake.

Getting to know plants is a passion for me. I know I’m not alone in wanting to learn everything I can about them. But since I’m not a trained scientist, my method may be a bit different than the typical botanist. I go about it much the way I would get to know people. The first time you take a class, join a new group, or go to a party with unfamiliar guests, it may seem overwhelming—so many names to learn. Usually, you come home remembering one or two of the people that stood out the most. Perhaps they were the most gregarious or were wearing an unusual outfit. The next time you hang out with this group, you focus on a few more, and you become a little more comfortable in the crowd. Some people you’ll hit it off with right away. Others are harder to get to know, perhaps they are shy, but eventually, you’ll find they can be just as interesting as the more flamboyant. And yes, there are always one or two that you never do feel comfortable with or perhaps even actively dislike. Read the rest of this entry »

New Year, New Family Names

Happy 2011! The latest Oregon Flora Newsletter just arrived, and I was pleased to see the Oregon Flora Project is ready to adopt the latest family classifications from the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG). “What is the APG?,” you may be wondering. When I first started pestering the professional botanists around me with questions about who decides what the proper botanical name for a plant is, I was surprised that there didn’t seem to be some governing body making those kinds of decisions. An individual could do research on a plant, decide it should be reclassified, and it was up to others whether they felt the research warranted adopting this new name or classification. So botanical names could be almost as localized as common names.

Fringed grass-of Parnassus (Parnassia fimbriata) is now considered to be a member of Celastraceae. We’ll have to wait and see if it stays there as it has proven a difficult genus to classify.

According to the Wikipedia article, “The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, or APG, refers to an informal international group of systematic botanists who came together to try to establish a consensus view of the taxonomy of flowering plants (angiosperms) that would reflect new knowledge about their relationships based upon phylogenetic studies.” At last, a single source for plant classification! It seems that most plant authorities are now following the APG classifications, so we can expect more consensus in the future. With all the new genetic-based research bringing so much new information to light, it is a relief to have some central body overseeing classification. Read the rest of this entry »

Natural Rock Gardens at Horsepasture Mountain

One of the big thrills of the day was the discovery of a Pacific giant salamander dining on a succulent slug along the road on the way up.

Yesterday (October 15), Sabine Dutoit, Loren Russell, and I took a special visitor from Sweden to Horsepasture Mountain. Peter Korn is touring the West, speaking to many of the NARGS chapters. He was in town to speak to our chapter the night before. Peter has an extraordinary 5-acre botanic garden and nursery near Gothenberg, Sweden (click here to check out his website), where he grows an enormous collection of plants from around the world, including a great many Pacific Northwest natives. He wanted to see these plants in the wild and hopefully collect some seed. I figured Horsepasture Mountain would be an ideal spot to give him a taste of the Western Cascades. The hike is fairly quick, and the cliffs are small enough to allow one to access the front without a difficult climb up a talus slope like many cliffs I have explored.

The view from the summit of Horsepasture is a real bonus, and we were very lucky that clouds drifting above us when we arrived at the trailhead disappeared quickly. By the time we reached the top, we had a great view of many of the High Cascade peaks as well as nearby mountains including Lowder, Olallie, Tidbits, and Castle Rock. The closest peak to Horsepasture is O’Leary Mountain. There was a great display of fiery vine maples on its shrubby slopes. The sun was appreciated on this chilly autumn day. About the only thing left in bloom was tiny Polygonum cascadense and some reblooming skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata). It is biennial or monocarpic (dying after setting seed), so somewhat like an annual, it is opportunistic, blooming as long as it can get moisture. Read the rest of this entry »

Balm Mountain Really Rocks!

Hall’s goldenweed (Columbiadoria hallii) blooming in front of gorgeous rock formation near the south end of the ridge.

Fall is officially here. Soon the snow will start to blanket the Cascades, and I’ll hang up my hiking vest for the winter. The last place I just had to get back to once more this season was Balm Mountain in the Calapooyas. On my previous trip (see First Exploration of Balm Mountain), I hadn’t made it all the way to the south end of the ridge. I really wanted to check it out to see where the most interesting parts of the ridge are for when I return next year to see it during peak flowering season, so yesterday (September 22), I headed back up there. This time I took Staley Ridge Road 2134, so I could drive all the way to the access point for Balm Mountain. Read the rest of this entry »

Pikas, and a Coyote, and Monkeyflowers, Oh My!

The first time I went to Hills Peak (see First Trip to Hills Peak) in northeastern Douglas County, I took a look at the top of the peak and three nearby wetlands. But there were several interesting looking spots that I did not have time for, so I decided it deserved a return trip. Boy, was I right! What a wonderful day I had Thursday (August 26), with great weather, interesting and unusual plants (even though most flowers were finished), and some great wildlife experiences, including a terrific hour spent hanging out with pikas.

Pika checking out its hay cache

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