Posts Tagged ‘Asclepias’

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.

Exploring New Milkweed Meadows in Rigdon

Jenny studying the plants in the still-green seep along the edge of the west meadow. The lush shrub at the top of the photo was a very healthy poison oak!

Back in February, I was invited to a Zoom meeting set up by Walama Restoration and the Middle Fork Ranger District to discuss ongoing restoration projects in the area and further work on purple (or heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) and monarchs (if their population bounces back) in the Rigdon area. At that meeting, I learned that last summer the district hired some surveyors to check out special habitats (I think that includes anything that isn’t forest!) on the west side of Hills Creek Reservoir and the Middle Fork of the Willamette. They surveyed a number of south-facing openings that I’d seen on Google Earth but never explored. I was very excited to hear that they found two new populations of milkweed! And these were farther north than any of our other sites, making them the new northern boundary of its range. Jenny Moore, the current district botanist, didn’t know much more about the sites or the milkweed itself there, so we discussed going up there together to see them for ourselves once the milkweed started blooming.

After seeing the milkweed starting to flower at Big Pine Opening a few weeks earlier (see Relaxing Day in Rigdon), I figured it was time. The weather was supposed to get hot again, so I was happy that Jenny was able to go out with me on Friday, May 28 before it got too hot for a steep bushwhack up low-elevation, south-facing, rocky meadows around 600′ above the road.

Beautiful spreads of woodland phlox (Phlox adsurgens) bloomed along the edge of the both the paved road and the gravel one we walked on.

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 »

A Sea of Blue at Maple Creek Meadow

This photo of the view east was taken from about the same spot as the ones I used in my previous two reports about Maple Creek Meadow—why break tradition? The little opening on the nearest ridge is Rabbitbrush Ridge where I went the previous week (see More Exploration Near Grassy Glade) and which also has purple milkweed, rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa), northern buckwheat, and bluefield gilia, all seen here.

With the forecast predicting warm summer weather on the way, I figured it might be my last chance to get out to see the peak bloom of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) at lower elevation meadows without roasting. I had been wanting to return to what I named “Maple Creek Meadow” as I’d only been there twice before: first on a hot day in July (see Another New Milkweed and Monarch Site!) when most things were finished and the following year on a cloudy day in May (see Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”) when many plants were just starting. So I was due for a sunny but cool day in the middle of the season and headed out to the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County on June 17.

Two caterpillars eating flower stalks of rose checkermallow. Apparently, their color depends partly on what they are eating. I think both are gray hairstreaks (but correct me if you think otherwise!).

Read the rest of this entry »

More Exploration Near Grassy Glade

The most floriferous spot at Rabbitbrush Ridge is a small draw next to the dike. No doubt this area funnels most of the surrounding moisture to the mass of northern buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum), frosted paintbrush (Castilleja pruinosa), varifleaf phacelia (Phacelia heterophylla), bluefield gilia (Gilia capitata), ookow (Dichelostemma congestum), and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum).

Candelabrum monkeyflower is a delicate annual that prefers openings among shrubs where there’s little competition.

On Wednesday, June 10, we had a day off from the rain (not that I’m complaining about rain in June anymore!), so I took advantage of it to head back to Grassy Glade and check out one more opening I hadn’t been to yet and see how the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) was doing.

First I made a few stops to collect seeds: silvery lupine (Lupinus albifrons) was ripening on the north side of Hills Creek Reservoir, and there was still some seed of Hall’s lomatium (Lomatium hallii) along the cliffs west of the reservoir. I also got a good collection of seeds of the annual miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor), which I’d spotted growing abundantly along the road right under the guard rails. In this same area, the paintbrush (a mix of Castilleja hispida and C. pruinosa) was still blooming as was the Oregon sunshine, including a lovely pale yellow-flowered plant I’ve watched for years. I’ll be back for seeds of those later in the summer—Castilleja blooming in an area I’m restoring on my property are the progeny of these plants, growing successfully in mats of Oregon sunshine, some of which were also grown from seed collected here. Read the rest of this entry »

Watching Bees and Butterflies at Medicine Creek Road

Sadly not a monarch but a worn California tortoiseshell on purple milkweed.

On Memorial Day, May 25, I made the long drive down to the North Umpqua to check out the population of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) along Medicine Creek Road 4775. I was a little disappointed to find it was just starting to open. I think the cool weather of late had slowed things down because Big Pine Opening was at about the same stage weeks ago, and although it is lower elevation, it is also much farther north. But although the milkweed wasn’t attracting many insects, there were plenty of plants that were.

A silver-spotted skipper was one of many insects nectaring on silverleaf phacelia.

Read the rest of this entry »

Followup Milkweed Count at Coal Creek Bluff

One of the beautiful madrones (Arbutus menziesii) that grace the bluff. Coal Creek can be seen cutting through the forest down below.

From lower down the slope, I got a peek-a-boo glimpse of the small waterfalls upstream along Coal Creek. Unfortunately, a closer look would require climbing down some very steep banks.

Saturday, May 9, was a beautiful day but around 80°—much hotter than I’m used to this time of year. I had hoped to get up to a high enough elevation to be a little more comfortable, and I was really hoping to see the very early mountain flowers. My plan was to try to get up to “Heavenly Bluff” to see the Siskiyou fritillary (Fritillaria glauca), a very early bloomer. I hadn’t been there for 6 years. If I couldn’t get that far, I would go to Bearbones Mountain, which I would pass on Road 5850. It’s another site for the fritillary, though much less floriferous. Unfortunately, right after I turned onto Road 5850, I came upon a number of fallen trees. It was another 3 miles or so to get to Bearbones, so I was not going to add over 6 miles of road to my hike. A little snow in the ditch also made me wonder if there might still be some snow blocking the road farther ahead even without downed trees. The shady section of road on the north side of Spring Butte seems to hold snow longer than the rest of the road. Read the rest of this entry »

Milkweed is Up and Dippers are Out

One of the milkweeds was close to the cliff edge above the quarry. Thank goodness for the long zoom on my camera so I could take the photo from a safe distance from the edge.

On Monday, May 4, I headed out to the Rigdon area southeast of Oakridge to check on the purple or heartleaf milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia). At home, my little seedlings had been germinating, and some of last year’s seedlings were reemerging, so I was pretty sure the milkweed would be up at Big Pine Opening. I was surprised to see how tall some of the plants were, and several even had a few open flowers. I relocated the “chia pet” milkweed plant(s) from last year (see Three Trips in a Row to Rigdon). It was still growing in the same bizarre manner. I’m really puzzled by this odd plant, but I’ll just have to watch it as it develops. I wonder if it will flower eventually.

Last year’s chia pet-like clump of purple milkweed is up again at Big Pine Opening. Comparing it to last year’s photo, it looks like it has fewer, larger shoots, but it is still way more congested than a normal plant.

Big Pine Opening is an open slope at the intersection of Road 21 and gravel Road 2135. On the side facing the gravel road, the hillside was been carved out for a quarry. Unfortunately, the milkweed only grows on the top of the slope on the side above the old quarry. After seeing milkweed growing in the relics of a quarry at “Maple Creek Meadow” (see Surveying Milkweed at “Maple Creek Meadow”), I’d wondered whether the milkweed might be able to grow in the quarry itself at Big Pine Opening. After checking out the milkweed at the top, I went back down to the road and walked partway up the talus in the quarry—I wasn’t up to the difficult task of going high up the loose rock, but, with my binoculars, I was able to spot two patches growing in the gravel along the north side, in the partial shade of a couple of young ponderosa pine. There appeared to be at least a dozen plants large enough to be in bud. One more plant was growing in the main slope. I’m not sure if I can get close enough to the plants for a good count, but I’m just pleased the population is expanding into the quarry side. I suspect there might have been more milkweed on that side before the quarry was created, so maybe they are repopulating below where they once grew. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Trips in a Row to Rigdon

The mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) was in full fragrant bloom at Many Creeks Meadow and attracting lots of snowberry checkerspots. I can almost still smell the heavenly fragrance!

On Sunday, June 16, I hiked up the Youngs Rock trail, bushwhacking in from a meadow between Road 2129 and the trail that John Koenig and I named Buckbrush Meadow last year. Then on Wednesday, June 19, I went to Grassy Glade with Maya Goklany of Walama Restoration and two volunteers, Alicja and Sabine. We also explored the lower openings, “Rocky Glade” and “Mock Orange Glade.” Finally, on Friday, June 21, I headed over to “Many Creeks Meadow” for an afternoon of seed collecting before camping at Sacandaga Campground for the weekend (more on that later).

Here are some photos from those trips. Read the rest of this entry »

Purple Milkweed on the Illahee Flat Trail

An interesting beetle on the purple milkweed flower

While we have been concentrating on surveying purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in the Rigdon area of Lane County, there are also a few known populations in similar low elevation meadows and rocky slopes and on the north side of the North Umpqua. Medicine Creek Road is a fabulous and easy place to see a large population growing by a paved road. I also found another population in a nearby meadow when Nancy Bray and I were down there two summers ago (see A Week of Monarchs and Milkweed: Day 3). Crystal Shepherd, who had been working for the Forest Service in the Middle Fork District a couple of years ago, went back to work in the North Umpqua last year. She had remembered seeing another population along the Illahee Flat trail a number of years before and went back to relocate it last summer. We were all happy to hear it was still there. I never made it down last summer, but on June 1, I went down there with Kris Elsbree of Walama Restoration.

Henderson’s cluster-lily (Triteleia hendersonii) is more often seen to the south, so I was very excited that Kris spotted this one plant in the woods along the trail. The purple stripes on the petals make it much showier than hyacinth cluster-lily (Triteleia hyacinthina) that I see much more often up my way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Post Categories
Archives
Notification of New Posts