Posts Tagged ‘Garrya’

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.

At every stop along the road, I was greeted by California tortoiseshells. When I got to “Ladybug Rock,” there were as many as I’d seen on my previous outing (see 2021 Botany Season has Begun!). I also spotted a Moss’s elfin sitting on its host food plant, broadleaf stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium), high up on the rock. While the tortoiseshell overwinters as an adult and can appear on any warm, sunny day, the elfin overwinters as a chrysalis, so this was the first newly hatched butterfly I’d seen this season—definitely a sign of spring. I climbed up on the rock to get some of the first ripe seed on the still-blooming gold stars (Crocidium multicaule). When I returned to the car, a truck passed me and then backed up to where I was. Usually, passersby are wondering if I’m okay. It turns out this man was so excited about something he had found that he just had to share it with someone, and I was the first person he’d seen (likewise, he was the first person I’d seen in the area all day). He pulled out a massive (elk?) antler with 5 points; it was over half his height!

There were several flower longhorn beetles gathering pollen by burrowing their heads into coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus) flowers along Road 21.

After a few more stops, including Big Pine Opening and the bluff at Sacandaga Campground, I returned to Ladybug Rock. I wandered through the woods by the river (the massive patches of fawn-lilies still weren’t blooming, but the coltsfoot had started) and popped back out on the road about a tenth of a mile west of Ladybug Rock. I decided to check out the little seep on the south-facing bank across the road. I’ve never noticed any interesting plants there, but the moss looks lush and inviting every time I drive by. That turned out to be the highlight of my day. Not only were there lots of tortoiseshells puddling in the wet ditch, but there were also two other butterflies, a Mylitta crescent and an echo azure—both the first of the year for me. 

A ladybug sitting on hoary manzanita (Arctostaphylos canescens) flowers at Sacandaga Bluff. Even though most of the plant was still in bud, some nectar robber had already started poking holes in the flowers just as I’d seen there the last couple of years.

I put my left-hand palm up in hopes of attracting a butterfly. While many tortioseshells were flying around me, none landed. Then I noticed that one had landed on my camera bag and another on my hip. In the heat of this unusually warm day, it was easy to find some sweat to apply to my finger before encouraging one of the butterflies to climb onto my finger. It worked well, so I “scooped” up the second one. Word seemed to have gotten around because more butterflies landed on me. Eventually, I was able to get four on my left hand, and another had alighted farther down my left arm. Others appeared to be landing on my head and back (look for an odd triangle at the top of your shadow if you’re alone and wondering if someone is on your head!). I took as many photos as I could, but at some point, I got hot and tired of standing up, so I sat down with my friends on the road bank.

Four torties sipping sweat on a hot afternoon. Quite the handful!

A car drove by, disturbing several butterflies who flew off my hand, but most returned on their own. Having gotten a taste of salty sweat, I guess they decided it was more delicious than mud. Once again, the car slowed down and backed up. This time it was, in fact, a concerned citizen wondering if I was all right. I guess seeing a woman sitting alone on the side of the road with her hand up in the air might have looked a little concerning! After I reassured him I was okay, the man drove off, and I finally decided it was time for me to leave, too. I walked back toward my car with several torties accompanying me. One walked me almost all the way back to my car (how chivalrous!) and another had landed on my nose. I had thought I was going to observe butterflies, but as it turned out, I was the main attraction—you might say I was the plat du jour at the Butterfly Café!

Early Trips to Rigdon

It’s been a busy winter and spring with a lot of unexpected setbacks—snowstorm and broken wrist among the worst. The snow’s long gone, and the wrist is healing, but I’m still not caught up on everything I had hoped to do in the last few months. While I haven’t been out as much as usual, I did make it out to Rigdon several times, so I’ll share some photos from those early spring trips.

March 17

My friend Karl hadn’t seen the big show of gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) along Hills Creek Reservoir, so we headed out there on March 17. We only made it out as far as Big Pine Opening because of all the downed trees and remnants of snow on the road, but the show along the reservoir was beautiful.

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Blooming Begins at Eagles Rest

A male Garrya fremontii blooms with Mount June in the background

At only 3000′, early spring flowers are already decorating Eagles Rest near Dexter. This rocky knob is only a 15-mile drive from my house, so I don’t know why I haven’t spent more time there. I only had a few hours yesterday afternoon (March 31st) to get out and enjoy the warm weather, so Eagles Rest seemed like a good destination. While hikers looking for exercise take the long route up from Goodman Creek or farther up where the trail crosses Road 5833, I wasn’t looking for a long walk (and my leg is sore), so I took the easy path up from Eagles Rest Road.

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Hills Creek Reservoir Starting to Bloom

Last week, Sabine and I went out to Hills Creek Reservoir. It was a gorgeous day, and the botanizing turned out to be even better than we had anticipated. We knew there was Crocidium multicaule out there, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen so many there. They are outstanding on the cliffs between the 7 and 8 mile markers on Road 21 along the west side of the reservoir, creating sweeps of yellow on the rocks. The Lomatium hallii and Ribes roezlii var. cruentum are just starting there as well and just a couple of little Mimulus alsinoides. We climbed up one of the less steep banks to see if we could get higher up the rocks. Loads of poison oak and, although we got to the edge of the cliff, there wasn’t much new to see there. But on the way out, under the many ocean sprays on the upper bank, we found 2 dried flower stalks of what I’m almost positive is Orobanche pinorum. Since it is near the beginning of the deer trail we took, it should be easy to check for fresh flowers later in the season without getting into the poison oak. When we got back to the road, there was a chorus of frogs in a ditch, along with lots of egg masses. I saw one frog, but alas, they quieted down as we approached. That’s one of the prettiest sounds in the whole world.

Garrya fremontii

male Fremont’s silktassel (Garrya fremontii)

A quick stop at the bathroom at the bridge on the south side of the lake brought another surprise. In the dozens of times I’ve stopped there, I never noticed there is a Garrya fremontii growing in the parking area. It was a handsome male in full peak bloom, the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Its long dangling flowers were dispersing tons of pollen, my camera bag was yellow from a thick coating of it. That was worth the whole trip.

We continued on to Youngs Flat Picnic area for lunch and a quick check on the Piperias. They are starting to come up, but there should be many more emerging in a little while. Nothing else blooming there but snow queens, but we did see two California tortoiseshells. Then we stopped at a south-facing road cut where over 20 tortoiseshells were fluttering about! More Crocidium blooming on the rocks here and one Clarkia rhomboidea plant with the coleus like purple veins on the young leaves. We had fun trying to identify all the annual leaves coming up as well. We hiked up through the woods and back down through a small meadow to the road. The seeps were filled with blooming Nemophila pedunculata and tiny Montia fontana. I was surprised to see so much of it and out so early. Farther east along the road by Campers Flat and then at Big Pine Opening, we saw more of both in seepy spots. Big Pine Opening was burned a couple of years ago. Last year it was filled with supersized annuals presumably enjoying the extra carbon. It is filled with annuals again. It was also interesting to see a number of shrubs that have come back from the roots after burning including several willows coming into bloom that looked like Salix scouleriana, but they had bright red branches.

I hope you all get a chance to get out and enjoy this insanely early spring!

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