Posts Tagged ‘Plagiobothrys’

Glorious Day at the Summit of Cone Peak

The steepest part of the 700′ climb up to the summit from the trail is when you’re almost at the top. But you want to go slowly to look at all the flowers anyway.

Sheila and I were intrigued by this dead tree. Pileated woodpeckers commonly make rectangular-shaped holes in dead trees, and there were some higher up, but I’ve never seen them carve up a tree so thoroughly. We thought it looked like a totem pole. You can see the huge pile of wood chips at the base. There was a smaller one on the other side of the trail.

Sheila Klest and I had planned to go to Cone Peak the previous week, but I had to cancel at the last moment after barely sleeping the night before. Even if I could have handled the long drive and hike, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it on two hours of sleep. It’s tough finding a time when Sheila can get away from her native plant nursery, Trillium Gardens, so I was relieved she was able to reschedule to go up there with me on Thursday, June 13. Coincidentally, that the was the exact date and day of our previous trip (see A Rainbow of Colors at Cone Peak and Iron Mountain), but we hadn’t made it to the summit that time, and the bloom season was a little farther ahead of this year.

I had wanted to get up there as early as possible to see the first flowers while there were still a few snow banks left. My early-season trip with Sabine Dutoit back in 2008 (see Top of Cone Peak Starting to Bloom) is still one of my favorite experiences. While it was later in June, that was an above-average snow year, so we walked over snow drifts with snowmelt species blooming in the newly bare spots to get to the top of Cone Peak where the bloom was gorgeous. What makes Cone Peak such a great place to see very early flowers is that you can hike from a paved road that is cleared of snow in June. Most of my other high-elevation spots require going up long gravel roads, so the earliest plants are often done before the roads are clear of snow and downed trees. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lure of the Little

Miniature gilia and Kellogg’s knotweed at Groundhog

On both my last two outings, part of my agenda was to relocate tiny annuals I had seen in the past. More and more, I find myself fascinated with these smallest of plants that have such a brief time in the sun. They just don’t get much respect. Sometimes I find myself ignoring large, showy perennials shamelessly calling attention to themselves with their bright colors. Instead, I look for the empty spaces in between the tall plants. Here lie an amazing array of Lilliputian annuals that can hardly be seen without kneeling or lying down (hence the name “belly plants”). But up close, they are as fascinating as the relative giants above them.

At Bristow Prairie on July 13, my first stop was just a short ways from the road up a small wash. A couple of years ago (see Bristow Prairie’s Open Gravelly Slope), I had seen some tiny popcorn flowers (Plagiobothrys spp.). Unfortunately, they are so similar that to differentiate many species you need to see the nutlets. The various patterns of bumps and ridges and the placement of the scar where the nutlets were attached to the style help distinguish one species from another. I found the little plants pretty easily, and, unlike the previous trip, they had started to form nutlets. Even unripe, it is possible to see some of the necessary characteristics. I’m pretty sure they are harsh popcorn flower (P. hispidulus), as I had suspected, but it was good to finally get a look at the nutlets. Read the rest of this entry »

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