Posts Tagged ‘Rigdon’

Baby Insects in the Rigdon Area

I believe this interesting insect is the nymph of a bush katydid. It looks like it might have just molted as you can see an empty shell under the flower of snapdragon skullcap (Scutellaria antirrhinoides). It sure is cute!

A hairstreak caterpillar wrapped around the fruit of rose checkermallow.

Low elevation seeds were starting to ripen, and the weather was still cool (little did I know then how hot it would get!), so on June 24th, I decided to spend a day collecting seeds around the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County. I had vague plans of the favorite places I wanted to stop by but ended up changing my plans all day. I had planned to head straight south of Hills Creek Reservoir, but as I left Oakridge, I remembered that the stretch of roadside meadows along the north end of the lake (east of the dam, less than 2 miles on Road 23) was the only easy place in the area to get silver lupine (Lupinus albifrons) seeds. When I arrived there, they were mostly gone, but the seeds (technically mericarps) of rose checkermallow (Sidalcea asprella [malviflora] ssp. virgata) were ripe and abundant. That reminded me I had seen caterpillars on them in the past. Once I started looking, I spotted at least 9 greenish to pink slug-like caterpillars—most likely those of gray hairstreaks. A great start to the day! Read the rest of this entry »

First Trip of the Year to Bearbones Mountain

I was able to get close to some beautiful cliff paintbrush (Castilleja rupicola) on my way up the north side of the summit. Most of the other plants I saw were out of reach.

I recently heard from Chad Sageser that he had cleared the roads (2127 and 5850) to Bearbones Mountain of fallen trees. What a hero! With all the interesting early plants on this old lookout site, I decided to head up there as soon as possible. On May 31, I drove up there by myself. I’d missed the earliest flowers—only a couple of glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum) were still blooming—but the rest of the flowers were beautiful, and there was more spring phacelia (Phacelia verna) than I’d ever seen before. I was a bit tired, so I didn’t make it as far down the side ridge as I usually go. I also wanted to save a little energy for a quick but steep trip up to the top of Big Pine Opening (the big open slope along Road 21 at the intersection of Rd 2135) at the end of the day. This is the lowest site of purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) we know of in the Middle Fork district, so I wanted to see how far along the bloom was. Here are some highlights.

Looking to the northeast from the summit, you can see the snowy Three Sisters in the distance. You can also see the extensive damage of the 2022 Cedar Creek Fire, which burned from Waldo Lake all the way to west of Blair Lake. The nearby ridge I named Bearscat Ridge, but I haven’t been back up there since 2007.

Looking west, there’s a good view of nearby Bohemia Mountain (left) and Fairview Peak (right). This area burned last year in the Bohemia Fire, which started in late August. Thankfully, we had an early rain at the end of August, or this might have burned more extensively.

With high, thin cirrus clouds, it was the perfect day for some interesting atmospheric phenomena. I mistakenly climbed up the steep north side of the summit slope from farther down than usual. I won’t try that again! But I got this cool view of a colorful halo around the sun. Later there was even a partial second halo.

The death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum) was just coming into bloom on the side ridge among Menzies’ larkspur (Delphinium menziesii), rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta), spring phacelia, and Olympic onion (Allium crenulatum).

I didn’t see as many insects as I’d hoped, but this bee was enjoying Sierra sanicle (Sanicula graveolens).

Smallflower woodland star (Lithophragma parviflorum) and large-flowered Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora) were abundant in this section of meadow along the south side of the side ridge.

I hesitated to post this photo as it is rather gruesome, but I was fascinated that these three checkerspot butterflies were so enthusiastically feeding from a deer carcass at Big Pine Opening. I would have been less surprised to see anglewings or some other species that are commonly seen on scat, but there must have been some great minerals to be had from this poor deer. I wondered if the deer had been hit by a car and just managed to crawl off the road a bit before dying. Nature carries on, but it still makes me really sad.

Typical purple milkweed has glaucous leaves and wine-colored flowers. The milkweed was just starting to bloom up on Big Pine Opening.

One of the things I wanted to check on in the milkweed patch at Big Pine Opening was the weird plant I discovered in 2019 (see Three Trips in a Row to Rigdon). It has gotten larger, but it is still a brighter shade of green than the normal purple milkweed. I was surprised and excited to see that it was blooming for the first time, but something was very odd about the flowers!

Here’s a close up of the abnormal inflorescence of the unusual plant. I picked a single flower from a normal plant for comparison. Milkweeds have an unusual flower structure. In addition to a calyx and corolla, there’s a corona consisting of 5 petal-like structures call hoods. In the center, the stamens and styles are fused together into what is called the gynostegium. I checked the reproductive parts of a weird flower under the microscope, and it was indeed a milkweed although the corona was certainly reduced. The back of the normal flower shows an small, inconspicuous, dark purple calyx. The petals are purple, and the corona starts out white and turns purple. I think what is going on with the unusual flowers is that the large green outer structures are actually the calyx. The corolla lobes are still purple but much smaller than normal. Peeking into the still opening corolla, I could see the gynostegium and a very small corona. How bizarre!

Thinking About Climate Change at Youngs Rock

The north side of Youngs Rock is hard to get close to. Although there’s no talus, the slope is still quite steep and slippery, and the rock outcrops are not all stable. It reminds me of a Japanese garden. With binoculars, I could see lots of blooming Oregon fawn-lilies and a single cliff paintbrush, but I didn’t feel comfortable trying to get close to them like I did when I first started coming here.

The south side of the rock is really craggy and supports many interesting plants in its cracks. It’s open but also really hard to get up close to because of the slippery and steep talus at its base. Better have binoculars!

On May 26, Lauren Meyer and I spent a beautiful day hiking up to Youngs Rock. It was sunny but only in the low 70s—pretty much perfect. In my work for the Flora of Oregon, I had just read through a draft copy of a chapter on climate change that will be part of the third and final volume of the flora. I couldn’t help but look at what we saw along the trail through the lens of climate change. We discussed it quite a bit as well. The Youngs Rock trail follows a south-facing ridge in the Rigdon area of southeastern Lane County. We hiked the middle stretch—my favorite part through a string of meadows—from about 3100′ to Youngs Rock itself, an impressive pillar rock, at about 4500′. There are a number of plants here that are near the most northerly edge of their range. These include whisker brush (Leptosiphon ciliatus), ground rose (Rosa spithamea), birdbeak (Cordylanthus sp., I’m still unsure how to distinguish the species), and many-stemmed sedge (Carex multicaulis). I’d only discovered the latter a couple of years ago (see Back to Lower Meadows of Youngs Rock) and was surprised at how much more there was along the lower stretches of the trail. I’ll admit I don’t spend much time on graminoids, and this sedge looks more like a rush (Juncus spp.) than a sedge. Farther up the trail, where we didn’t go on this trip, is the most northerly site (so far) for galium broomrape (Aphyllon epigalium). With the caveat that I’m not a scientist, I would think these meadows might adapt to climate change fairly well and could even become home to more species adapted to the hotter regions to the south, though I suspect  blooming periods might move up. Read the rest of this entry »

Long-awaited Return to Mosaic Rock

The more-or-less east end of the rock above the road.

I spotted a small area of spring phacelia at Mosaic Rock. This is a new site for this easily overlooked species, which is only found in Douglas and southern Lane counties.

My husband isn’t excited about little plants the way I am, and waiting for me while I try to photograph butterflies isn’t his favorite way to spend the day either. So we don’t hike together all that often. But he does really like rocks, and I’d been wanting to take him to the amazing rock formation in the Rigdon area that Sabine and I named “Mosaic Rock” (43.4808°N, -122.4539°W) back in 2011 (see Amazing Rock Feature Worthy of a Name). It’s a magnificent example of columnar jointing, and the cracks provide a foothold for several special cliff-loving plants, including cliff penstemon (Penstemon rupicola) and Merriam’s alumroot (Heuchera merriamii). It’s several hundred feet high in places, about 1400′ long and less than 200′ wide, and reminds me of a giant that looks like a flying saucer or frisbee that crashed into the ground on its edge. While I had driven by it many times in the last decade since you pass under it on the way up to Bristow Prairie, I hadn’t explored the rock itself since that first trip. We finally made it there on May 20, on a perfect sunny but cool day. Read the rest of this entry »

More Botanizing Near Hills Creek Reservoir

The gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) were even more outstanding than the previous trip. They can continue to bloom for a long time as long as it stays moist.

We went to Many Creeks Meadow, as I was hoping to see the numerous Pacific hound’s tongue (Adelinia grandis, formerly Cynoglossum grande) that grow there. I’ve been having great luck seeding them around my property, and this is one of the best sites I know for seed (technically nutlets).

After days of weeding on my own property during another sunny stretch, I was ready to go out botanizing again before the rain returned. It’s still quite early, so on April 2 (4/2/24 for those like me who like numbers!), I headed back to the reservoir to see how things were progressing. It’s undoubtedly the best place I know in early spring as it tends to be warmer in the southeastern corner than in the rest of Lane County. Nancy Bray joined me again. After a half hour trying to weed the offending patch of shining geranium (Geranium lucidum) along the cliffs (I’d remembered a bag this time!), we spent a lovely, relaxing day enjoying the flowers and butterflies and the perfect sunny, 70° weather. We made a number of stops and hiked up the steep rocky meadow of Many Creeks Meadow off of Road 2129. We also spent a while watching birds in the reservoir. A number of mergansers, mallards, and a few buffleheads and Canada geese were foraging in the shallow waters of the southeast corner, while violet-green swallows had returned to the cliffs. Here are some photographic highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

First Botanizing Trip of 2024

While looking at the flowers on the cliffs, Lauren spotted a bald eagle sitting in a dead tree above us!

Sadly, the population of shining geranium (Geranium lucidum) at the base of the cliffs near milepost 7 is starting to spread up onto the rocks despite attempts to remove it. Here you can see how similar the geranium leaves (bottom) are to the lovely native California mistmaiden (Romanzoffia californica, top) that grows abundantly there. I tried to at least pull out the ones on the cliff so no one else would accidentally pull the mistmaiden. We looked carefully at the leaves and noted good distinguishing marks are the small tips on the lobes of the glabrous mistmaiden leaves vs. rounded lobes on the slightly hairy leaves of the geranium.

As is my tradition, my first botanizing of the year was to Hills Creek Reservoir south of Oakridge on March 17th. It’s such a relaxing way to start the year. I was joined by fellow Native Plant Society of Oregon (NPSO) members Nancy Bray and Lauren Meyer. We made a number of stops along Road 21 as far as Big Pine Opening across from the bridge that leads to Coal Creek and Staley Creek roads. It didn’t seem worth going any farther as there were still patches of snow in the ditches. Lots of snow up higher as well. It was a lovely warm day, however, and we enjoyed the beautiful gold stars (Crocidium multicaule) and other early flowers. And while not abundant, we did see four species of butterflies: California tortoiseshells, unidentified blues, an anglewing, and a mourning cloak. Seeing butterflies always starts my spring fever. Here are some photos of our (mostly) pleasant day. Read the rest of this entry »

Insect Watching at Grassy Glade and Nearby

As soon as I arrived at Many Creeks Meadow, I spotted this pale swallowtail nectaring on the first mountain thistle (Cirsium remotifolium) flower heads.

I believe this is a Hoffman’s checkerspot—or maybe it’s a northern—I still can’t sort them out!

Although I’d already been to Grassy Glade twice this year (see NPSO Trip to Grassy Glade and Planning Trip to Grassy Glade), I hadn’t seen the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) in bloom yet. On June 21st, I headed back out to Rigdon to stop at some of my favorite low-elevation spots. I started the day at “Many Creeks Meadow,” hidden away just a little way up Youngs Creek Road 2129. There were still patches of moisture to keep the wildflowers and butterflies happy. The showy tarweed (Madia elegans) was quite lovely, and there were some Oregon geranium (Geranium oreganum), narrowleaf mule’s ears (Wyethia angustifolia), and rosy plectritis (Plectritis congesta) still in bloom. I had hoped to find ripe nutlets of Pacific hound’s tongue (now Adelinia grandis) as this is one of the best places I know to find it. Although a number of inflorescences had been eaten, there were still plenty of nutlets to collect, so I was off to a good start to the day. Read the rest of this entry »

NPSO Trip to Grassy Glade

The group checking out the monkeyflower and annual clovers in the areas of Grassy Glade that were still moist.

Someone spotted several morels along the edge of Staley Creek.

On Saturday, June 3rd, I took a group of folks attending the Native Plant Society of Oregon‘s Annual Meeting (first one since the pandemic!) to Grassy Glade and Staley Creek Bridge. We didn’t have as much time as I would like for a field trip as we had to get back to Eugene in time for the banquet and other evening festivities. But it was a perfect day for a field trip, and we had a chance to look at some of the diversity of the Rigdon area, exploring both the meadows and dry forest at Grassy Glade and the wet creekside habitat and lusher forest along Staley Creek. Unfortunately, the purple milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) that I had hoped to show everyone still wasn’t in bloom, and in fact didn’t look much farther along than it had been the week before on my prehike (see Planning Trip to Grassy Glade). It was new plant for many people, however, and they enjoyed the handsome foliage. Hopefully, everyone found something new and interesting. Here are some highlights of our trip.

White-tip clover (Trifolium variegatum) is a common annual clover of seepy meadows, but it is often quite tiny and easily overlooked.

This interesting looking underwater growth in Staley Creek is Nostoc parmelloides, a cyanobacteria that forms colonies in cold creeks. I hadn’t noticed it on my previous trips but had seen it up in the Calapooyas a few years back (see More Discoveries along the Calapooya Crest). Tiny midge larvae develop in the flattened colonies.

Some of us were lucky enough to spot the dipper in the usual spot right where the water plunges down at the narrowest part of the creek. Unfortunately, it flew off before everyone got to see it. I could not relocate the nest that I had seen on previous years (see More Exploration Near Grassy Glade).

I was happy to see the tiny candelabrum monkeyflower (Erythranthe pulsiferae) was still blooming well. It’s an uncommon plant that most people hadn’t seen before.

Although we were trying to get back to Eugene by 4:30, I couldn’t help making a quick stop to show people all the paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) on the reservoir cliffs. We also saw the lovely pale yellow Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) that has been growing right by the road for many years.

Planning Trip to Grassy Glade

I do hope that some of the beautiful purple milkweed will be in bloom on our upcoming trip to Grassy Glade!

Beautiful harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) blooms along the road by Hills Creek Reservoir.

On Saturday, May 27, I headed out to the Rigdon area to plan the field trip I’m leading for the Native Plant Society of Oregon Annual Meeting the following Saturday. I want to give people a taste of the interesting plants in this area that are more common to the south, especially the lovely purple (or heartleaf) milkweed (Asclepias cordifolia) that I’ve written about so many times. I’ve been crossing my fingers that we will see some in bloom somewhere, but with the crazy shift in weather this spring, it’s hard to anticipate how the plants are going to react. There are lots of great places in the Rigdon area, but I wanted to know which would work best for our non-trail field trip.

I drove straight to Grassy Glade and parked along the side road near the beginning of the meadow. I did a quick spin through the meadow, which was half baked and half moist. On the road in, I had noticed some of the potholes were partly filled with water. Obviously, some of the thunderstorms that I’d heard had occurred out here had blessed the area with some much-needed moisture—there hasn’t been a drop for almost three weeks at my house. My guess is that some of the meadow had already dried out before the rain, while the moister parts had been refreshed before the annuals died. Spring gold (Lomatium utriculatum) and many species of clover (Trifolium spp.) had started along with the cute narrow-leaf owl’s clover (Castilleja attenuata). Read the rest of this entry »

Late Start to 2023 Botanizing

While the center yellow lines were painted by a road crew, Mother Nature created the line along the edge of the road with a bright yellow ribbon of gold stars. They are also sprinkled all over the cliffs along Hills Creek Reservoir.

A little rove beetle(?) has gotten completely covered with pollen from the tiny flowers of skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus).

I almost always start my botanizing year with a trip in March to the Rigdon area in southeastern Lane County. With the cold, wet weather of March and April and the lateness of the wildflower emergence, I didn’t get out there until April 26! As I suspected, the wet spring was ideal for gold stars (Crocidium multicaule), and most everything was at least 3 weeks later than usual. Here are a few highlights.
Read the rest of this entry »

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