Siskiyou Wildflowers: Mt. Ashland in July, part 2

So many flowers!

We’ve made two trips to Mt. Ashland (Southern Oregon), on July 22 and 31, along a gravel/dirt forest road noted for wildflowers, and it was a new experience: instead of marvelling at a single flower or small patch of flowers, we saw slopes red with Indian Paintbrush or Scarlet Gilia, places with a dozen different flowers blooming in a 50 foot stretch. On gentle slopes where the snow has recently melted, plants grow so thickly it’s hard to see which leaves belong to which flowers. This is Forest Road 20, for those who might want to visit, and it’s the continuation of the main paved road that goes to the Mt. Ashland ski area. Just keep going, and the road soon turns to gravel and there are meadows of wildflowers on each side. A few miles later the road winds into a drier area with few but choice species, such as various penstemons as well as paintbrush, gilia, eriogonum, and many more. For us novices, identifying what we’ve seen and photographed has been a challenge.

Here are some of the plants we’ve seen on these two trips. Others were included in the earlier “Part 1” post. [Our identifications are the best we have been able to do, but shouldn’t be considered authoritative.]

Castilleja species along a seep.jpg

Castilleja (Paintbrush) along a trickle of water. Not sure of the species, but it doesn’t have the wavy leaves of C. applegatei.

Tiny wildflowers like this one are easy to overlook, hard to identify. For scale, that large pink object on the left is part of my finger. The entire plant was only two or three inches tall, and was growing in a wet sandy area.

Mystery tiny pink flower.jpg

Lilium pardalinum, Veratrum californicum (foliage), .jpg

The striking yellow lilies above are Leopard Lilies (Lilium pardalinum), native to Oregon and California. The spires of white flowers are White Schoenolirion or White Rush-lily (Hastingsia alba; also called Schoenolirion album).

[Etymological note: pardalinum is an adjective from the Greek pardalis, female leopard (meaning spotted like a leopard); Hastingsia after Serranus Clinton Hastings (1814-1893), first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California, who helped publish The Botany of the Pacific Coast edited by Asa Gray, Sir Joseph Hooker and J. D. Whitney; album and alba are from the Latin albus (white); Schoenolirion from the Greek schoinos (a rush), + lirion (lily).]

Lilium pardalinum, Leopard Lily CLOSE.jpg

The White Rush-lily is in the lily family; it grows from a bulb, and has the flat strap-like leaves characteristic of many lilies. The mixed species of plants were so dense in some places on Mt. Ashland that it was hard even to find the foliage of a particular species, much less photograph it, but the picture below shows a big area where White Rush-lily alone grew.

Hastingsia alba, foliage.jpg

Aster family purple, and yarrow.jpg

A purple flower in the aster family, but which one? In the background is Achillea millefolium, Common Yarrow.

Out of the ordinary Owl’s Clover

Next is an unusual flower, Toothed Owl’s Clover (Orthocarpus cuspidatus). Owl’s Clovers are in the Snapdragon family along with Paintbrushes (Castilleja genus), Foxgloves, and Penstemons (Beardtongues). Because it is so remarkable, I’m going to include pictures of it from several points of view. From above, looking down on the upright flower.

Owl'sCloverTopView1.jpg

Below, another top view of a rather different-looking individual, missing some of its parts or having developed differently.

Owl'sCloverTopView2.jpg

Two views from the side.

Owl'sClover.jpg

Owl'sClover2.jpg

Owl’s Clovers are not just unusual in appearance, but also in their natural history. They are annuals, and

if the first roots emerging from a germinating Owl Clover seed find themselves near the roots of a neighboring plant of a different species, such as prairie lupine, it will initiate structural connections called haustoria. These are modified roots capable of causing infection in the host plant.

The haustoria invade, literally grow into, the inner tissues of the host lupine’s roots. The Owl Clover haustoria are triggered into formation when the lupine itself exudes chemicals from its roots; that is, the lupine chemically signals its presence to the Owl Clover. The haustoria connections are all completed and in place within a few hours! With functional haustoria in place, Owl Clover’s growth is accelerated. The Owl Clover gains water, minerals and energy from the host plant. Being an annual, Owl Clover has a relatively small root system, so getting extra food really helps its growth rate. This host-parasite relationship is called heterotrophy, the opposite of autotrophy [self-sustaining by photosynthesis]. Being semi-parasitic [capable of both parasitism and if necessary autotrophy], Owl Clover may engage in both at the same time.

Owl Clover, when functioning as a parasite, also takes in toxic chemicals the host plant produces; lupines have alkaloids (remember, plants like lupines are poisonous to livestock). These toxic chemicals are distributed into the Owl Clover’s stem and leaf tissues. The consequences? The presence of the poisonous alkaloids, botanists have learned, reduces the level of feeding (herbivory) by butterfly and moth larvae that favor Owl Clover leaves for their growth and development. Larvae feeding is hindered by the presence of the poisons, and the Owl Clover retains more of its leaf tissue for photosynthesis, an obvious benefit. Butterfly and moth larvae need alternative leaves to eat, but that’s impossible since mature butterflies and moths lay their eggs on developing Owl Clover plants not knowing if the leaves are toxic or not. Larvae, it’s assumed, survive better, and develop to maturity by feeding on Owl Clovers that are not parasitizing a lupine or other toxic host plant.

There’s one remaining piece of this interesting relationship to be told: studies suggest that Owl Clover’s flower nectar is not contaminated by the toxic alkaloids. Perhaps the alkaloids are detoxified by some means before reaching the nectar glands. Why is this important? Visiting pollinators, such as hummingbirds or bumble bees, can harvest the Owl Clover’s nectar reward without suffering ill effects. [Source article by Jim Habeck, professor emeritus of botany at the University of Montana]

Representations of the seeds and seed-pods of wildflowers seem hard to find; after the colorful floral show is over, the photographers lose interest just as the pollinating bees and hawkmoths do. But in my Owl’s Clover wanderings I came across photos here of the seeds and pods of two species. Looking at the flowers, I wouldn’t have expected this:

Orthocarpus purpurascens SEED POD.jpg

Seeds and seedpod of Purple Owl’s Clover (Orthocarpus purpurascens, also called Castilleja exserta). Not the species we saw, but it has a similar flower so probably the seedpods are similar.

[Etymological note: Orthocarpus, from the Greek ortho (straight, upright) + carp- (fruit, seed); cuspidatus, from the Latin cuspis (lance, point); purpurescens, becoming purple, from the Latin purpura (purple); Castilleja, named for Domingo Castillejo (1744-1793), Spanish botanist and Professor of Botany in Cadiz, Spain; exserta, from the Latin exsertus, past participle of exserere (to thrust out, from ex- + serere to join).]

Wavy-leaf Paintbrush and hand signals

Castilleja applegatei, Wavy-leaf Paintbrush.jpg

This, I think, is Wavy-leaf Paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei)

Castilleja applegatei, Wavy-leaf PaintbrushLEAVES.jpg

Here are the wavy-edged 3-lobed leaves. Some leaves are single, not lobed.

And this is my hand signal to tell myself that the flower felt “sticky”! I have found I have trouble remembering these things days later when I am looking over 300 photos, sometimes of more than one species of the same genus. Now which one had the sticky flowers? It’s characteristic of some Paintbrushes and not others, so knowing helps to identify these tricky guys.

Another difficulty was that if two similar species were photographed one after the other I couldn’t be sure where the first one ended, in the series of photos. Now when I finish photographing one species I take a “spacer” photo of my foot in its red sandal. Sounds odd but seems to be helping.

[Etymological note: Castilleja, named for Domingo Castillejo (1744-1793), Spanish botanist and Professor of Botany in Cadiz, Spain; applegatei, named after Elmer Applegate (1867-1949), a student of the flora of Oregon best known for his monograph of trout lilies (Erythronium).]

Thistle, Buckwheat, Roses and more

Cirsium scariosum, elk thistle CLOSE.jpg

Above is a close-up of the center of a flat-growing thistle, called Elk Thistle (Cirsium scariosum). All our other local thistles send up tall stems defended with spiky leaves and ending in one or more flowers, but this one grows and flowers at a height of just 2 or 3 inches. The plants we saw were up to a foot in diameter.

Cirsium scariosum, elk thistle.jpg

[Etymological note: Cirsium from the Greek kirsion (a kind of thistle) in turn from kirsos (a swollen vein or welt) because thistles were often used as a remedy against such things; scariosum from “New Latin” (=concocted by moderns) scariosus c. 1806, origin uncertain (dry and membranous in texture, chaffy, brown).]

Eriogonum umbellatum, Sulphur-flower Buckwheat.jpg

Sulphur-flower Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). The genus Eriogonum is in the same family (Polygonaceae) as the field crop buckwheat, and the seeds of some species are important for wildlife. The name ‘buckwheat’ or ‘beech wheat’ comes from its triangular seeds, which resemble the much larger seeds of the beech nut from the beech tree, and the fact that it is used like wheat [Wikipedia].

Eriogonum umbellatum, Sulphur-flower Buckwheat CLOSE.jpg

[Etymological note: Eriogonum, from the Greek erion (wool) and gony (knee or joint), so called because the jointed stems are covered with hair; umbellatum, from the Latin umbella (sunshade), diminutive of umbra (shadow), and refers to the arrangement of the flowers which arise in a head from a central point, i.e. bearing an umbel.] Now that I know this odd bit about the meaning of Eriogonum, I’ll be looking for those “hairy knees” on wild buckwheat plants in future.

Rosa woodsii, Woods' rose.jpg

Small patches of these vivid pink roses were blooming in areas of loose dry soil, and the plants were only a few inches tall. I think it’s Wood’s Rose (Rosa woodsii).

[Etymological note: Rosa, from the Latin rosa (rose), in turn derived from the Greek rhodon (rose); woodsii, after American botanist Alphonso Wood (1810-1881).]

Penstemon azureus, azure penstemon.jpg

We think this Penstemon is Azure Penstemon (Penstemon azureus). At their peak the flowers must have been glorious.

Penstemon azureus, Azure penstemon, LEAF.jpg

The broadly oval leaves are distinctive, and seem to clasp the stem as described for this species.

[Etymological note: Penstemon from Greek penta- (five) + Greek stēmōn (thread, here meaning stamen); azureus (of a deep blue color) from Arabic via Old French azaward which developed from Arabic lāzaward, from Persian lāzhuward, of obscure origin—in Old French the initial ‘l’ was dropped from the word proper and turned into the definite article “le” as if it were French: l’azaward].]

Here is a beautiful penstemon we are not able to identify.

Penstemon, unknown species 1 FLOWERS.jpg

Penstemon, unknown species 1 CLOSE.jpg

The difference in flower color between these two pictures is due to light conditions; the one taken in full sunlight is actually a bit washed out compared to how the colors appeared to my eye, and the one taken in shade is more accurate.

Penstemon, unknown species 1 LEAF.jpg

The buds and long narrow leaves of this penstemon.

A second unidentified penstemon.

Penstemon unknown species,#2 CLOSE .jpg

The leaves are quite different from the first unidentified one.
Penstemon unknown species,#2 .jpg

We saw many more flowers on these two trips, but I’ll stop with this one, Western Blue Flax or Prairie Flax (Linum lewisii, also called Linum perenne var. lewisii).

Linum lewisii (Linum perenne var. lewisii), Lewis flax, blue flax, prairie flax2.jpg

Western Blue Flax is very similar to the European Flax plant from which linen is made; indeed, some consider the two a single species, Linum perenne. Native American peoples used flax fiber for cordage and string, as well as for mats, snowshoes, fishing nets and baskets.

Linum lewisii (Linum perenne var. lewisii), Lewis flax, blue flax, prairie flax CLOSE.jpg

[Etymological note: Linum from Latin linum (flax, linen); lewisii, for Captain Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806; perenne from Latin perennis (lasting through the year or years) from per- (through) + annus (year), botanical sense of “Remaining alive through a number of years”.]

Mt. Ashland flower scene.jpg

View of Mt. Shasta from Mt. Ashland, July.jpg

View of Mt. Shasta from Mt. Ashland.

Siskiyou Wildflowers: Mt. Ashland in July, part 1

On July 22nd we left our usual nearby wildflower haunts and headed to Mt. Ashland, drawn by a brochure given us by the local ranger station. It’s called Wildflowers of Mount Ashland and the Siskiyou Crest from Mount Ashland to Cow Creek Glade, and shows small photos of 82 different flowers that may be found along Forest Road 20. There’s also concise information about each one as to wet/dry/shade habitat, location on the road, and height. The Siskiyou Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon produced this, and did a great job. We’ll be joining, to support such efforts.

The day on the mountain was perfect: we left behind the valley where the temperature was headed for 100°, for an airy sunny breezy place from which Mt. Shasta was visible.

Mt. Shasta.jpg

There were still a few areas of snow, and meadows moist from springs and snowmelt.

A small seep of water flows down this crease in the land, with plants most dense where the ground levels out a bit.

Water seep line.jpg

Habitats vary from dry and rocky to wet at this time of year. Peak flowering time is July and August. We saw many wildflowers—not all 82, but we’ll go back in a couple of weeks and see what else has appeared. Here’s a first installment of what we saw.

Ipomopsis aggregata, Scarlet Gilia #  - 06.jpg

The most numerous species we saw was Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata). There were isolated plants, there were swathes of red. It was hard to believe something so bright and beautiful could be so abundant. [Etymological note: Ipomopsis is said to be from a Greek root meaning “striking in appearance,” but no one seems to be able to substantiate it; the species name means “flocking together,” or growing in groups, clustered, from Latin gregis (a flock) and the suffix -gate from agere (to set in motion, to drive, to lead).

Ipomopsis aggregata, Scarlet Gilia en masse.jpg

Ipomopsis aggregata, Scarlet Gilia CLOSE.jpg

Below is a yellow paintbrush, called Cobwebby Paintbrush, (Castilleja arachnoidea). Its leaves are narrow—the wide tapering hairy leaves belong to another plant that grew close in among the Castilleja. [Etymological note: named for Professor Domingo Castillejo (1744-1793), a Spanish botanist and instructor of botany at Cadiz, Spain; from Greek arachnes (spider), arachnion (spider web), like a spider’s web.]

Castilleja arachnoidea.jpg

Another Castilleja sp., but which one? Wavy-leaf Paintbrush (C. applegatei) was pictured in our guide to Mt. Ashland, but this plant did not have the distinctive wavy leaves.

Castilleja Sp. A.jpg

The next two photos show a small plant called Pussy Paws, for the soft fuzzy flowerheads(Calyptridium umbellatum). The second one pictured is the pink variety. [Etymological note: from the Greek kaluptra (a cap or covering) because of the way the petals close over the fruit; umbellatum meaning “having an umbel”, botanical term for a cluster of flowers with stalks of nearly equal length which spring from about the same point, like the ribs of an umbrella, and derived from Latin diminutive of umbra (shadow).]

Calyptridium umbellatum, Pussy Paws .jpg

Calyptridium umbellatum, Pussy PawsPINK.jpg

Two orchids were prize finds, in shady spots. Both are Uncommon, according to Turner. First the oddly named Short-spurred Rein Orchid (Piperia unalascensis). Living in the Pacific Northwest, even in a dry part of it, one wants to call this a “Rain” orchid, but all sources agree it is “Rein”. One writer alleges that it’s so named for the strap-like lower lip on each tiny flower, but I don’t really see it. [Etymological note: named after Charles Vancouver Piper (1867-1926), an agronomist with the US Department of Agriculture and an expert on Pacific Northwest flora; species name refers to Aleutian Islands (Unalaska) where species was first found. The Unangan people, who were the first to inhabit the island of Unalaska, named it “Ounalashka” meaning ‘Near the Peninsula’, according to Wikipedia. ]

Piperia unalascensis, Short-spurred Rein Orchid CLOSE.jpg

Below, not in very good focus, is the entire plant next to an Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja), species unknown.

Piperia unalascensis, Short-spurred Rein Orchid .jpg

The White Bog Orchid (Platanthera leucostachys) below It’s also called the Sierra Bog Orchid. The palmate leaf and thick stalk on the right belong to a lupine. [Etymological note: from the Greek “platanos” (broad or flat), and Greek anther (from Greek anthera, feminine of antheros (flowery) from anthos (flower), here anther is the botanical term, referring to the upper part of the stamen, containing pollen; species name from the Greek leukos (white) and Greek stachus (ear of grain or a spike) in reference to the spike-like form of the flowers.]

White bog orchid, Platanthera leucostachys   - 1.jpg

White bog orchid, Platanthera leucostachys CLOSE.jpg

Orange Agoseris (Agoseris aurantiaca), bright as the sun. [Etymological note: Agoseris was the Greek name for a related plant “goat chicory” and the word is usually seen as deriving from derived from Greek aix (goat) and seris (chicory). Some members of the Agoseris genus have woolly stems or leaves, possibly relating to the “goat” connexion. Species name aurantiaca from the Latin (orange, orange-yellow or orange-red), ultimately from aurum (gold, the metal).]

Agoseris aurantiaca, Orange AgoserisCLOSE.jpg

Several delphiniums were spotted, but not yet identified. Here’s one.

Delphinium A- 2.jpg

Its leaf is small and three-lobed.

Delphinium A- 2LEAF.jpg

There are lots of yellow daisy-like flowers in the world, but not all have the tenacity of this one which seems to spring from the dry rock. It is Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum). [Etymological note: from the Greek erion (wool), phyllum (leaves); species name from the Latin lanatus, (woolly). Very very woolly!]

Eriophyllum lanatum, Oregon Sunshine  - 1.jpg

Western Wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) is another bright-flowered plant that does well in dry and disturbed soils. That trait may account for the common English name, supposedly derived from growing at the foot of walls in Europe. I suppose they’re rather like the hollyhocks you see springing up in the hard dry soil in front of abandoned sheds or at the edges of alleys. [Etymological note: from the Greek eryomai (to help or save) because some of the species supposedly had a medicinal value ; species name from Latin capitātus (having a head) from capit-, (head), refers to the way the flowers form in a head-like cluster.]

Erysimum capitatum, Western Wallflower # 2.jpg

It’s in the Mustard Family, a group called Cruciferae meaning “cross-shaped”, referring to the arrangement of the flower petals.

Erysimum capitatum, Western Wallflower.jpg

More soon!

Back to the Fair

I posted photos earlier from our visit to the Jackson County Fair, and here’s a series that I took with the title “Back to the Fair” in mind. This isn’t a cross-section of folks at the fair by any means; for one thing, it was clear that America does have an obesity problem. But photographing people who are 100+ pounds overweight felt bad, insulting, so they’re not here.

Mothr,Child&Balloons.jpg

Boy&Goats.jpg

CoupleWithDinosaur.jpg

ManWithTattoos.jpg

MotherBabyFoodStand.jpg

Ram'sHead.jpg

FatherWithChildren.jpg

YoungWomanPink&Black.jpg

TieDye&GirlInBubble.jpg

Trailblazers 4-H2.jpg

BabyInHatOnHip.jpg

OlderMan.jpg

LittleGirlWithStripes.jpg

ManWithMilitaryBearing.jpg

The County Fair

DropZoneRide.jpg

We went to our county fair today, and were saddened at how it is shrinking. Even counting time spent eating elephant ears and bento, we were there less than three hours. Everything seems smaller in numbers of exhibits, and generally drained of vitality. It takes a lot of people, many of them unpaid, to put together an event like a fair; and the aspects of human life that a fair represents are not very important to our culture any more. This is the list that comes to my mind, describing a fair: agriculture, livestock, tradition, handcraft, businesses, history, hobbies, the future … community.

Fairs used to be places where the particular identity of the county (or state) was visibly celebrated by exhibiting the products of its soil and water, the activities of its local industries, the skills of its residents, the promise of its youth. Fairgoers left feeling pretty good about where they lived. Kids perhaps saw some future for themselves in the county, whether it was the possibility of a job, an interest in a local college, or a general feeling that “this place has a future and I may be part of it”.

Our county, Jackson County (Oregon) only has a population of 200,000; 75,000 live in the largest town, Medford. Even before the 2008 crash the county’s economy was not in good shape. Construction of new houses (sometimes built “on spec”) was strong, fueled in part by arrival of new residents who had sold homes in California for inflated prices. Institutionally and individually, the county is still struggling to adjust from the demise of the timber industry, yet cannot get it together to protect from development its 8500 acres of orchard land which has historically produced high-value crops for export. Unemployment is above 12% , compared to the rate for the state as a whole, which is 10.5%. Both rates are steady, not improving.

Given all that, maybe the lackluster fair is just an accurate representation of where the county is. Still, if there was a agriculture pavilion, we never found it. If there was a county-sponsored exhibit meant to retain residents and attract new business, we never saw that either.

I did snap some photos, just of things that interested me.

FlavorsAtTheFair.jpg

YoungEquestrians.jpg

Spurs&YoungRiders.jpg

Blue-eyedHorse.jpg

BoyInT-Shirt.jpg

BeefyCow.jpg

BoysWithGuns.jpg

BoysInTheAir.jpg

GirlsInBoots.jpg

EmbroideredGriffon.jpg

Embroidered Griffon, in the Needlework section.

Horse.jpg

GirlWithT-Shirt.jpg

MarineHummer.jpg

HorseMane.jpg

Man-Dog-Frisbee.jpg

RideShaft.jpg

Siskiyou wildflower roundup

There are quite a few wildflowers we’ve photographed on our walks, and identified, that I haven’t had time to research and write about. Here are some, with just species, date seen, and brief comments. All are natives unless otherwise noted.

We are very much amateur botanizers and we don’t key out these plants, so our identifications are not authoritative and we welcome helpful comments from more experienced folks. Each species account in this post is followed with a link to a page about the species, on the Pacific Northwest Wildflower site of Mark Turner, who really is an expert. In fact he and Phyllis Gustafson “wrote the book”, Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest (Timber Press Field Guide). If you have an interest in PNW wildflowers, or are a hiker/fisher/etc., you should go out and buy this book right now, preferably from your local independent bookstore. Knowing more about the flowers you see really adds to your enjoyment of the outdoors.

Daisies& Oaks.jpg

This pasture, not far from Applegate Lake, has been invaded with a daisy-type flower—all the white areas in the photo above.

Anthemis cotula.jpg

It’s probably Anthemis cotula, common name Stinking Mayweed. The leaves of this species have an unpleasant odor, but there was a slippery gravel slope down to the edge of the field, and we didn’t get close enough to confirm that. Next time.

It’s been introduced, and is a native of Eurasia. Find in Turner here. [photographed July 4, 2010]

Blue dick closeup.jpg

Above is Dichelostemma capitatum, common names Common Brodiaea or Blue Dicks. This was taken back in on May 4, 2010, but I’ve seen others in bloom at higher elevation (around 2000 ft) even now.

Blue dick leaves.jpg

Height varies from 6 to 27 inches, and leaves are flat.

Blue dick flowers.jpg

Find in Turner here.

The plant below is a native shrub that also serves as an ornamental, and I saw it in bloom last week in Portland (OR). It’s found from British Columbia south through California, and also in Missouri and Tennessee. If we are to see it in our area it would be in sunny but wet spots.

Spiraea douglasii full plant.jpg

This is Spiraea douglasii, common name Rose Spiraea or Hardhack.

Spiraea douglasii.jpg

I was unable to resist the temptation of investigating what “hardhack” means, but all I found was that the same common name is also applied to unrelated species, such as Potentilla fruticosa (back in 1885, here), Collinsonia canadensis, and Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) as well as to other Spiraea spp. But this may be a clue: another common name for Spiraea douglasii is Ironwood, and Native Americans used the wood for mat-making needles, spoons, and spears. Photographed July 2, 2010 in Portland OR. Find in Turner here.

Below is Arnica cordifolia, common name Heartleaf Arnica.

Heartleaf Arnica, Arnica cordifolia .jpg

Photographed May 9, 2010. Find in Turner here.

An earlier post showed Ribes roezlii, the Shiny-leaved Gooseberry. Below is Ribes sanguineum, Red-flowering Currant.

Ribes sanguineum.jpg

The genus Ribes includes currants and gooseberries. What’s the difference?

Gooseberries and currants, although closely related, can easily be identified by examining the canes and fruit color; gooseberry canes normally produce a spine at each leaf node and bear roughly grape-sized berries singly or in groups of 2 or 3, while currant canes lack spines or prickles and bear 8 to 30 smaller fruit in clusters. Figure 1. Cane and fruit of (A) Gooseberry and (B) Currant.

Currant-gooseberry drawing.jpg

Drawing and text from University of Minnesota Extension page.

Photographed May 6, 2010. Find in Turner here.

Next is one of the thistles, a plant group which people find hard to appreciate. But this one is unlikely to show up in your backyard or pasture, and perhaps that will make it easier. We think it is Cirsium occidentale, Snowy Thistle—Turner calls it uncommon—and it is growing in a dry rocky area next to a road. We’ve seen the plant re-appear there for perhaps a decade and its seed has only produced two other plants in that time.

Snowy thistle roadside.jpg

The plant blends in with the greyish stones, having greenish-grey leaves and also a heavy coat of hairs like spiderwebs. Another of its common names is Cobweb Thistle.

snowy thistle closeup.jpg

Perhaps the dramatic white pollen, seen below, is the origin of the “snowy” part of the common name.

Snowy thistle macro1.jpg

Photographed June 21, 2010. Find in Turner here.

Hydrophyllum fendleri, Fendler’s Waterleaf, is a moisture-loving plant with large leaves and fuzzy flower-heads.

Hydrophyllum fendleri Fendler's waterleaf - 1.jpg

It has a spreading habit and often grows where vegetation is lush, so that other plants cover it up.

Hydrophyllum fendleri COSEUP.jpg

Photographed on May 2, 2010. Find in Turner here.

Last, this small sedum.

Sedum stenopetalum whole plant.jpg

This is Sedum stenopetalum, Narrow-leaved Sedum. Flowers are yellow according to standard sources, but Turner shows white as well. Photographed end of June, 2010. (Yellow blossom in lower left, below, is clover.) Find in Turner here.

Sedum stenopetalum, Narrow-leaved Sedum.jpg

Siskiyou wildflowers and butterflies

Our roadside botanizing was especially exciting today. First perhaps I should explain why we walk along forest service roads instead of hiking along trails. It has a lot to do with a single plant, although not one I would describe as a widlflower.

PoisonOak.jpg

Yes, it’s poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum), seen above early in the spring before it has reached its full diabolical potential of thickets six feet tall, stretching branches out onto trails in search of sunshine in order to grow even more monstrously large. Poison oak could be an interesting plant: it occurs in various forms from semi-vines threading up tree trunks, to a low-growing ankle-ambusher, as well as the aforementioned woody thickets. But all parts contain a chemical that is—not poisonous—but an extremely powerful allergen, an oil called urushiol. Most people are allergic to it, and I am very very allergic, so once we get off of bare ground I spend most of my time looking down and around before every step in order to find it before it finds me. (Be warned: allergies can come and go, so a history of immunity doesn’t mean you’ll always be immune.)

Happily, there’s an abundance of things to see by walking along the road and making a few careful excursions. Today was a bonanza.

LewWelch3.gif

There’s an audio recording of Lew Welch reading this, here.

I don’t think we saw anything that “nobody’s ever really seen”, although one must pay careful attention to Lew Welch’s language, that “really seen” part. But what we saw was marvelous. Here’s one sight:

ButterfliesOnScat2.jpg

ButterfliesOnScat1.jpg

From a distance I thought the butterflies were gathered upon a damp patch improbably located in the middle of the hot dusty gravel road. In other such situations, I haven’t been able to approach very closely without scaring them off. I took some pictures, then moved a bit closer, closer still, and in the end I was kneeling right beside them without really disturbing them at all. And then I could see what it was that they were so attracted to.

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They were on the scat of some animal, not an uncommon territorial marker to find in the middle of these forest roads. Could be fox, raccoon, coyote. Undigested material including seeds and some woody bits (pine needles?) can be seen, and the scat is pretty dry. Unlikely to be a source of moisture. However, butterflies require minerals not found in nectar, and often get these by drinking from damp soil or applying their tongues to scat. I am curious how they get nutrients from dry materials, because their tongues are hollow tubes designed for drinking liquids.

I poured some water on a nearby area before we left in search of lilies. When we came back, all the butterflies were still on the scat.

There were two species there. One was Adelpha bredowii, California sister, shown here exploring my arm. Some photos (here, for example) show this species with blue rather than grey markings, but that may be local variation.

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What’s the “sister” about? It’s said to refer to the black and white markings (like a nun’s habit) on the other side of the wings, the dorsal side (looking down on the outspread wings and the insect’s back, from above).

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Photo source.

The other is Limenitis lorquinii, Lorquin’s admiral. There are several different butterfly species with “admiral” in their names, and the reference is not clear. Some say the names were originally “admirable” but I can find no support, just speculation. Lorquin was a Frenchman in California during the Gold Rush of 1850, who sent butterfly specimens back to France where they were described for the first time by eminent lepidopterist Jean Baptiste Alphonse Dechauffour de Boisduval.

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It is unbelievable to see these creatures in such detail. First, Limenitis lorquini.

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It is possible to see the wing-veins as the three-dimensional structures that they are. When we read that a new butterfly emerging from the chrysalis has to “pump up” its folded wrinkled wings, before they are strong enough to fly, these veins are the means. “The butterfly has to expand and dry [its wings] as soon as it emerges from the chrysalis. To do this, it uses its body as a pump and forces fluid through a series of tube-like veins. It’s a little like inflating a balloon — as the veins fill with fluid, they slowly stretch the surface of the wings.” Source.

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Adelpha bredowii, trailing its long tongue over my skin.

We went on to look at the Washington lilies described in my previous post. The blooms that were white and pink on June 24th,

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today were nearly bright pink and drooping.

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But another plant was in spectacular bloom.

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This is Philadelphus lewisii, commonly called mock orange for its fragrance. To me there was nothing citrus-y about the fragrance, but I’ve never smelled orange trees in bloom. (There are perhaps a dozen other plants also called mock orange, illustrating how treacherous common names can be.) Philadelphus lewisii is one of nearly 200 plants new to science which Lewis and Clark described. Indians used its straight stems in making arrows.

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On the drive back to the main road we saw many more, all in synchrony of bloom. It’s a shrub that can reach 12 feet, so it offers a lot of flowers! We had remarked earlier on how many butterflies were about, in the air: monarchs, tiger swallowtails, and others. Surely the Philadelphus extravaganza had something to do with the sudden abundance of butterflies, and we speculated on how insects and plants keep in step when the music of the dance—the temperature, rainfall, sunny or cloudy skies—can vary so drastically year to year. This long rainy spring was very atypical, yet after three sunny days here are the partners right in step.

Another unusual find will have to wait for my next post. It has something to do with this wild rose…

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Siskiyou wildflowers: Washington Lily

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For two months we have been watching these lily plants, waiting for them to bloom. It took several days of sun and 80 degrees or so to coax them into revealing their flowers.

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These are Washington lilies, Lilium washingtonium. The flowers are white, sometimes pinkish, with tiny pink or purple dots inside.

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Despite the name, these are not found in Washington state, but only in Oregon and California. The plant was first described in 1859 by Albert Kellogg, who went against the usual practice of botanists and used the local settlers’ name, Lady Washington Lily, as basis for the scientific name. Presumably the settlers were referring to Martha Washington.

Turner calls them “uncommon”, and these are the only ones we have seen in our area. There are four plants within a six foot radius. One has had its top foot or so nipped off by some browsing animal, and one has not formed buds—too young perhaps.

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Uncommonly beautiful they certainly are. And they bear a sweet fragrance.

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