Sunday, June 23, 2019

Adding to a Life List of Wildflowers in the Blue Mountains

Searching for wildflowers is like looking for interesting new acquaintances.  You leave your house and head towards likely locations.  Because you have expectations and done some research, you arrive and begin surveying the landscape.  If you are fortunate, you are accompanied by trustworthy friends or guides.  When you see a new flower or meet a new person, you work at remembering their name.

The Blue Mountain Chapter of Audubon schedules an annual wildflower field trip to the Blue Mountains with Jeff and Cheryl Fredson as guides.  Cheryl has written a wildflower guide for the area (unfortunately out of print) and Jeff is an equally well-versed partner.  This year, Mike Denny joined us bringing his extensive knowledge of plants, bugs, and the Umatilla Forest.  As with most years, the company included old and new friends.

The Brown's peony or western peony (paeonia brownii) was this year's stunning "life of the party".  On Summit Road past Tollgate off Highway 204, this peony blossomed in a small cluster just south of the pond at the trailhead for Nine Miles.  The peony is named after the Scottish botanist and explorer, Robert Brown.  It is one of only two native species in the United States.  I have added it to my life list of wildflowers.  I doubt that I will forget its name or appearance.       

The flower's blossom hangs downward showing only it's brownish backside.  Taking photos demands creative angles or the hand of a friend to hold the flower's face skyward.

The pond by the peonies reflected thunderheads and blue skies.  The day was lovely for scouting.

A campground stretches into the woods beyond the pond.  Walking even a short distance into the dark evergreen forest, a dozen or so different flowers bloomed in the shade.  Although I have seen this white flower before,  I am determined to remember its name this year.  It is a woodland star (Lithophragma pariflorum).  They are small, but striking.  They are one of our native species.  

Nearby at the edge of the forest was a common camas flower (cammassia quamash).  These distinctive purple and yellow flowers were in abundance at almost every stop on the trip.  The camas plant was a coveted as a food source by the North American indigeneous populations.  It is not a new flower to me, but one that I always hope to see. (I wish I had a house with a front door in one of the shades of camas purple.  Pizza delivery folks could always find me then!)  

Two years ago, I learned the name of old man whiskers (geum triflora), but this year I added a new species called sugarbowl (Clematis hirsutissima); it has a similar wild-hair appearance.  Three sugarbowl specimans found on a roadside bank are pictured below in the seed stage.  In the next photo down are a few old man whiskers blossoming in their flower stage.

The third old man whiskers flower from the left below is just beginning its transition to the whisker-like appearance similar to that of a sugarbowl.  

We found one flower in a new color.  Giant-head clover (trifolium macrocephalum) are ordinarily tinged with deep shades of pink, but here Mike Denny noticed a white variation.  The ant gives some perspective on the clover's size.

Two pink giant-head clovers located near the white one are starting to dry to an orange.

Dry, but still striking.

We stopped for lunch on an overlook near a trailhead to a forest lookout tower.  While we sat watching for bluebirds and butterflies, we examined dryland flowers around us.

Our two last stops were at Bald Mountain and Target Meadow Campground on the turnout towards Jubilee Lake.  The boggy meadow at the campground was the site where we found slender bog orchids (platanthera stricta).  This one had been broken at the stem and hung in a curl.  So many of the plants in the area were predominately green; this one might have been overlooked.     

I'll end this post with a flower found on Bald Mountain.  This is a creamy buckwheat (Eriogonum heracleoides) in both the budding and pod stages.  It made a striking picture.    

As always, my list contains species whose names I did not catch.  The green flower below, I'll leave for another year.  I was too distracted by the bee to inquire as to its name.  Next year...

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