The Oregon Siskiyous

The California Floristic Province (or CFP for those in the know) doesn’t stop at the northern border of the state. Just like California, southwestern Oregon has a Mediterranean climate with cool, relatively wet winters and hot, dry summers. Additionally, several mountain ranges extend from Northern California into Oregon. One of these is the Siskiyous. The Siskiyou Mountains are the largest section of the Klamaths, which also includes the Trinity Mountains to the south and a number of smaller ranges. The Siskiyous extend in a large arc from Crescent City, California in the southwest to their collision with the Cascades just west of Ashland, Oregon. This past week, I botanized two areas of the Oregon Siskiyous–the Soda Mountain Wilderness, and the Siskiyou Crest from Mount Ashland to Cow Creek Glade. The former area, at elevations from 4,500-5,500 feet was in glorious full bloom. The later, ranging from 6,500-7,500 feet was covered in snow until recently, and the flowering was just getting going. At both spots, the floral diversity was amazing.

A few of the species, particularly those at higher elevations, are extremely range-restricted. These include Horkelia hendersonii (Henderson’s Horkelia, Rosaceae),

Tauschia howellii (Howell’s Umbrellawort, Apiaceae)

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And unquestionably my favorite find of the week, Castilleja schizotricha (Splithair Paintbrush, Orobanchaceae)

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The latter has a beautiful rose-pink color and is amazingly fuzzy all over. Here is a flower that I have dissected a bit to reveal the fuzzy bract (modified leaf below the flower), the fuzzy sepals (structures above and below the petals), and the fuzzy corolla (petal) tube:

1Castilleja_schizotricha_3

The next set of plants are found throughout a larger area of the Klamaths, but are mostly restricted to just Northern California and Southwest Oregon. We’ll start with a second fuzzy paintbrush! Castilleja arachnoidea (Cobwebby Paintbrush, Orobachaceae),

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Triteleia crocea (Yellow Trumpet Lily, Themidaceae),

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Allium siskiyouense (Siskiyou Onion, Alliaceae) with its pink bulb and falcate (sickle-shaped) leaves,

the adorable Lomatium fusiformis (California Biscuitroot, Apiaceae), which was blooming feet away from a melting snowfield.

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and, like my last post, I found another beautiful cream-colored Iris Iris chrysophylla (Golden-leaved Iris, Iridaceae).

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I took hundreds of photos this week, but I’ll just post a few more of my favorites of more widely-distributed plants. Will start with a Fritillary, Fritillaria atropurpurea (Mountain Fritillary).

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Kopsiopsis strobiacea (California Ground Cone, Orobanchaeae). Yes it’s a flowering plant that appears to be mimicing a pine cone. Yes, that’s the whole plant–it doesn’t need green leaves because it’s a root parasite.

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Camassia quamash (Common Camas, Agavaceae) with a butterfly visitor. The butterfly is an Olive Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus), whose caterpillars feed on trees in the Cupressaeceae (Junipers and Cedars).

3Camassia_leihtlini_and_Callophrys_gryneus

And finally, two (distantly related) plants with large white flowers with yellow centers: Hesperochiron pumilus (Dwarf Hesperochiron, Boraginaceae)

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and Polemonium carneum (Royal Jacob’s Ladder, Polemoniaceae)

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Spring Break Trips

The spring break at CSU Bakersfield was this past week, conveniently timed for the start of flowering season. I decided to take full advantage by squeezing in three hikes that involved significant botanizing. Two were to Califonia’s central coast. First, I embarked on a long hike in the Silver Peak Wilderness in South-Westernmost Monterey County. While there were plenty of flowers, I didn’t turn up anything I hadn’t seen before. However I did come across some old friends:

Acmispon cytisoides (Bentham’s Deerweed, Fabaceae)

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Mimulus douglasii (Mouse Ears, Phrymaceae)

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And a flower in the super underappreciated genus, the Sanicles. Sanicula bipinnatifida (Purple Sanicle, Apiaceae).

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I love the tiny fuzzy balls of Sanicle flowers. To prove it, I’ll post a second, even cooler Sanicle–Sanicula arctopoides (Footsteps of Spring)

2Sanicula_arctopoides

That last plant was actually blooming along another lovely coastal hike in Rancho Corral de Tierra, San Mateo county (just south of San Francisco). Flowers were less numerous here, but some of the ones I did find were new to me–Castilleja subinclusa franciscana (Franciscan Paintbrush, Orobanaceae)

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Trillium chloropetalum (Giant Wakerobin, Melanthiaceae)

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and Arabis blepharophylla (Coast Rockcress, Brassicaceae).

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However, the clear botanical highlight of spring break occurred much further north, on the Table Rocks near Medford, Oregon. This area was covered by an ancient lava flow that has mostly eroded away. Currently all that’s left are two large, flat-topped mesas that each spring are covered with vernal pools and rare plants.

Upper_Table_Rock_1

I was a kid in a candy store. First, two plants in genera that are new to me. The modest Crocidium multicaule (Spring Gold, Asteraceae) looks like a typical daisy, but it can form massive colonies that carpet the ground

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More impressive individually is Olsynium douglasii (Douglas’s Grasswidow, Iridaceae), which was already almost finished flowering in the area

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While those two plants have relatively wide distributions, the next two are only found in Jackson County, Oregon.

Ranunculus austro-oreganus (Southern Oregon Buttercup, Ranunculaceae). You can distinguish this species from the much more common Ranunculus occidentalis by the red veins on the backs of the petals.

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Limnanthes floccosa pumila (Dwarf Wooly Meadowfoam, Limnanthaceae) is found nowhere else in the world but the top of the Table Rocks.

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My favorite plant of the hike, however, was Erythronium hendersonii (Henderson’s Fawn Lily, Liliaceae). Flowers in this genus are usually yellow or white, making these purple flowers really unique. Additionally, the plant was crazily abundant throughout the hike up to the top. I tried to capture a sense of it in the second picture, but it really doesn’t do it justice.

3Erythronium_hendersonii_13Erythronium_hendersonii_field

Finally, I’ll close with another genus of lily, the Fritillaries. While I’ve seen all three of these species before, it’s one of my all-time favorite genera. Additionally, I saw one species on each of these three hikes, so there’s some nice symmetry there.

From the Silver Peak Wilderness, Fritillaria biflora (Chocolate Lily)

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From Rancho Corral de Tierra, Fritillaria affinis (Checker Lily)

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And from Table Rocks, Fritillaria recurva (Scarlet Fritillary)

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With the semester winding down and the flowers ramping up, I should be posting much more frequently in the coming months. My plan is to start this weekend, when I might even try for more Fritillaries.