Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bull of the Woods

The Clackamas River Basin Council sponsored an outing to 5523 ft (1683 m.) Bull of the Woods on July 15th.. Located on a watershed between various forks of the Collawash River, the Southwesternmost branch of the far-flung Clackamas,this mountaintop has a rare WWII vintage fire lookout, which is undergoing restoration. Formerly it was rented out by the Forest Service, and hopefully it will be available again. The 6.5 mile roundtrip follows a ridge with periodic views and alternating sections of forest, patches of flowery meadow, and rocky outcrops covered in natural rock-gardens. Diversity of habitat like this gives a wide range of flowers and shrubs, and additionally this locale is the westernmost outpost for some plants from the dry East Slope of the Cascades.

The little sunflower (shown here with Indian Paintbrush) is widespread to the East but confined here to dry meadow habitats and sometimes thin, rocky soils.
Washington Lily is common along the trail, and its strong delightful fragrance was picked up sometimes before that sight of the large white trumpets.

The Penstemon group embraces both evergreen shrublets and herbaceous perennials. Many of them are eminently gardenable. A rock garden type is Cardwell’s penstemon, an evergreen groundcover shrublet. It prefers sun and dry conditions, even growing from fractures in rock and road cut subsoils. The botanists tell us that some of the plants here may be actually Davidson’s penstemon instead. This is a lower growing, fewer flowered, more easterly species, but the two are so similar that many experts suspect they intergrade. Walking this trail one can observe both shorter plants with one-sided flower spikes, and taller, lusher looking ones like the one pictured with ’less distinctly one-sided flower spikes’. Cardwell’s penstemon grows well in the city and is a good choice for dry situations. Don’t try in on heavy clay. The blooming season is short but spectacular.

A taller herbaceous type is the woodland turtlehead. Its common throughout mid-elevations of the Cascades most often under trees but we also found it in meadows, like the one pictured here. Its a close offshoot of the Penstemon genus, given the botanic name Nothochelone instead, but most observers would assume its in the Penstemon genus. Plants out in the sunny meadows are more upright and less sprawling, and have a few more flowers than the same kind under the shadowy trees.

The widespread pink Pacific Rhododendron was past its flowering season on this outing. However, the less common white Cascades azalea was at its peak.

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