Oregon and Northern California
As part of their long-term studies on
the alpine flora of western North America, John and Hilary Birks visited
Oregon and northern California in July 2003 and they led an Alpine
Garden Society expedition there in July 2004. This website is based
on these two visits. It is designed to illustrate the botanical
highlights of some of the mountain areas visited in southern and
central Oregon and northern California.
Identification of plants in Oregon
and northern California is a slightly frustrating business as
Peck’s (1961) A Manual of the Higher Plants in Oregon is
now out-of-date both in terms of its taxonomy and its nomenclature.
Hitchcock and Cronquist’s (1990) up-to-date Flora of the Pacific
Northwest does not cover all of the area we visited. The
Jepson Manual (Hickman 1993) of the higher plants of California
is massive (1400 pages) as it covers the flora of the whole of
California. It is relatively difficult to use for
some genera (e.g. Eriogonum, Mimulus) because of the huge
number of species in the keys for particular genera, when, in
reality, there may be only a few relevant species in the area
of northern California we visited. The Jepson Manual includes
many, but not all, species known from Oregon. It is, however,
the most up-to-date and critical taxonomic treatment available
for some of the areas we visited. Fortunately there are some
useful and excellent ‘local’ floras or check-lists for some of
the areas we visited, for example Steens Mountain (Mansfield
2000), Cone Peak (Ross and Chambers 1988), Three Sisters region
(Ireland 1968), Crater Lake (Zika 2003), parts of northern California
(Ferlatte 1974), and Fairview Peak (Baker 1951). In addition
Loren Russell, Tanja Harvey, Dave and Jan Dobak, John Grimshaw,
Jim Duncan, and Phyllis Gustafson kindly provided details and
species lists for particular localities. For particularly complex
genera we consulted Barneby (1989; Astragalus, Lupinus),
Cronquist et al. (1984; Castilleja, Penstemon), Strickler
(1997; Penstemon), Flora of North America (1997; Anemone,
Ranunculus), and the Oregon Flora website (www.oregonflora.org; Arenaria,
Erigeron, Dodecatheon, Pyrola, Delphinium, Gayophytum, Arctostaphylos,
The taxonomy and nomenclature
we have followed in the Species List that can be downloaded
here follows, as far as possible, The Jepson Manual,
Mansfield (2000), and the Oregon Flora website.
Oregon and Northern California
areas of Oregon can be divided into six major vegetation—landform—climate
units (Wuerthner 1987), namely the
Blue Mountains and the Wallowa Mountains
of the north-east, the Coast Range of the extreme west, the
Western or Old Cascade Range running from Mount Hood to Prospect,
the High or New Cascades running from Barlow Pass to Mount
Shasta and Lassen Peak in northern
California, the Basin and Range area of south-east Oregon,
and the Siskiyou Mountains west of Ashland extending to Mount Eddy,
Castle Lake, and Stewart Springs in northern California. We
visited the Western Cascades (Fairview Peak and Bohemia Mountain,
Cone Peak and Iron Mountain, Tokatee Falls), the High Cascades (Crater Lake, Newberry Volcanics, Three Fingered Jack, and Three Sisters), the Basin
and Range (Steens Mountain), and
the Siskiyou Mountains (Mount Ashland, Castle Lake, Stewart Springs,
Excellent and very readable accounts
of the fascinating geological history and landscape development
are provided by Harris (1988) and Bishop (2003). Wuerthner
(1987) gives good general accounts of each of the Oregon mountain
ranges including their geology, land-use, ecology, and management.
The Atlas of Oregon (Loy 2001) is the definitive reference
work for all aspects of Oregon’s human geography, economy,
land-use, physical geography, climate, and vegetation. Detailed
accounts of the landscapes, land-use, and history of western
Oregon and eastern Oregon are given by McPhee (1987) and St.
John (1988), respectively. Excellent accounts of the various
hikes we made are given by Sullivan (1999, 2002a, 2002b).
This is the list of all the plants
seen and recorded. All plants are listed by locality visited.
The plants are grouped as Pteridophytes, Gymnosperms, Monocotyledons,
and Dicotyledon plant families. Visits to the Newberry Volcanics
(Dome, Paulina Peak, Lava Cone, and roadsides) have been grouped
together. The dates in July 2004 of the visits are given for
each column. Some short diagnostic notes about each species are
The list can be downloaded as
a PDF file.
All photographs are the copyright
of John and Hilary Birks. They were taken using Kodachrome
of the nineteen Penstemon species seen
species of Calochortus seen
The areas visited in the Western Cascades
Fairview Peak (5933’) and Bohemia
Mountain (5987’) with stops in forest openings at 5000’.
particular note included Rhododendron macrophyllum, Penstemon
cardwellii, P. rupicola, Lilium washingtonianum, Dicentra formosa,
Gilia capitata, Linanthastrum nuttallii, Ipomopsis aggregata,
Calochortus subalpinus, Xerophyllum tenax, Saxifraga bronchialis ssp.
vespertina, Silene campanulatus, and Lilium columbianium (roadside
stop at 1520’). A total of 151
species was noted.
Cone Peak and Iron Mountain (4130'-5100'). 2 July
Besides the wonderful woodland flora with Anemone
deltoidea, Cornus canadensis, Asarum caudatum, Clintonia uniflora,
Smilacina racemosa, S. stellata, and Oplopanax horridum, the
highlight was the fantastic flower-rich and colourful dry grasslands
above the forest, with masses of Castilleja hispida, C.
miniata, Calochortus subalpinus, Delphinium menziesii, Sedum
oregoneum, S. divergens, Eriogonum compositum, E. umbellatum, and Allium
crenulatum. A total of 153 species was recorded.
Tokatee Falls 2350’ (90 feet high). 7 July
This provided us with a glimpse of Western
Cascades ‘old-growth’ forest of Abies lasiocarpa, Pseudotsuga
menziesii, Thuja plicata, T. mertensiana, and T. heterophylla, with
a sparse but interesting field-layer of Monotropa uniflora,
Allotropa virgata, and Pterospora andromedea (all
saprophytic or parasitic), and the massive Petasites frigidus var.
palmatus and Polystichum munitum. Thirty four species
The areas visited in this range were:
Crater Lake 6176’. 6-7 July 2004.
rich in species, the areas we visited had spectacular shows
of several elegant species such as Phlox diffusa, Penstemon
davidsonii var. davidsonii, P. davidsonii x P.
rupicola hybrids, Anemone occidentalis, and Claytonia
lanceolata. The views hopefully compensated for the rather
low species list (70 species).
Newberry Volcanics 6300-7984’. 3 July and 13
visited The Dome, Paulina Peak, Lava Cone, and some roadsides
in this area. The Dome (7015’) was most remarkable as it
looked to be almost barren white pumice. On closer examination
it revealed a rich and varied flora including Castilleja
chromosa, the Oregon endemic grape-fern Bortrychium
pumicola, Hulsea nana, Penstemon speciosus, Ipomopsis congesta var.
montana, Lesquerella occidentalis, and Lupinus lepidus var.
lobbii. The roadsides were spectacular with masses
of the purple Mimulus cusickii and the smaller M.
nanus. A total of 60 species was seen at Newberry.
Jack Lake (5130’) - Viewpoint
Three Fingered Jack. 14 July 2004.
This day will be remembered for the spectacularly
steep moraine slopes below the Cirque Lake under Three
Fingered Jack. Our efforts were rewarded with many Cascade ‘specials’ including Silene
suksdorfii, Luetkea pectinata, Phyllodoce empetriformis,
Elmera racemosa, Cassiope mertensiana, Claytonia megarrhiza,
Saxifraga tolmei, S. bronchialis ssp. vespertina,
Penstemon rupicola, P. davidsonii, and hybrids,
Cardamine bellidifolia var. pachyphylla, and Phacelia
hastata var. compacta. A total of 140 species
Basin and Range
Steens Mountain 6500—9680’. 4 and 5 July
remarkable uplifted and tilted mountain fault-block has long
been famous for its diverse and phytogeographically varied
flora with a mixture of Rocky Mountains, Intermountain, and
Cascade floras. We saw a total of 158 species there, with
visits to Fish Lake (7310’), Honeymoon Lake (7800’), Kiger
Viewpoint (8720’), East Rim (9530’), Steens summit (9680’),
and the prairie below Fish Lake (6500’). There were so many
botanical highlights that no two people would agree on their
particular highlights! Ours included Dugaldia hoopesii,
Calochortus macrocarpus, Eriogonum ovalifolium, E. caespitosum,
Lewisia nevadensis, Draba cusickii var. cusickii (endemic), Cirsium
peckii (not because it is a thistle but because it is
endemic!), Ranunculus eschscholtzii, Penstemon davidsonii var.
praeteritus (near endemic), Castilleja pilosa var.
steenensis (endemic), the masses of Allium acuminatum and Penstemon
rydbergii var. rydbergii at or near Honeymoon
Lake, Erigeron compositus, Polemonium viscosum, Astragalus
whitneyi var. confusus, Camissonia tanacetifolia, and C.
of the interesting plants seen on Steens Mountain
Four areas were visited in this geologically
and topographically complex area:
Mount Ashland, Oregon 6400-7210’. 9 July 2004.
we were guided by Jim Duncan, Phyllis Gustafson, and Dave
and Jan Dobak and were joined by several NARGS members. This
was the richest day botanically with 160 species seen in
a wide range of habitats such as wet meadows, dry grasslands,
summit areas, and wet slopes. The list of highlights is long,
but particular highlights include Lewisia cotyledon, Iris
chrysophylla, Calchortus elegans, massive Adiantum
pedatum var. aleuticum, Erythronium grandiflorum,
Triteleia crocea var. crocea, Castilleja applegatei,
Calyptridium umbellatum (in vast abundance), C. monospermum,
Polemonium californicum, Eriogonum diclinum, Lupinus aridus var.
ashlandensis, L. breweri, Boschniakia strobilacea, Xerophyllum
tenax, and Lilium pardalinum ssp. wigginsii.
On our way from Ashland to Mount Shasta
we stopped and saw Calochortus greenei near Interstate
5 (10 July 2004).
few of the interesting plants seen on Mount Ashland
Stewart Springs Road—Mount Eddy Viewpoint,
California (5500-6530’) 10 July 2004.
We mainly concentrated on the remarkable
flushes dominated by Darlingtonia californica associated
with serpentine rocks in the Siskiyous. Besides masses of Darlingtonia,
other highlights there include Lilium pardalinum ssp.
vollmeri, Calochortus nudus, Mimulus primuloides, Rhododendron
occidentale, Sisyrinchium californicum, and Calystegia
malacophylla. The Mount Eddy Viewpoint (6530’) will long
be remembered for the spectacular shows of Astragalus
whitneyi var. siskiyouensis in full, massive fruit.
A total of 101 species were seen. John Grimshaw kindly showed
us Cypripedium californicum (5050’) on 12 July 2004
on our way to Mount Eddy.
Castle Lake, California 5440-6040’ (Heart
Lake), 11 July 2004.
This well-known botanical locality (it was
a favourite haunt of the late Wayne Roderick and John and
Hilary visited Castle Lake with him and the AGS on 23 June
1995) is extremely rich with 130 species noted on our 2004
visit. Besides wonderful shows of Triteleia crocea var.
modesta, T. hyacintha, Lewisia leana, and Calochortus tolmiei, the
highlights were Campanula shetleri in fine flower
on the crags above Little Castle Lake, Penstemon newberryi var.
berryi and var. newberryi, Lilium pardalinum ssp.
shastense and ssp. pitkinense, Erythronium klamathense, and
the abundance of Calyptridium monospermum.
Mount Eddy, California 6440-9025’. 12 July
climbed Mount Eddy via Deadfall Lakes and we saw 140 species
that day. Most of the botanical interest was from Upper Deadfall
Lake (7790’) to the col of the ridge (8020’) and along the
ridge to the summit (9025’). The yellow lupin Lupinus croceus and
an abundance of Darlingtonia californica brightened
the long walk though the forest up to the Deadfall Lakes. Upper
Deadfall Lake had wonderful Dodecantheon alpinum and
some D. jeffreyi, along with Pinus balfouriana.
Rock outcrops and open gravel and screes from the col to the
summit were very rewarding with Lesquerella occidentalis,
Calyptridium monospermum, Eriogonum diclinum, E. alpinum, E.
ovalifolium, E. siskiyouense, Campanula scabrella, Sedum laxum,
Allium falcifolium, Castilleja nana, Lupinus lepidus var.
sellulus, Epilobium siskiyouense, Senecio canus, Erigeron compositus,
Lewisia leana, Phacelia corymbosa, Silene douglasii, dwarf
prostrate Potentilla fruticosa, dense patches of a dwarf
form of Penstemon procerus var. formosus, and
fine patches of Penstemon newberryi var. newberryi.
Hidden amongst rocks below the summit was Polemonium chartaceum,
unfortunately past its best in terms of flowering. The views
of Mount Shasta from the summit of Eddy were stunning.
Some of the interesting plants seen in Northern California
Some of the more unusual or striking plants seen
Three species of Lilium including four of the 'subspecies' of L.
Oregon Alpine-Plant Gardens
On 8 July 2004 the AGS group was invited by Phyllis
Gustafson to visit three contrasting rock gardens in the Medford
area. We visited Phyllis’ Czech-style crevice gardens, Ruby
Read’s garden of troughs (at least 42!), and Kathy Allen’s
extensive rock garden and nursery that were shown on the front
of the Siskiyou Rare Plant Nursery Catalogue for 2004. These
visits were a wonderful break from plant hunting and everyone
was impressed by these three very different gardens. They were
The Czech-crevice type garden of Phyllis Gustafson
The garden troughs of Ruby Read
extensive rockery and nursery of Kathy Allen
Oregon Plant Atlas Project
Oregon Plant Atlas is one aspect of the Oregon
Flora Project and was started in 1995 with the aim of producing
maps of plant distribution within Oregon (http://www.oregonflora.org/atlas.php).