On our second trip to Lair o’ the Bear last week, we never made it to the jelly lichens, but we did get a good look at two beaver dams and dozens of wild bloomers.
A main attraction was the Mountain Ball cactus (Pediocactus simpsonii), in full bloom on a rocky bend in the trail. I think this is the best looking cactus we have in our area.
This garden-like view of wildflowers on a dry slope includes Sand Lilies (Leucocrinum montanum) in white and Oregon Grape (Mahonia repens) in bright yellow on a background of fringed sage (Artemisia frigida).
Here’s a close-up of a Sand Lily. In these spring plants, the ovary is below ground level, so the pollen tube has a long way to go to reach it. The seeds mature underground and later get pushed out onto the surface where they can germinate.
Short’s Milkvetch (Astragalus shortianus) is about the earliest of our many milkvetches. Its two-tone flowers are distinctive, but it’s the timing of bloom that helps, with other species of milkvetch not ready this early. (This year “early” is coming a few weeks late; the sand lilies should have been gone by now.)
The Lair is a riparian park, as we’ll explore more tomorrow, and shady spots near the stream are great locations for Canada Violet (Viola canadensis). Or maybe not—looks like Bill Weber now calls it V. scopulorum, V. canadensis being an eastern species. There’s also a similar species, V. rydbergii. I didn’t diagnose, so perhaps I should just call it Violet to be safe! (Other sources consider both of these subspecies of Canada Violet.)
Golden Smoke, Corydalis aurea, is easier, as it’s the only representative of its family we’re likely to see in our foothills. It’s related to the eastern Dutch-man’s Breeches, and to Bleeding Hearts in gardens, and has the unusual flowers typical of the Fumariaceae.
Serviceberry, one of my favorite shrubs, is a special treat. It’s not quite as abundant, it seems to me, as others in the Rosaceae, which sometimes seems to be our dominant woody family around here. Amelanchier alnifolia, also known as Saskatoon Serviceberry, is one of many species native to and widespread in North America; we also have Utah Serviceberry, A. utahensis, which has shorter petals. It’s called serviceberry because it’s so useful—tasty fruits look a bit like blueberries and are eaten fresh or dried by most tribes, as well as anglo settlers who came later. From pemmican to pies, berries have been prized, but the wood and twigs were also used in basketry, arrow shafts, and tools or toys. This attractive shrub is serviceable in the landscape as well, and often available at nurseries.Thin-leaved Alder (Alnus incana subsp. tenuifolia) is a common riparian tree at this park. Its pleated leaves were just unfolding on these twigs over Bear Creek. The female inflorescences look like tiny pine cones. They become woody with age, making the tree instantly recognizable! Here a male strobilus and several females cling to a branch where new inflorescences are just budding out. (Click to enlarge.)
I tried to capture the Pasqueflowers (Pulsatilla patens) that were everywhere in the park, but somehow failed to get a good shot of any of them. Bee Lady’s husband Dave, an excellent photographer, really focused on them, with great success. I’ll let you know when I talk him into having his own blog!