April 30- May 9, 2023.
Southern Oregon is a hot spot for rare, endemic wildflowers. It’s also one of the earliest places to bloom in the spring. I headed this way in to try and see some of the region’s unique and special plant life during its prime. While the Eight Dollar Mountain Botanical Area has little for developed trails or viewing areas, the flora are abundant and if you take just a little effort to poke around, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful blooms in every direction.
During this time frame, I went on several hikes in or adjacent to the Botanical Area. Of those, two were on trails: the Eight Dollar Mountain Boardwalk and Kerby Flat Trail. Otherwise I used roadside pullouts, old roads, elk trails and did plenty of cross-country exploring.
The highlight of my visit was the California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia) flowers on full display. Although the fen visible from the boardwalk was in bloom, the plants were too far away to get a very good look. That was okay, because there were several other areas blooming just up the road. There are several pullouts along the road, making it easy to park and walk to anything of interest that you spot from the car.
Before visiting, I downloaded some information from the Rogue River-Siskyou National Forest. They provide suggested itineraries, some background information and an extensive plant checklist. This was immensely helpful in determining which maps to have on my phone and where to begin walking around.
Here are some of the plants I found:
This is just a sampling of the impressive array of wildflowers. There are more in the photo album linked at the top, and way more out in the field. I loved taking the time to learn more about each new plant I found instead of racing to capture the miles on this trip. The slower I walked, the more I noticed. And the more I noticed, the more curious I got.
Some of these flowers are tricky to spot. I stepped on a Siskyou fritillary twice, because it blended in so well to the grasses around it. Somehow the maroon and yellow speckled petals creates a greenish hue from above, rendering it nearly invisible. But I learned that the more attuned my eyes became to the familiar flowers, I was more likely to spot something unusual. At the tail end of my Eight Dollar Mountain summit hike, I came across some opposite-leaf lewisia scattered throughout a meadow. I noticed the flowers resembled that of bitterroot (another Lewisia species). So, I pulled out my phone and opened the Oregon Wildflowers app (yes, that’s a thing and it’s free and you need to download it). I typed in Lewisia and it took me no time to identify this rare plant that grows in a very narrow range!
Now, the treasure hunt continues. Onward to explore deeper in the wilderness along the Illinois River…