Nature Notes

Volume XIII No. 1 - October, 1947

First Record Of The California Yellow-legged Frog In Park
By W. S. Vincent, Ranger-Naturalist

A small frog which proved to be Rana boylii boylii was collected by the writer in the pond of a small spring on Red Blanket Creek on July 2 while on a field trip with the Park Naturalist George C. Ruhle.

This frog has not been reported previously in any literature as having been collected within the park boundaries. Its range has been reported as being the middle Rogue River valley (vicinity of Medford) and in the area around Lake-of-the-Woods. It has further been reported to the north in Marion, Lane, and Linn counties. This specimen would appear to consolidate these ranges. No further collecting in the area was possible to extend the range within the park.

A brief description of the frog is as follows*: "Light grayish, greenish or brownish back, indistinctly mottled; under parts white to pale yellow on posterior parts and underside of legs; throat and sides of body mottled with dark color; three inches or less in head-body length."

(*Gordon, Kenneth, Amphibians of Oregon, Oregon State Monographs, Studies in Zoology No. 1, 1939.)

Early Spring Flowers At Crater Lake National Park
By Dr. Ruth E. Hopson, Instructor, Field School of Nature Appreciation

Steer's head wildflower

As the weather grows steadily warmer in early June and the days of sunshine begin to out-number those of storm, the snow banks slowly dwindle in the park. In the damp, brown, bare spots that appear under the outer branches of the mountain hemlock trees and in the open spaces beyond, the pale yellow-green spears of smooth woodrush (Luzula glabrata) replace the snow. The leaves, even before they have obtained their full quota of chlorophyll, separate to expose a flat-topped cluster of tiny flower buds. Sometimes several of these grass-like plants may be found about the thinning edges of the snowbanks, each plant in a circular pit of its own making. A typical display contains all stages of development from spears appearing above the ground that is still wet from the recent snowbanks to fully developed plants with their green ribbon-like leaves and their feathery brown inflorescences. To one familiar with the forests of mountain hemlock of the Hudsonian Zone and with the succession of plants that is found there during the short growing season, the smooth woodrush is the herald of coming summer, the promise of the gorgeous display of mountain flowers that is to follow in the meadows close by.

Where the heavy snows of winter have recently lain, such plants as creeping Crater Lake currant (Ribes erythrocarpum) and trailing raspberry (Rubus lasiococcus) are pressed into the soil. Soon the warmth of the sun is reflected in the growing energy that enables the twigs and leaves to lift themselves from the ground to their summer position. Inconspicuous racems of small saucer-shaped bronze flowers are present almost by the time the leaves are freely exposed to the air. The white strawberry-like flowers of the trailing raspberry require more time to develop.

The yellow faces of the smooth woodland violet (Viola glabella) reflect the bright light upon the mountain hemlock trees. This violet is one of the earliest flowers to bloom. In the forests along the coast and in the valleys of Oregon, the smooth woodland violet blooms in February or March, at Crater Lake in June or July.

Edging groves of hemlocks, especially on the back slopes of Applegate and Sun valley, the lamb's tongue, or glacier lily, (Erythronium grandiflorum) var. pallidum) nod their yellow heads as snow banks dwindle beside them. Steep rocky hillsides that have south or southwestern exposures are among the earliest places to be free of snow. Here rock-loving perennial plants are waiting to take advantage of the early moisture to enable them to display their flowers and mature their fruits. The western wind flower (Anemone occidentalis) is one of these plants. While the leaves are still tightly folded along the midrib of each linear segment the translucent white sepals, purple tinged without, form a cup of delicate beauty on top of each thickened stem. Later in the summer after the stems have grown tall, heads of plumose achenes (one-seeded fruits) will have replaced the white cup-like flowers. Backlighted by the sun, each head then appears with its own hair. One of the most beautiful sights of the high mountains may be had by looking toward the sun across a hillside or meadow of western wind flowers when their pale green fluffy heads are fully matured. Near the summit of Garfield Peak, a smaller anemone with pale blue flowers, Drummond's windflower (A. drummondii), is found. The achenes of this species are densely covered with cotton. Heads of the achenes of Drummond's windflower are therefore much less showy than those of the western windflower.

Exposed rocky cliffs such as those of the Garfield Trail are clear of snow early. Here crevices afford footing for several species of rock-loving plants. Three species of plants that bloom among the first are usually found elsewhere in the Cascades only above timberline in the Arctic-Alpine Zone. The flowers of the mountain sorrel (Oxyria digyna) are inconspicuous, but the color scheme of red and green and the pattern of circles and straight lines formed by the kidney shaped leaves and the straight racemes of tiny flowers make this plant easy to recognize. The slender polemonium or Jacob's ladder (Polemonium shastense) is a delicate study in pastels. The large clusters of pale blue and yellow flowers often just balance the soft green mass that is made up of long pinnately compound leaves. A lone plant of feather-leaved fleabane (Erigeron compositus), with its finely divided leaves, grows from a soil pocket in the cliff about half way up Garfield Trail. By the time the slender polemonium is in profuse bloom, the fleabane is just lengthening the strap flowers of its single flowerhead.

Two crucifers bloom early along the trail. Members of the Cruciferae or mustard family are marked by having four petals and six stamens, two of them shorter than the other four. The dagger-pod (Parrya cheiranthoidea) is recognized by its long narrow gray basal leaves and its deep purple flowers. The pods of this species indicate clearly the reason for the name, dagger-pod. A small species of rockcress (Arabis holboellii var. secunda) is found scattered among the rocks. Each flower and later each elongating pod is turned to one side of the extended flower stalk.

Before its leaves have unfolded, bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa) is in bloom. The flowers are typical of the species but the leaves are coarser and less finely divided than is usual for this species of lower elevations.

Bright patches of yellow and green among the rocks are apt to be fringed-leaved cinquefoil (Potentilla flabellifolia). The flowers that resemble buttercups and the leaves that look like fringed "three-leaved clovers" signify this species.

A number of shrubs bloom in the Garfield rock gardens while snow is yet deep on the slopes below. Two species of bushy currants are found side by side in some places. Both develop racemes of creamy-white tubular flowers at about the same time. The waxy currant (Ribes cereum) has small smooth leaves. The gummy currant (Ribes viscosissimum) has larger sticky leaves. Although the service berry (Amelanchier florida) is dwarfed along the Garfield Trail its blossoms of white strap-shaped petals almost cover the bushes. The leaves of the service berry are easy to recognize because they are oval to almost round and notched about half the margin that is away from the twig.

Large areas of the open rocky slopes are carpeted by two creeping shrubs that produce their flowers while snowbanks remain closeby. The rigid, brick-red branches, conspicuous among the glossy, leathery evergreen leaves and the racemes of dainty bell-like pale pink flowers make the pinemat manzanita (Arctostaphylos nevadensis) an attractive ground cover. The lovely pattern produced by the small, holly-like, deep green, shiny leaves and the puffs of tiny lavender flowers of the squaw carpet (Ceanothus prostratus) is equally attractive.

The damp soil of the mountain meadows at first appears almost destitute of life. Here and there the clumps of brilliant red growing tips of Newberry's knotweed (Polygonium newberryi) push above the uniformly brown surface of the ground. This plant is least attractive during its flowering season. The tiny, papery white flowers that cluster in the axils of the leaves are so inconspicuous that a person looking directly at the plant in full bloom often asks what the flowers are like. Nevertheless, each delicate flower proves to be a delightful surprise to one who chances to examine one with the aid of a hand lens. Following the blooming period, glory returns to the knotweed as its dying leaves turn scarlet. If one chances to view these leaves against the sun they appear translucent like stained glass windows. But this is a picture of late August, not early June.

Among the patches of red tips of growing Newberry's knotweed, steer's head, (Dicentra uniflora) is an attractive surprise to anyone who discovers it. The single rose-colored flower, held at an angle barely clearing the ground, suggests a tiny steer's head even to many who do not know its name. Each flower is surrounded by two or three finely divided gray-green triangular leaves that lie flat on the ground.

Spring beauties (Claytonia lanceolata) are the most abundant flowers on the open slopes. As they push through the earth, the two lance-shaped leaves are held tightly together, like hands over their heads. Soon they separate and are lowered to their characteristic position opposite buds. As the buds open one at a time, the peduncle straightens and holds up the flower that looks like a deep saucer of delicate pink-striped china.

The rosettes formed by the deep-green spatulate leaves of pussypaws (Spragus umbellata) are at first small and tight against the ground. The first dense cluster of tiny flowers are greenish. As the season progresses, the clusters become more fluffy and the flowers turn white, then red, all the while the rosettes of leaves are increasing in size.

A small yellow violet (Viola venosa) with gray-green leaves is so inconspicuous that it is easily overlooked. Close examination, however shows it to be an unusual violet that often makes the most of complementary colors, since the back of the upper petals may be purple and the other petals are purple-violet.

The rainbow colors of the spider-web paintbrush (Castilleja arachnoides) blend perfectly into the pumice slopes. The paintbrush tips enlarge as the flowers bloom farther and farther down the stem. This plant is covered by a fine cobwebby pubescence that adds a delightfully soft texture to its delicate coloring.

Dense, cottony plots of alpine antennaria (Antennaria media) look like irregular sections of a patchwork quilt on these mountain meadows. Tiny stems with reduced leaves and clusters of papery white flower heads rise a few inches from each basal clump of leaves. Other plants that may be found in bloom in the mountain meadows during the early summer are: varied-leaved phacelia (Phacelia heterphylla), alpine agoseris (Agoseris alpestris), blue stickseed (Hackelia jessicae), and several species of sedges (Carex sp.).

Three shrubs that are common about the springs or along streams begin to flower while patches of snow still remain; the catkins appear on the Eastwood willow (Salix eastwoodae), the deep rose of the flower buds make spots of color on the mountain spiraea (Spiraea densiflora), and the yellow twin-flowers blend with the yellow-green leaves of the black twinberry (Lonicera involucrata). In soggy reaches along the streams and about the springs, the ground is often covered with the tiny Gormon's buttercup (Ranunculus gormandii). Taller plants soon extend their flowering racemes above the mat of mosses and buttercups. The elephant's heads, (Pedicularis groenlandicum) make conspicuous patches of rose color, as do the alpine shooting stars (Dodecatheon alpinum). The slender stalks of the green and white bog orchids (Habernaria stricta and H. dilatata) with their sweet-scented exquisite flowers add much to the beauty of the scene. At this time a few white flowers are peeking out of the flat terminal flower clusters of the northern valerian (Valeriana sitchensis), and the white flowers in the dense, slender heads of the bistort (Polygonum bistortoides) are also in evidence.

By the time the snows are gone, most of these flowers have already produced their first fruits. Many of them have a system of flowering that enables them to keep producing flowers farther up the stem as long as the moisture and temperature conditions are favorable, thus a long season results in abundance of seed, yet a short season permits maturity of a few fruits at least. The early spring scene shifts rapidly, so a markedly different one greets the visitors during July and August. Some year come early, see the early spring flowers!

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