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Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Painted Hills
Painted Hills

The exposed ash fall layers that comprise the most spectacular geological features of the Painted Hills Unit in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument are nearly devoid of plant life. The reasons as to why start with the clay-rich soils. The initial part of any rainfall (and there is little – less than 41cm (16in) per year) is immediately absorbed by the clay component of the soil — think clay-based kitty litter. Once the top layer of clay is saturated with water, it becomes impermeable to any succeeding rainfall, so the rest of the precipitation quickly drains away; in the process, the draining water flushes away any organic matter that might have built up on the clay (through wind, perhaps), eliminating another factor in the establishment of plant life. Little available water and little organic matter equals a very inhospitable environment.

Where the underlying ash fall layers are not exposed, a number of plants can be found including sagebrush, a myriad of grasses, juniper and shadscale.

The Nature and Science of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument part of National Park Service web site goes into more detail – fascinating reading.


What a beautiful pair of photographs. Most poignant for me because of mis-spent youth in the badlands of North Dakota, the environs of the Morrison Shale in Utah and other solitary western US locations (oil exploration).
Your top photo shows a perfect horticultural glacier!
Absolutely gorgeous
Thank you

We were just in the John Day Monument area the first week in April!!!! What an amazing place in the upper middle of Oregon. We went to the visitor's center and saw paleontology in progress, as well as several displays. They have found many species there, some new. Very interesting place to visit, and also very beautiful!!!!! How nice that you have pictures of the landscape as we didn't take any with our new digital camera, darn. A worthwhile place to explore from the road!!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

What lovely photographs! Rich in colour, composition is fabulous. Exposure and depth of field are well handled. Thank you for showing us these gems from places that some of us have yet to see. Top photo, the moraine serves as a lead into the photograph. Sensational! Aida

Thanks again for the comments - I have to say that I have what I feel are stronger photographs, but since they've no botanical feature whatsoever, I won't be showing them. Someday, perhaps!

In the meantime, I discovered today that there's a new book out: “Oregon's Dry Side: Exploring East of the Cascades” by Alan St. John. I've added it to the garden's Amazon stores if anyone is interested (I'm going to be ordering it for myself).

A picture is more than a thousand words...
These two pictures are worth much much more, i never seen nothing like it. Just beautiful nature at it's best...Thanks

Dear Daniel,
That was a wonderful, fascinating slide show of yours at the Collectors' auction. I do enjoy all your writings and photos in the UBC Botanical Garden website. Many, many thanks! Glen

Daniel - you should post the non-botanical things to your Flickr account!

Yes, I really should - it's a matter of time, though, since I process all my photos. I occasionally do them in bulk when I have presentations, but I'm never entirely happy with those results.

--- I especially love the bottom photo --- Lovely! ---

*** Note from Daniel: This comment was edited. If I'm going to be criticized to that extent, I'd prefer it from someone with a real name and email address instead of fake ones.

Oh my goodness, what beautiful photos!

Particularly the second one -- it reminds me of some of Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings. Would you consider adding a link to a high-resolution version of the 2nd photo? :o)

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