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Results tagged “washington”

Dec 7, 2012: Trifolium macrocephalum

This is the second in an informal series on my footwear and flowers.

I first encountered this species along the Colockum Pass Road in Washington, but it was in the late evening and I didn't take any images. I knew I wanted to see it again, though, and photograph it. The second time was in northeastern Oregon near La Grande, where I encountered a large population, but all the plants were in fruit. Third time is the charm they say, and a stop along Forest Service Road 3500 near Ellensburg, Washington in mid-May of last year finally resulted in a photograph. That's not to say I had a lot of opportunity to photograph these plants; the echoes of gunshots originating from the other side of the hill dissuaded me from sticking around too long. I generally like peace and quiet while photographing.

The specific epithet macrocephalum translates to "large" and "head", so it is fitting that this species is commonly known as either largehead clover or big-head clover. I'm uncertain as to whether it has the largest inflorescence of any of the 250 or so species of Trifolium, but it does deserve the name. The inflorescence of the photographed plant is a bit smaller overall than those I observed in northeast Oregon--the Oregon inflorescences were about the size of a large lime, and more than double the size of any other species of clover than I've encountered to-date.

This population of plants in Washington also had fewer plants in any given area than the population from northeast Oregon. I suspect if I were to catch the northeastern Oregon population in full flower, it would look something like this: Trifolium macrocephalum (featured in the weblog The Wildlife News). Trifolium macrocephalum is native to dry regions of northwestern continental USA, where its preferred habitat is open shallow-soiled rocky areas, or lithosols. Additional photographs are available via the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture: Trifolium macrocephalum.

Mar 26, 2012: Ranunculus triternatus

If it isn't too much to have two similar-looking buttercup family representatives in a row, here are some images from just over a week ago.

Ranunculus triternatus (syn. Ranunculus reconditus) is an almost-endemic to the Columbia Gorge area of Washington and Oregon. A single location near Elko, Nevada and another in southeastern Idaho have also been reported. However, there is little information about the latter two reports online that I can find--most seem to be derived from the Flora of North America account for Ranunculus triternatus. Two common names are in use for the species, obscure buttercup and Dalles Mountain buttercup (the latter referring to the area where it is found near in Washington and Oregon).

Most research and conservation monitoring work has been done with the Washington and Oregon populations. According to the Center for Plant Conservation, ten occurrences of Ranunculus triternatus are known in these states: "In WA, 8 occurrences known since 1987. Populations range from "100+" to "several hundred." One other occurrence was reported in 1938, but the location data is not complete. Either it cannot be re-located, or it has been extirpated (WNHP 2000). 2 occurrences are currently known in Oregon with population numbers ranging from 50 to 800 (ONHP 2000).". I suppose that puts the number of individual plants worldwide at around 3500 +/- a thousand or so. I observed about seventy in flower during my brief visit to the area on a cloudy late afternoon.

As noted by Paul Slichter on his page for Ranunculus triternatus (includes additional photos!), the species "is found primarily in fairly undisturbed grasslands or areas of mixed grasslands and sagebrush. Plants are generally found in deeper soils among bunch grasses rather than in the thinner rocky poorer soils which are frequently found on the hillsides".

Additional photographs are available via the Oregon Flora Image Project (Ranunculus triternatus) and a scan of a specimen collected by Thomas Howell is available via Oregon State University Herbarium: Ranunculus triternatus.

I also had a request from a BPotD reader to include a bit of a photographic information from time to time. For these photographs, and for most photographs of buttercup flowers, I often find it necessary to underexpose the image. A camera-metered exposure will often blow out the yellows or introduce white spots on the petals due to the petals' high reflectivity (you can see the white spotting beginning to occur on the last photo). A polarizer can also be useful, but it is perhaps more important to make the photographic attempt on a cloudy day. I had also photographed some Ranunculus occidentalis this day, but I've thrown away most of those images because they were taken in the sun and no detail was left in the flower petals (I kept a couple for reference to remind me that it was out in bloom in the region on that date).

Jan 12, 2012: Cuscuta pacifica

Cuscuta pacifica

Dodders always attract my attention. The dense mass of orange thread-like strands seem like contained chaos to me, perhaps a metaphor for life. The plants in today's photograph can be seen from the satellite imagery via Google Maps (look for the orange spots).

Prior to 2009, this taxon was considered to be a part of Cuscuta salina. However, this recent paper describes the evidence for establishing it as a separate species: Costea, M. et al.. 2009. Untangling the Systematics of Salt Marsh Dodders: Cuscuta pacifica, a New Segregate Species from Cuscuta salina (Convolvulaceae) (PDF). Syst. Bot. 34(4):787-795. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1600/036364409790139583. Costea et al. used a combination of DNA and morphometric analysis to support the segregation (splitting) of Cuscuta salina.

Cuscuta pacifica, or coastal salt-marsh dodder, is native to coastal areas from southern British Columbia to Baja California. The species it was previously lumped with, Cuscuta salina, is now recognized as generally being a species of inland salt flats, marshes and ponds, though it is present near the coast in California (including the Channel Islands) and Baja California. Its northernmost extent is in Nevada and Utah. For British Columbian botanists, this means the specimen record for Cuscuta salina from near Spences Bridge will need to be taxonomically re-evaluated; most likely it is a misidentification as opposed to a significant disjunct (note: the E-Flora BC site has yet to update to Cuscuta pacifica, but with the description of habitat and range by Costea et al., it is a near-certainty that all of the records in the extreme southwest corner of the province conform to Cuscuta pacifica).

Coastal salt-marsh dodder is "especially" parasitic on Jaumea carnosa (Asteraceae) and Salicornia spp. (Chenopodiaceae).

Dec 1, 2011: Phlox diffusa

Spreading phlox is common within its range, though typically reliable resources suggest different ranges. USDA GRIN has a more restricted western range for Phlox diffusa than USDA PLANTS database; the latter suggests Phlox diffusa ranges across much of western North America, going as far east as South Dakota and into New Mexico. This suggests some taxonomic confusion, and this is borne out by some floras recognizing multiple subspecies and varieties within Phlox diffusa, and others using the term "highly variable".

According to some references, today's plants could also be recognized as Phlox diffusa subsp. longistylis, differing from Phlox diffusa subsp. diffusa in having larger corolla lobes (8-10mm long instead of under 8mm in one reference, 5-9mm in another) that are nearly as wide as long (instead of twice as long as wide) and styles 5-6mm long (instead of 2-4mm). However, one reference also notes that some plants do not cleanly fit into either subspecies (i.e., through a mixture of characters such as short styles but large corolla lobes), explaining that this is why some botanists choose to recognize only a single variable species. This would be my inclination in this case.

Flower colour is another variable characteristic. In my experience, pink to lavender is far more common, but Phlox diffusa is one of the easiest species to find white-flowered individuals. While the relative proportion of white to pink individuals is certainly a factor, the task is also made easier by the showiness of these mat-growing plants and the general lack of "colour competition" where they grow. Simply, few other flowering plants inhabit the same niche (mesic to dry rocky slopes and rock outcrops), so the spreading phlox tends to stand out. White-flowered variants is another BPotD series I could do, I suppose, as I suspect I have about 20 species photographed with the typical coloured flower and the white variant. Or, perhaps another half-decade of flower photography will yield a presentation on the topic.

Additional photographs of this species, including the range of flower colour variation, are available from the Burke Museum: Phlox diffusa.

Jun 21, 2011: Aconitum columbianum subsp. columbianum

Aconitum columbianum

Continuing the series on the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family, here is another brief entry:

This photograph of Aconitum columbianum was taken in mid-July in northern Washington. Columbian monkshood or western monkshood is primarily western North American, though disjunct populations occur in New York, Wisconsin and Ohio. Like all aconites, it is quite poisonous.

Apr 17, 2007: Tulipa 'Ile de France'

Tulipa 'Ile de France'

A change of plans on the weekend yielded an opportunity to attend the 24th Annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival near the Mount Vernon / Burlington area of Washington. Fortune favoured me for once, and I toured while the flowers were at their peak. Tulipa 'Ile de France' was one of about four dozen cultivars of tulips that could be seen in the fields, bordered by hundreds of people. Though I didn't photograph during my preferred times of the day (i.e., early morning and late evening), the weather was in my favour – cloudy with sunny breaks provided light that was suitable for midday photography as it gave a changing environment of soft diffuse light and harsh direct light. The latter is usually not so desirable, but with tulips, it is an opportunity to take photographs with backlighting. Today's photograph is one of 381 that survived my first round of discarding lower-quality shots.

'Ile de France' is a multi-use tulip; it is suitable for cut flowers, bedding plantings or container plantings. It was my favourite of the day; since the bulbs can be planted close together, the effect of the mass planting was a solid ribbon of red which I found very appealing (other cultivars require more space between individuals, so the en masse colouration was not as dense).

Although some of the tulips in the fields are sold as cut flowers, much of the field production of tulips in this instance are sold as bulbs.


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