My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monument Plant, Certified by Bumblebees

Last Saturday, Eric, one of my neighbor interns, and I went off to (officially) find bees and flowers to add to the display I'm working on.  (Unofficially, we were checking to see if the Steens Mountain Loop Road was open. ) I had "hired' the guys to go with me, then got a notice that I was not to collect any more bees until I catch up on pinning them.  So I still fed both boys breakfast and then Eric came along to play with me.  We started off late, about 8:00 AM (here dawn is already happening at 4:30 AM and the beautiful light is gone by 8:00 AM) and drove the 41 miles to Frenchglen.  I stopped at Page Springs to set out bee traps for the bees  I'll use in my pollinator display and then we started up the mountain. About four miles up, we had to stop to check out a hillside of wildflowers.

Then we had to stop a few more times to enjoy wildflowers before we got to Fish Lake Campground. I wanted to see if the California corn lily was blooming there. It wasn't but is going to make a spectacular display when it does bloom. We found several species of wildflowers growing there. But there was one tall, nondescript plant that had the bumblebees in a frenzy. I got out my butterfly net and threw it over one of the plants and netted seven bumblebees of two species. One was too low n the net and managed to escape but the other six will become part of the display.

We continued up the mountain, stopping often to look for wildflowers.  I brought my silica gel and the box in which I dry flowers.  However I could only get some lupines (have to get them higher up since the lowland ones are finished blooming) and one other species of flower into the drying box.  So next week, I'll have to run up there again to try and get blooming willows and some of the other transient flowers. We finally got to Frenchglen Hotel at 2:45 PM to find that the restaurant was closed. I begged for something they had left over, and they ended up telling us we could have anything that didn't have to be grilled. So I had soup and cornbread and Eric had a sandwich and potato salad. (Now we have to return to enjoy the Steens Burger. )

Eric checking out the only chokecherry bush still in bloom

After relaxing on the front porch a few minutes, we started to backtrack to find places to take beautiful photographs.  However, it was not to be. By the time we were nearing the summit, clouds covered the sun and everything was flat. So we stopped and got a few more flower pictures and then finally made it home about 9:30 PM with  almost two hundred miles on the odometer.

On Sunday, I went back up the loop road as far as Fish Camp.  I left early enough that I still had pretty good light. I particularly wanted a picture of the blooming plant that had the bees in a frenzy. I did a whole series of pictures on it and Eric just identified it for me. (Both Eric and Barry are plant experts so enticing them to go with me gives me my own personal outdoor classroom. )  It's monument plant, Frasera speciosa.

Monument plant hosting a bee party

 This is an amazing plant.  It only blooms once, then dies. Sometimes a whole field will bloom at once, except for a few plants that don't - and no one knows why some plants do not bloom when the rest are throwing a wild party for the pollinators. And it is in the brown section of the plant guide and is fairly plain from a distance. But the plant is wildly attractive to bees and flies. And at two to seven feet tall, it is easy to find. 

Bombus huntii, our most common bumblebee

I put up the pictures of some of the other plants we saw in my Webshots album.  I'm dutifully writing this blog before leaving to play for a few days in the fossil beds areas. ( I was supposed to leave yesterday but forgot and "worked".) So I probably won't  get another post up until Friday. But I think all the interns are going camping next weekend. I'm going to join them on Saturday night and then stay over on Monday, after they come back to work.