WILDFLOWERS AND WILDFIRES ON THE SISKIYOU CREST
|The diversity and color of wildflowers responding to the 2012 Goff Fire is truly staggering. Before the fire much of the Siskiyou Crest was carpeted in dense stands of montane chaparral. Throughout much of the area the fire burned in a natural mosaic of high severity fire, burning off the chaparral and encouraging a lush growth of wildflowers. In this section of the Siskiyou Crest it is clear that wildflowers need wildfire; in fact, to bloom in such spectacular profusion they may need periodic hot fires.|
|Rock penstemon (Penstemon rupicola) blooming at the margin of the Goff Fire near Rattlesnake Mountain. There were about five other species of penstemon in the fire area on the verge of blooming. If you get out there within the next few weeks the floral display will be diverse and impressive. You will see a mixture of what is pictured in this post, along with more species of penstemon, fireweed, and innumerable Washington lilies made more stout and vigorous in response to the fire.
|Indian paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) and Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) bloom in abundance in the fire area; some areas are so thick with Oregon sunshine that you can see the golden yellow hue from miles away. Both species have responded positively to the Goff Fire with large, robust plants, a profusion of flowers, and both will likely produce large amounts of seed this summer. Wildflower communities throughout the fire area are thriving.
The rare Siskiyou daisy (Erigeron cervinus) appears to respond positively to fire, blooming in moist, rocky areas adjacent to Lonesome Lake. This species is found only in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains of southwest Oregon and northern California.
|Parish’s nightshade (Solanum parshii) blooming in the fire area on the Siskiyou Crest. This species is strongly fire adapted and often associated with chaparral habitat. Considered relatively rare in Oregon, this species is more abundant in California, found growing all the way south into Baja, California.|
|Chinese houses (Collinsia spp.) are found in dense
masses on thin, rocky soils throughout the fire area. They are
especially abundant in the area between Rattlesnake Mountain and
Figurehead Mountain. In this photo it can be seen blooming amongst the
burned remains of chaparral species. In many places a fire mediated
community of wildflowers can be seen blooming at the base of old, woody
shrubs. When the shrub is burned off a robust growth of flowering,
herbaceous plants respond to the lack of shrubby competition, and often
fire generated germination and seedling recruitment is increased.
|Tritelia crocea blooming in the fire area near Rattlesnake Mountain|
|Dwarf purple monkeyflower (Mimulus nanus) blooming near Goff Butte. Large, dense populations can be found blooming in rocky scree within the fire area.|
|This Phacelia species is perhaps the most abundant flowering plant in the Goff Fire area. Vast stands of montane chaparral consumed by high severity fire have been transformed into flower fields dominated by Phacelia.
I visited the Goff Fire area over the weekend of June 13-15 and what I saw was simply a snapshot in time. A new and exciting community of wildflowers is now beginning to bloom in beauty and abundance across this section of the Siskiyou Crest. The seasonal procession of wildflowers has birthed new displays of color and diversity, one floral community melting into another, as the season turns from spring to summer to fall. The ridgeline has currently reached a fire-generated climax of floral dominance; a successional community responding to the combined influence of natural disturbance, climatic variation and geologic bedrock. While I walked the crestline I found myself wishing I could return a week or two later to enjoy the many species still to bloom. In my mind I can imagine the vast populations of Washington lily, penstemon, and fireweed blooming from the rocky, charcoal tinged slopes as I write this article. The bloom is on and renewed each day with the rising sun.