This diminutive very early-blooming plant eluded me when I was chasing flowers to include in Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest. I spent many hours searching for it, in locations where reliable sources said I would find it, all to no avail. In the end, we left it out of the book. But it’s been nagging at me, or calling to me, or something like that ever since.
When I received my Native Plant Society of Oregon February newsletter which announced an Emerald Chapter field trip to Mount Pisgah Arboretum to see Enemion stipitatum I decided I just had to drive down. Since it’s about 400 miles from Bellingham to Eugene I inquired a few days in advance whether the flowers had started to bloom. So last Friday I tossed my sleeping bag in the back of the truck, loaded up the camera gear, and headed south. I stopped briefly at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle to photograph Witchhazels and then got back into the nasty Friday afternoon Puget Sound traffic on I-5. I slept in the back of my truck at a rest stop just north of Eugene.
I got to Mt. Pisgah early, so got a little exercise by hiking the 1000 feet vertical to the top of the mountain, climbing out of the valley fog into glorious warm sunshine. I ran most of the way back down so I wouldn’t miss the group.
Thirty people showed up for the field trip, which is a large number for a native plant outing. There were concerns expressed about the big group doing damage to the plant we’d all come to see, but as far as I could tell everyone was very respectful of the resource and no little flowers got trampled.
I had expected a small flower, but not quite as small as it turned out to be. Plants were scattered among grasses, fallen leaves, and the foliage of a weedy geranium so you really had to look to find them. The habitat is near the river, where it floods periodically, in open forest of Oregon White Oak (Quercus garryana).
With my tripod as low as it would go, I photographed two specimens of the Enemion, working with a 100mm macro lens and then with an extension tube as well. For some photos I had the camera right on the ground to look the blossoms in the eye. As the fog lifted, I pulled out my diffuser to soften the bright sunlight. You can see all the variations, as well as the two other plants in bloom on Saturday, at Mt. Pisgah on my web pages.
Am I certifiably crazy to drive 800 miles round trip to see one tiny plant?Â Perhaps.Â But I read about birders flying across the country to see some rare bird.Â At least plants don’t take wing before you get there.