South Lopez Island

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A couple of days ago I went out to Lopez Island with a couple of friends to see what might be blooming on the open rocky bluffs along the shore at the south end of the island. There are a couple of public parcels managed by BLM, Iceberg Point and Point Colville.
Puget Sound Gumweed at Point Colville
We went to Point Colville, where there’s a trail through the forest from the road down to the bluffs. The woods are fairly mature second-growth Douglas-fir with a little Sitka Spruce. Woodland Tarweed and Twinflower were blooming profusely along the way. It’s not a long walk, and the area doesn’t get a lot of use. The photo is of a clump of Grindelia integrifolia, Puget Sound Gumweed perched on the edge of a bluff with Castle Island peeking through the morning fog in the background. We were blessed with this nice soft light filtered through thin clouds and coastal fog for most of the day.

The San Juan Islands are in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains so they are quite dry. It was warm and hadn’t rained for some time when we visited so the meadows were crispy with maturing grasses when they weren’t carpeted with the rather fragile Reindeer Lichens (mostly Cladonia portentosa ssp. pacifica). The most interesting plants were blooming in cracks in the rocks where their roots could reach down to cooler soil and little pockets of moisture. In addition to large quantities of Gumweed, I found a few nice clumps of Scotch Bluebells, a mass of Yerba Buena, and lots of Nootka Roses in their prime. The roses were growing mostly in deeper soil, often where they were a little bit protected by Douglas-firs.

We spent all day at Point Colville, never making it down to Iceberg. My friends were concentrating on the lichens while I sought out the flowering plants. I had hoped to find Opuntia fragilis which is on the island, but apparently not at Point Colville. My Pacific Northwest Wildflowers website has two galleries for the day — one for the wildflowers and another for the lichens. Browse the photos for July 2, 2008 to see them.

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