Saturday, September 26, 2015

Stout Grove, an Adventure in Botanical Geekery

Stream panoramic
Last weekend my family and I took a drive to the coastal town of Crescent City California where we stayed a night. On our journey home, we stopped in the little town of Hiouchi to visit the beautiful Stout Grove, located in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The trees here are not as strikingly gigantic as the giant redwoods a little south, but they still dwarf even the tallest of us mortal hikers. Naturally, our daughter fell into a deep sleep literally as we turned off the 199, and despite our efforts could not be woken. We still had a long drive home to Rogue River, so we didn't want to awaken the tuckered out little girl (we had already been to the aquarium and the beach that day, so much running!), so Anna sat in the car and let me scope out the trail.

Stout Grove trail, Hiouchi, Oregon
Poison oak (Toxicodendron sp.) climbing a tree
I was dwarfed by the redwoods and Rhododendrons that dominated the canopy, as well as a few scattered hardwoods. Yet my focus is usually towards the forest floor during hikes in the hopes that I'll see something botanically enticing. I wasn't disappointed! I felt like a kid in a candy store. Yes, I'm a plant nerd, and proud of it!

Rhododendron sp.
Rhododendron sp.
Rhododendrons, I would guess macrophyllum, were a frequently encountered understory small tree or large shrub. They grew large searching for the light, becoming trees unlike the shrubby varieties I am used to seeing come out of the horticultural world.

Rhododendron sp.
Like the majority of the plants I encountered, the flowers were long gone. But instead of being disappointed I was excited to see different details of the plants I might otherwise not see if I were focused on the flowers (they tend to steal the spotlight). The opened capsules here were interesting, the seeds had long since fallen out. I wonder if birds eat the seeds and help in distributing them?

Oxalis sp.
Oxalis, perhaps oregana, was also common higher up on the trail, but I saw less of it the further down the path I went. It is lovely in bloom, appearing after many of the other forest herbs have flowered, at least in the larger redwood forests further south into California.

So much botanizing!
The sun was highly filtered through the dense canopy, forcing me to use the flash as I do not own a proper tripod (to be honest, I'd rather not carry one around).

Trillium ovatum
Geophytes are common here. Trilliums were almost everywhere, long past flowering. I like seeing the plants at different stages of growth, gives me a better understanding, deepening my relationship with them.
Trillium ovatum, everything is in "threes"
Immediately below this apparently highly sexually active individual (the plant, not me) were many seedlings, young plants that have not yet reached maturity. Observing the way plants grow in the wild can teach how to grow them in a garden. The ground here is probably always moist, or nearly so, from springs or some other kind of underground montane seepage. The seeds germinated in soil that was covered in moss and leaves. The slope assures that there is oxygen (no stagnancy) from the slow movement of the water through the soil.

Trillium ovatum seedlings
Trillium and Iris leaves
There were a few clumps of rhizomatous Irises around, but not terribly plentiful. I wont guess at the species, but I'm sure there is someone out there who can identify Pacific coast Irises by the leaves alone. I welcome their comments!

Achlys triphylla
Vanilla leaf, or sometimes called Sweet-after-death, is a name this species has earned from the vanilla-like scent of the dead or dried plants. In Spring a tufted flower spike emerges from each plant. They were a unique discovery for me, having never seen them before. Now, the next logical step is to purchase some for my garden (horticultural varieties, never wild plants!)

Achlys triphylla
Alectoria sp.
Not a moss, but a lichen. Many tree lichens are mistakenly called "moss" by the lay man, including me. Lichens are totally bizarre! They are not a single organism, but a composite organism comprised of algae living among a fungus, the sum having different characteristics than each constituent individually (though the specific algae and fungus are often never found without their counterpart in nature). Tree lichens, unlike rock lichens, don't feed on their substrate and are thus not parasites. They instead photosynthesize like plants, as well as requiring water (minimally is many cases) and minerals (particularly rock and soil lichen). I'm lichen it...

Ferns and mosses
The moist atmosphere created by the dense canopy facilitates humid conditions below, enabling the growth of mosses everywhere including stumps and rocks, which can then be colonized by pteridophytes (ferns, horsetails, etc.) and eventually more advanced flower- and seed-producing vascular plants.

Adiantum sp.
Many wood ferns cohabited in the moist understory, but the most attractive and delicate were the maidenhair ferns of the genus Adiantum (possibly the species aleuticum).

Clintonia andrewsiana
I was most delighted to find these blue berries! They are of the lovely Clintonia andrewsiana, the red Clintonia, from the red flowers produced in Spring. The plants grow from slender rhizomes.

Clintonia andrewsiana
At first I only saw the leaves, leading me to believe they were some type of orchid. When I saw the berries, I knew they were Clintonia. The highest number of plants I found were where berries must have settled: at the base of tree trunks on the upper side on the slope. This is also where the most debris would build up, so in the garden they would probably like to grow in a lot of decomposed leaf matter, yet no stagnant conditions.

I have often read or heard folks complain about soil requirements being stated as: "moisture retentive humus yet free draining," getting responses like this: "if it exists let me know so I may purchase some." The solution is simple: elevated garden beds, and a balance between available moisture (rain or irrigation) and the amount of "drainage material" added, chiefly sand or grit. In a climate like the UK, more sand may be warranted. Here in the dry West, less sand, or more irrigation. The elevation, by either piling the substrate high or actually building a bed out of wood or stone (or blocks) will keep conditions from stagnating, giving the grower more control over the amount of water in the substrate at any given time, but the actual substrate (how much "drainage material") is important here. Experimentation is key.

Cimicifuga sp.
I stumbled upon a few individuals of Cimicifuga, probably elata (though there is at least one or two other species in Oregon I believe). The flowers had long since faded, and the absence of berries signifies Cimicifuga rather than Actea, the former producing dry achenes rather than the fleshy berries of the latter (doll's eyes). I like the leaf colors and patterns, though it is probably the result of the leaves aging and beginning to go over rather than a unique sport.

In my garden, the leaves of Cimicifuga racemosa (not ramosa, that is a misnomer for C. simplex) have begun to die back and have not aged like this. The leaves can vary quite a bit, some being pinnately compound, others being bipinnately compound, and a very rare form of at least one species having leaves tripinnately compound (though it is speculated that this form has been lost in cultivation). My plants of C. racemosa exhibit both pinnate- and bipinnate leaf forms.

Cimicifuga sp.
I am one of the stubborn ones who refuses to accept the dumping of Cimicifuga into Actea. I'll admit that it is a prejudiced opinion that I do not like Actea, yet I do like Cimicifuga (the name as well as the plants themselves), and so the two must not be the same genus.

Vaccinium ovatum
At the start of the trail I had seen these leaves, but I had no idea what they were. Until I saw the berries further down the path. I didn't eat them because I didn't make a positive ID until I got home, and I never eat unfamiliar berries (because I don't want to die). This is huckleberry, ovatum has serrated leaves.

Vaccinium ovatum
Aster sp.
Asters were very common on the coast, and one of the only things flowering in many areas. These were growing in very dense shade, more dense than I imagined they could grow. I suspect they do receive at least some direct sun for at least part of the day, and maybe attracting pollinators into the depths of the woods.

I'm not sure what this was, but I'm sure it is a mint relative. The stem was square, the leaves hairy (slightly, but not at all scented), and the flowers resembling other mint relatives like Lamium and Stachys. It was growing in the rocks alongside the Smith river which cuts through the State Park.

Saponaria sp.
This was speculated by some kind peers who helped with the ID to be a Penstemon, Gentiana, and even a Dianthus. But it is most certainly a soapwort, Saponaria. The branching, leaves, and seed pods all match.
Saponaria sp.
The root is loaded with saponins which can literally be used to lather up and use as one would use any other soap. They may also keep voles or other pests from eating the plant?

Lophocampa maculata
This spectacular caterpillar will grow to become the Spotted Tussock Moth. They are probably toxic, signified by the bright colors.

Aster sp.
More Asters, these much more floriferous, were growing out in the sun by the Smith River.

Trientalis sp.
On my way back up, I spotted these charmers. The small vaguely Trillium-like plants bear one or maybe two flowers around early Summer.

Maianthemum racemosum
Another geophyte, these are stately plants which were very common all over the trail, but the dramatic lighting here was the best photo opportunity. At this stage they are producing red berries, as seen on another plant in the center left.

This single plant has elicited a lively debate among many members of a few Facebook groups I shared this with (in hopes of an ID)! Without flowers, plant identification can be very challenging. The three main contenders are suggested to be: Heuchera, Tellima, and Tolmiea. What do you think?

Goodyera sp.
The best treat of all was when I was almost back to the car, but I saw something white towards the ground in my peripheral. Upon close inspection it turned out to be the orchid Goodyera! I had encountered this genus before in Bandon OR under some low growing coniferous shrubs very close to the beach. It would seem it appreciates coniferous leaf litter.

Goodyera sp.
It was a fun hike, I hope to do it again some day. It would be amazing in Springtime.


  1. Lovely photos. The last tie I was there was in Feb 2013 during a huge storm that precluded getting out of the car.
    Mary Beth

  2. Great photos....Hiouchi and Stout Grove are in California. The tallest (anywhere) ;) trees are not near trails, but you are in the right area.

  3. Beautiful photos and "walk in the woods" . I always appreciate your botanical details. I was on this trail a year ago -- just overwhelmed by the trees. Now, I'll have to go back and see the other plants!

  4. Third from the end is likely Tolmeia menziesii or Piggyback Plant, also common here in Duvall, WA.

  5. All flowers are very fabulous. I like all.Natural insecticide for soil are very useful for get rid of bad bugs . Thank you sharing these awesome photos..


If leaving a comment as "Anonymous," please leave your name or contact information.