NOTE: This is an archived NPSO Bulletin.
Some information may be out of date, and
some links may not be functional.

NPSO Logo Bulletin of the Native Plant Society of Oregon

Dedicated to the enjoyment, conservation, and study of Oregon's native vegetation.

December 1996

Volume 29 · Number 12

[ Return to Bulletin Directory ]

In This Issue

State News

Jan. 18, Sat. State Board Meeting: 10 A.M. - 4 P.M. Room 302, Walker Hall, Linfield College, McMinnville. (On Linfield Ave., across the street from Dillin Commons). For more information, contact Kareen Sturgeon, (w) 503-434-2466.

Return to Top

Chapter News

Blue Mountain

Dec. 2, Mon. Meeting: 7 P.M. Small Business Development Center, SE 1st & Dorian, Pendleton. Program to be announced.


Dec. 9, Mon. Meeting: 7 P.M. Annual holiday slide show at Esther McEvoy's house, 3290 SW Willamette. Bring ten to fifteen slides, and a dessert, to share with the group. For more information, call Esther.


Dec. 9, Mon. Meeting: 7 P.M. Annual Christmas social and slide show/potluck. Island Lakes Condominium Clubhouse, 1980 Lake Isle Drive. (Off Goodpasture Island Rd. on to Goodpasture Loop Rd., across from Pacific Northwest Gas Co. and Selco.) Call Charlene Simpson for information. Bring a light potluck dish and twelve or so of your favorite plant slides from this year.

High Desert

Meeting: No meeting in December.

Jan. 28, Tue. Meeting: 7:30 P.M. Central Oregon Environmental Center, 16 NW Kansas, Bend. Lucile Housley, botanist with the Lakeview BLM, will show us slides from her recent foray to South America, including Chile, with an emphasis on the botany and ecology of the region.

Feb. 25, Tue. Meeting: Central Oregon Environmental Center, 16 NW Kansas, Bend. Stan Kuntzman will share his trip to eastern Russia/Siberia. He will speak to the issues of timber harvest and ecology and the local people.


Dec. 4, Wed. Meeting: 7:30 P.M. Mosier School. Louisa Evers, ecologist for the Barlow Ranger District, will share her research on the look of plants in our area in the 1860's.

North Coast

Meeting: There will be no meeting in December.


Dec. 10, Tue. Meeting: 7 P.M. First Methodist Church, 1838 SW Jefferson, Portland. There will be a program of slides by members. Bring your best slides to share with the group.


Dec. 19, Thu. Meeting and Holiday Party: 7: 30 P.M. Dessert potluck at the home of Julian and Connie Battaile, 1216 Tolman Creek Rd. John Roth, Park Ranger, Oregon Caves National Monument, will present a slide show on "The Mythology and Legends of Trees and Caves."

South Coast

For information on South Coast Chapter, contact Bruce Rittenhouse.

Umpqua Valley

Dec. 12, Thu. Meeting: 6 P.M. Hillcrest Vineyards. Bring photos, reports and potluck. Directions from Roseburg: Go west on Garden Valley, Melrose (passing its store, church and fire station and Doerner Rd.) then north on Elgarose Rd. to Vinyard Lane.

Willamette Valley

Meeting: There will be no meeting in December.

Wm. Cusick

Dec. 18, Wed. Meeting: 7 P.M. Forest and Range Laboratory, Gekeler Lane and C Ave., La Grande. Please be prompt so we can take care of business before the 7:30 program, "Landscaping with Natives for Beauty, Birds and Wildlife." Tara Wertz, Regional Wildlife Habitat Biologist, Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, will discuss cost-sharing programs available for wildlife plantings and the plants recommended. Katie Boula, Wildlife Biologist, Umatilla N.F., will discuss naturescaping for birds. Dick Kenton and Sandy Roth, owners of Plantworks Native Nursery, La Grande, will discuss project planning: "What Do You Have and What Do You Want -- Fitting the Plant to the Site, and How to Get the Plants You Want." Join us for an exciting and informative evening, and bring a friend!

Elections: They will be held at the February meeting. The date and time will be given in the February Bulletin, mailed in late January. Nominations now open for president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. Mail nominations to: NPSO Nominating Committee, P.O. Box 885, La Grande, OR 97850, or state them at a meeting. Individuals may nominate themselves. Secretary and treasurer positions may be combined. Officers will serve from February, 1997 through January, 1998. President and vice president are responsible for planning and leading monthly meetings, representing NPSO in an official capacity, attending and reporting on quarterly board meetings (at least needs to go) and maintaining the vigor and growth of the William Cusick Chapter. The secretary is responsible for taking minutes of monthly meetings and mailing them, and for local and biannual newsletters. The treasurer handles the chapter finances.

Return to Top

It's Renewal Time

The NPSO membership year is January to December. Now is the time for members to renew.

A remittance envelope is in the hardcopy issue of the Bulletin, or print the on-line membership form and enclose it with your renewal check. The mailing address is printed on the form.

NPSO brings you field trips, programs, classes, the monthly Bulletin, and Kalmiopsis.

It's also a good time to consider a tax-deductible contribution to our special funds. The Leighton Ho Memorial Award is used for research projects in western Oregon. The Rare and Endangered Plant Fund supports work with our most threatened plants. The Jean Davis Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually to a botany student at an Oregon college or university. Contributions can also be made to the NPSO general fund.

Your membership and donations make it possible to carry out more of the many projects that are needed to pursue the goals of NPSO.

Return to Top

Membership Directory to be Published

The 1997 edition of the NPSO Membership Directory will be published in April. If you wish to receive a copy, add two dollars to your renewal payment.

If you wish your address or telephone number, or both, withheld from publication in the Directory, please make a prominent note on your renewal form.

Return to Top

Brewer Spruce on Iron Mountain - Dave Shea


Brewer spruce (Picea breweriana) is found only in the Siskiyou Mountains of southwestern Oregon and northern California (Map 1; Bums, 1990) and is the rarest North American Picea. This spruce typically grows on dry to moist mountain ridges and peaks near timberline, and under severe environmental conditions. It is a narrow endemic (very limited range), and is a relict species (Baker, 1956) presently occupying only a small portion of its former range. The population on Iron Mountain, within the Iron Mountain Botanical Area, is at the northern edge of its present distribution. The nearest populations of Picea breweriana to Iron Mountain are located at Game Lake Peak and near Snow Camp Mountain, 17 and 22 miles to the south respectively (Stansell, pers. comm.).

Brewer spruce is also known as "weeping spruce" because of its long and pendulous branches. It has the thin-scaled, flaky bark typical of spruces and is thus quite fire-sensitive. The cones are unusual because the scales are stiff with rounded tips and are somewhat larger (5 to 6 inches long) than other native spruces. (Burns, 1990).

Iron Mountain - Physical Conditions

Most of Iron Mountain is composed of serpentine-peridotite type soils. The summit area where the Picea breweriana grows is apparently slightly metamorphosed sedimentary sandstones and shales. There is a thin layer of topsoil over gravel and rocks. The slope within the stand varies from level ridgetops to very steep (80%+) cliffs. The summit of Iron Mountain is at 4, 026 feet, and is 13.5 miles from the Pacific Ocean, measured from the nearest point just south of Humbug Mountain. Annual precipitation at the summit is approximately 70-80 inches (Baker, 1956), including some heavy winter snowstorms. The stand faces into the strong prevailing westerly winds blowing from the ocean.

Brewer Spruce on Iron Mountain

There are several hundred Picea breweriana in the Iron Mountain stand, located from about 3,850 to 4,000 feet elevation. This is the Canadian Life Zone on Iron Mountain, which includes such indicator species as Western white pine (Pinus monticola), common juniper (Juniperus communis), and beargrass (Xerophyllurn tenax). The spruce grow on the north to northwest aspects of the summit, and cover approximately 10 to 12 acres. There are some large Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), small Western white pine, and a very few, small Port Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) mixed in with the spruce. The understory consists mainly of various amounts of Sadler's oak (Quercus sadleriana), Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllurn), beargrass, and salal (Gaultheria shallon) in that order. Other Understory vegetation includes red huckleberry (Vacciniurn parvifoliurn), live oak (Quercus chrysolepsis), pinemat manzanita (Arctostaphylos nevadensis), mountain huckleberry (Vacciniurn membranaceurn), prince's pine (Chirnaphila umbellata), rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera oblongifolia), twinflower (Linnaea borealis), and sugar-stick (Allotropa virgata). Fairly large areas are barren of any undergrowth because of heavy shading from the dense canopy cover. There are also numerous young and healthy 3 to 15-foot tall spruce in the understory throughout the stand. Vigorous natural regeneration is apparently typical of the species throughout its range (Burns, 1990). A comprehensive list of other Iron Mountain flora is available in the Powers Ranger District files.

Brewer spruce plant associations in the Siskiyous are most often in the white fir series (Atzet, 1984); however, no Abies occur on Iron Mountain.

A wide variety of ages and sizes of spruce is present in the stand. The largest Picea breweriana I could locate on the mountain measured 25.6 inches DBH (diameter at breast height) and 60 feet tall. (The national record, from Josephine County, Oregon, is about 52 inches DBH and 170 feet tall: Jensen, 1994). Most mature trees on Iron Mountain are between 15 and 23 inches DBH, and 30 to 50 feet in height. Canopy closure varies from 10 to 90%. I took core samples from three spruce on May 30, 1996 to determine approximate ages. Measurements and ages from those trees are as follows.

  1. 7.3" DBH; 19' tall; 180+ years; 60% canopy closure.
  2. 14.2" DBH; 43' tall; 250+ years; 75% canopy closure.
  3. 17.2" DBH; 39' tall; 400+ years; 70% canopy closure.

The advanced ages and relatively small sizes give an indication of the rigorous environmental conditions in this Brewer spruce habitat.

On August 1, 1996, a one tenth acre plot was sampled in a typical portion of the stand on the northwest side of the summit. A total of 101 spruce (58 seedlings and saplings and 43 mature trees) were counted in this plot, and approximately 10 mature Douglas-fir were also present.


This small, isolated stand of North America's rarest and least known Picea appears to be in good condition. No parasites or diseases are apparent, and no fire scars were found. Some snow and wind-damaged tops and deformities are present, as would be expected in this habitat. Cones are abundant both on the trees and on the ground and seed production is high. The large number of smaller trees in various stages of growth is also a good sign of over all vigor.

Thanks to Powers Ranger District Forester Eric Martz for assistance in measurements and in setting up stand plots.


Atzet, T. and D.L. Wheeler, 1994. Preliminary Plant Associations of the Siskiyou Mountain Province. USDA For. Ser. Pac., NW Region, 315 pp.

Baker, W.H., 1956. Plants of Iron Mountain, Rogue River Range, Oregon. Am. Midl. Natural-ist: 56(1), pp.1-53.

Jensen, B.C. and C.R. Ross, 1994. Trees to Know in Oregon. OSU Ext. Ser. Circular 1450, 128pp.

Burns, R.M. and B.H. Honkala, 1990. Silvics of North America. Vol I, Conifers. Agric. Handbook 654. USDA For. Ser., Wash, D.C., 675 pp.

Stansell, V., 1996. Former Gold Beach District Botanist. Personal communication.

Editor's note: Dave Shea is a USFS biologist and botanist with the Powers Ranger District. Dave has said that he would be "glad" to show members of NPSO this stand of spruce and other unusual plants in the Iron Mountain Botanical Area.

Return to Top

Learning About Patterns of Rarity in Eastern Oregon - Annie Turner

NPSO/ODA Intern Report

The following is the second in a series of three articles in which NPSO/ODA interns discuss their activities during the 1996 field season. Interns were selected from a pool of applicants and worked with scientists from the Oregon Department of Agriculture/OSU Plant Conservation Biology Program to carry out research related to threatened and endangered species in the Pacific Northwest. Project locations ranged from beaches on the coast to the high desert of eastern Oregon. Interns were jointly funded by NPSO, state and federal dollars and plan to use their experiences to further their careers in botany and biology. Thanks again to NPSO for contributing to botanical education and work experience.

Tom Kaye, Plant Conservation Biology Program, Oregon Department of Agriculture

Learning About Patterns of Rarity in Eastern Oregon

As we came over the last crest of the Cascades, eastern Oregon stretched out flat and golden before us. The mountains unfolded and the lush green and blue turned into the pale gray green of sagebrush and the crisp yellow of the spent grasses. To me, the landscape was homogeneous with little habitat variation. But, as my summer progressed as a NPSO/ODA botany intern, I explored the variable landscape of eastern Oregon, learned many new plants, and learned how to think critically about the differences in the distribution of the species we worked with. I learned that eastern Oregon has varied substrates and many different habitats which hosted new plants to learn.

As we prepared for our trips to the east side, we learned about the unusual substrates there. Each type of substrate is host to its own suite of species and endemic species or ecotypes often grow on these isolated, nutrient-poor mediums. Some species are found on the rarer substrates because they are out-competed by weedy grasses or other native sagebrush steppe plants in the more fertile soils. Because of this, the rarity of the substrate may be responsible for the rarity of the plant. I soon learned, by working on two rare plants in particular, Lupinus cusickii and Astragalus tyghensis, that many factors can make a species rare.

Lupinus cusickii grows on several ash outcrops near the town of Unity. The ash outcrops are unusual soils formed from ancient volcanic events, which have become exposed at some locations and serve as a substrate for L. cusickii. This plant grows low to the ground in full sun, and is small, often growing only to 15 cm in width and height. It has compound, palmate, gray leaves and a raceme of light purple bilabiate flowers. Besides the rarity of the substrate, there are other factors which affect the plant. At the site near Unity, we monitored the differences in populations of L. cusickii in areas where off-road vehicles are driven and where they are restricted. The plant monitoring involved taking the demographic data from established plots in the population and measuring the size and number of flowers each plant mapped. The differences in plant abundance and size are significant because the populations appear healthier where off-road vehicles are not allowed. Another factor which may affect the health of the populations is a fungal rust on the plants. We found many plants with small brown spots over much of their stems and foliage. The rust did not appear to kill the plant but it may have affected growth and reproduction. Therefore L. cusickii is not only rare (because of its uncommon substrate), but also because it may be threatened by off-road vehicle use and perhaps by the rust which attacked the plants.

After our trip to eastern Oregon to monitor Lupinus cusickii, I began to wonder why the other species we worked on were rare and threatened. Did all occur on rare substrates? If they did not, then what other factors made them rare? I thought about our trip to northcentral Oregon to monitor Astragalus tyghensis, a rare endemic plant that grows in mounded prairies and canyon rims above the White River near the town of Tygh Valley. The Tygh Valley is an agricultural region where much wheat is grown. Astragalus tyghensis is superficially similar to the Lupinus; its foliage is hairy and gray-green, the plant is small and low to the ground, and the pale yellow flowers also occur in a raceme. We monitored A. tyghensis in much the same way we monitored L. cusickii; that is, by mapping and measuring the plants in established plots. But the reasons for the rarity of the two plants appeared to be different. When we worked on this plant, I assumed there was something unusual about the soils on which the plant grew. I thought it must grow on some bizarre eastern Oregon substrate formed during a dramatic geologic event of ancient times. However, there was nothing unusual about the soil; it was just like the soil that occurred on the agricultural land and range-land throughout the Tygh Valley. It certainly grew in beautiful surroundings. We spent three days on the White River canyon's rim watching eagles and guessing the height of the old growth Douglas-fir that reached from the canyon bottom to the top.Instead A. tyghensis is generally known from areas not utilized by humans or their livestock. The canyon rim sites are either near steep dropoffs or on very steep slopes and the mounded prairie sites are nestled among endless humps of earth the size of small cars. Perhaps A. tyghensis was once more common but became restricted to habitats unsuited for human use.

Lupinus cusickii grew on a rare substrate, was affected by off-road vehicles, and was attacked by a rust. Astragalus tyghensis did not grow on a rare substrate but it occurred in what may have been a fragment of its historical range.The reasons for the rarity of the two species were a subtlety to me at first. Now, it is something to question every time I work with a new species. Why is it rare? Or, what factors influence the distribution and health of the populations? This summer has been very valuable to me and solidified my aspirations to work in botany in the Pacific Northwest. I want to thank the Native Plant Society of Oregon, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and specifically Dr. Robert I. Meinke and Thomas Kaye for the opportunities of the past summer.

Return to Top

Representative for EFO Needed - Maya Muir

The Environmental Federation of Oregon is a funding like the United Way, where employees may check off contributions, but through the EFO that money goes to 26 environmental organizations throughout the state, including NPSO. Each member organization needs one person in charge of managing the relationship between the two organizations. NPSO offers a payment of $1,000 a year to whoever undertakes that responsibility.

What does it entail? Over all, it means functioning as a two way conduit of information. EFO conducts fall membership campaigns and summer guided walks. It takes part in Earth Day and many other activities. Representatives convey information about these activities back to their groups and recruit members to participate. Each member organization contributes 100 hours of volunteer labor per year. The representative is also responsible for filling out our application each spring.

It was suggested, at a recent NPSO Board meeting, that our next representative might consider running for a position on the EFO Board when there is an opening. This is a chance to work closely with folks from other environmental organizations in the state and to set policy for the whole organization.

NPSO prefers that someone sign up for this position for two years. I've enjoyed working with the EFO staff for the last two years as well as the contact with other organizations. But, I will be stepping down in April. If anyone is interested in this position, please contact me at

Return to Top


Barbara Russell, current president of the William Cusick Chapter, and Bob Ottersberg, the chapter's past president, would like to announce their forthcoming marriage, which will take place on December 28, 1996 in Denver Colorado.

Return to Top


© Copyright 1996 Native Plant Society of Oregon, All Rights Reserved

Last Modified November 14, 1996