All of the plants featured this week can still be found blooming along Ruckel Ridge. The ridge was once acclaimed by a botanist in Corvallis as one of the seven best places to find and view wildflowers in the state. I’ve tried to make the daylong trip at least once a year. Access the ridge from the Mt. Emily exit on Interstate 84, then drive north on the ridge to Highway 204, and on north to Tollgate.
Sticky geranium (Geranium viscosissimum): The first three of the plants in this article have been used by various Indian tribes for medicinal purposes. Sticky geranium gets its name from the viscus glands on the lower stems of some of the plants. It likes moist meadows and woods. The plant is a perennial that reaches about 2 feet high, with large rounded leaves up to 8 inches wide, that are deeply cleft nearly to the stem. It grows in Southwest Canada, to California and New Mexico, and in South Dakota to Nebraska.
Round leaf alumroot (Heuchera cylindrica): This plant is about a foot high, found in open, dry, rocky or gravelly sites, especially along dry road banks. It ranges from Southwest British Columbia to California, Nevada, and Wyoming. It has a crowded group of round leaves that have rounded lobes around the edges. The blossoms are small and cylindrical, borne in small clusters at the tips of the stems.
Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata): If ever there was a plant known as “scarlet,” this would be it. And nothing else looks like it, though some varieties of it have flowers with faded red color and white speckles. It is about a foot tall, and the base of the stem has branching, string-like leaves. This is another plant preferring dry, rocky soil and is easy to spot along road banks. You could say it doesn’t just get your attention, it shouts at you.
Big head clover (Trifolium macrocephalum): Clover blossoms are borne in compact heads, to the extent that people tend to only see the head and miss the blossoms. Big head clover is the show-off of clover plants. Some lawn clover has heads about 2 millimeters wide, but big-head clover has spherical heads about 2 inches or more across, stuffed with reddish-pink and white flowers. And the leaves have five leaflets. They prefer flat, gravelly, dry sites where almost nothing else grows. Information regarding uses of the big-head clover was not available.