tumblr_o98mqkujwn1tmun60o1_1280

Callospermophilus lateralis “Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel” Sciuridae

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
June 8, 2016
Robert Niese

Look at this adorable little fatling! Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels are a common, endearingly pudgy species found throughout western North America east of the cascades and Sierras. They, along with dozens of other ground squirrel species (41, to be precise), were part of the Great Ground Squirrel Generic Revision of 2009. In this taxonomic revision, mammalogists at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History determined that the mega-genus Spermophilus was likely a paraphyletic clade of 8 separate genera. Callospermophilus was one of those genera that rose from the ashes of the Spermophilus mega-genus. Today it remains a distinct genus with only three species, all of which are restricted to western North America. Here in the PNW, one of these species, C. saturatus, is endemic to the Cascade range where it likely became isolated by the Columbia River, allowing it to differentiate from its eastern sister species, C. lateralis.

Cetraria (Kaernefeltia) merrillii “Flattened Thornbush Lichen”
and Vulpicida canadensis “Canadian Foxkiller/Brown-eyed Sunshine Lichen”

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
April 23, 2015
Robert Niese

 

These metallic, often iridescent black lichen are extremely common on small twigs alongside Vulpicida canadensis here in our PNW Ponderosa Pine forests. They can be found throughout the Rocky Mountains, Sierras, Cascades, and some mountainous regions of central Spain. Their black color comes from a yet identified pigment.

Vulpicida canadensis “Canadian Fox Killer/Brown-eyed Sunshine Lichen”

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
April 23, 2014
Robert Niese

 

Members of the genus Vulpicida, like Wolf Lichen in the genus Letharia, contain usnic acid and vulpinic acid which gives them their characteristic neon yellow color. Also like Letharia, members of Vulpicida are also somewhat toxic and are associated with some Icelandic and Scandinavian folk tales where they’re used to kill foxes. This species is quite common in our PNW Ponderosa Pinelands and is normally found on small twigs alongside the metallic black lichen, Cetraria merrillii.

Balsamorhiza sagittata “Arrowleaf Balsamroot” Asteraceae

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
April 23, 2015
Robert Niese

Arrowleaf Balsamroot was first collected by Meriwether Lewis (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) when he was exploring the northern Rockies in 1806. These particular specimens appear to have been munched by some deer (notice that the left side is missing some flowers).

Balsamorhiza sagittata “Arrowleaf Balsamroot” Asteraceae

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
April 23, 2015
Robert Niese

Balsamroot is one of the most characteristic plants of eastern PNW habitats. While the coastal Northwest’s lush rainforests are truly a sight to behold, nothing is quite as striking as springtime hillsides covered with Balsamroot and Lupine while dramatic, snow-capped peaks loom in the background. Fun fact: Arrowleaf Balsamroot was first collected by Meriwether Lewis (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) when he was exploring the northern Rockies in 1806.

Pulsatilla patens (Anemone patens) “Prairie Crocus” Ranunculaceae

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
April 23, 2015
Robert Niese

These beautiful spring flowers are most abundant in the early spring and often bloom around Passover earning them the common name “Pasque Flower” (pasque is an old Latin word for Easter). The prairie crocus is in decline throughout its range, but is protected as a threatened species in Washington where it is restricted to only a few locations in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Lomatium dissectum “Fernleaf Biscuitroot” Apiaceae

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
April 23, 2015
Robert Niese

Biscuitroot is famous for its starchy, edible roots. This particular species is the largest in the PNW and has roots that are often utilized in medicinal remedies to treat viral infections and respiratory disorders.

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) Phasianidae

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
April 24, 2015
Robert Niese

It’s that time of year when the forests are rippling with the sounds of Ruffed Grouse displays. Around March and April, these displays are practically non-stop and in a really nice, quiet section of forest you can hear males advertising their territories miles away. Suprisingly, although this was one of the first North American birds to capture the interest of European ornithologists in the 17th century, we still do not know how the Ruffed Grouse produces its prodigious boom performances. Officially, the Birds of North America claims these sounds are “miniature sonic booms” which, if it were true, would quite literally be breaking the laws of physics!

Erythronium grandiflorum “Glacier Lily” Liliaceae

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
April 23, 2015
Robert Niese

The Glacier Lily is endemic to western North America and is a close relative of E. montanum, another common montane fawn lily. Unlike E. montanum, the yellow Glacier Lily is not as particular about its habitat and is regularly found in the understory of nearly all our Ponderosa Pine forests in the springtime. 

Dodecatheon pulchellum “Prairie Shooting Star” Primulaceae

Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor (BLM), MT
April 23, 2014
Robert Niese

Our two most common Shooting Stars in the Missoula area are D. conjugens and D. pulchellum. They are nearly identical and can even occur side-by-side on shrub-steppe hillsides. Check out the links above for information on how to tell them apart!