From Elegant Cat’s Ear to Hound’s Tongue: 10 Southern Oregon Wild Flowers— Plus a Rose Bush

Today, Peggy and I continue our ‘walks on the wild side,’ which are a primary form of entertainment for us while sheltering at home. Our local spring wildflowers provide the focus but I couldn’t help adding the rosebush that came across America in a wagon train.

Calochortus elegans lily, or as more commonly known, elegant cat’s ear. It’s easy to see how this fuzzy fellow earned its common name. It is closely related to an old friend of mine, the Mariposa lily of the Sierra Nevada’s.

Our common names for flowers are often amusing. Hound’s tongue and elegant cat’s ear certainly are. But they can also be confusing. For example, one of the flowers I will feature today is Oregon grape. It isn’t the plants only common names, however. I found one list that included holly-leaf barberry, mountain grape, Oregon grape holly, Oregon barberry, blue barberry, creeping barberry, holly barberry, holly-leaved Berberis, holly Mahonia, Mahonia, Mahonie, scraperoot, trailing Mahonia, Uva de Oregon, Vigne de l’Oregon and water-holly— in addition to Oregon grape— for a total of 18 different names! Probably the best physical description is Oregon grape holly, but the plant is neither a grape or a holly. Nor is it found only in Oregon. It’s easy to see why botanists depend upon the plants scientific name, Mahonia aquifolium. Or is that Berberis aquifolium? (Grin) There even seems to be some debate over its scientific name!

These bright yellow flowers of Mahonia aquifolium or Oregon grape will eventually turn into blue grape-like berries. The leaves have a distinct holly-like look.
Regardless of its name, Oregon’s state flower is quite beautiful. It’s also known for its healing properties. Native Americans used it for stomach trouble, hemorrhages, and tuberculosis as well as a number of other ailments. Modern herbalists have also found it useful.

I started out mis-identifying hound’s tongue. I thought it was a forget-me-not— lots of pretty little blue flowers lighting up the day. I even had an old rant of mine prepared for today’s post. Legend has it that someone in Europe fell off a cliff or drowned in a river while clutching the flowers. His final act was to throw throw them to his lover while yelling, “Forget me not!” My experience with the plant is that when it goes to seed, all of its pretty little flowers turn into hundreds of obnoxious burrs that end up on your pants, socks and shoe laces! They are extremely hard to brush off and leave numerous stickers in your hands. Once you have had this experience, you never forget the plant.

My apologies to hound’s tongue (Adelinia grande), who apparently only wanted to lick me. (Kidding on the latter.) It gets its common name from its leaves that are said to look like a hound’s tongue. They can be found along the west coast of North America from British Columbia to California.

The small blue flowers reminded me of forget-me-nots but the prominent white center and leaves said it was another plant. As to whether the leaves look like a hound’s tongue, they certainly don’t look like the tongue of Socrates the Basset Hound who hung out with me for several years.
The white center of the flower turns into prickly nutlets that look suspiciously like they might also stick to you..

And now, for the rest of the flowers:

This beauty is a lemon fawn lily (Erythronium citrinum). We normally only have a couple of weeks to catch it blooming
Another view.
I grew up with these, white leaf manzanita flowers (Arctostaphylos viscida). By late summer these flowers produce bright red fruit that is sweet to eat, a favorite of raccoons, coyotes and a number of other animals, including small boys. The plant can live for a hundred years and the seeds can last in the soil for decades.
Peggy and I were hiking up in the forest when she spotted this flower. It was new to us, and striking. Of its two common names, grass widow or satin flower, my favorite is the latter. Its scientific name is Olsynium douglasii.
Another flower from my youth are shooting stars (Dodecatheon hendersonii). They grow in profusion on our property and are one of the first flowers of spring.
And by profusion, I mean profusion! The lonely little yellow flower is a butter cup.
My immediate thought was violet, but the leaves seemed wrong. Violet it was, however, Shelton’s violet (Viola sheltonii).
We call this pretty flower a red bell or scarlet scarlet fritillary (Fritillaria recurva). It’s a native of Southern Oregon.
Another view. The petals demonstrate why”recurva’ is part of its scientific name.
There is no doubt about this flower’s family. Arrow leaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittate) is a member of the sunflower family. Apparently, Native Americans found it yummy. Nearly all parts of the plant were eaten.
This photo provides a view of where the name ‘arrow leaf’ comes from.
A photo of the flower to show off its camouflaged spider. Check out the face on its abdomen!
And finally, I had to include our pioneering Oregon rosebush. Like my Oregonian ancestors it originally came across America in a covered wagon. Unlike my ancestors, it had been stuck into a potato to survive.
Peggy obtained the rose as a sprig and has grown it into the beauty it has become today. It has literally hundreds of blooms. It just started blooming this week!
A close-up to finish today’s post.

On Monday… We are going to check out the bear’s cave to see if anyone is home and visit with some of our local wildlife, or at least check out some of the signs they left behind! Who ate the turkeys? Who ate our baby Douglas fir? Who left the fur-filled scat (non-scientific name: poop) behind. And that’s just the beginning.

25 thoughts on “From Elegant Cat’s Ear to Hound’s Tongue: 10 Southern Oregon Wild Flowers— Plus a Rose Bush

    • Whoa— perambulations, now there is a delightful way to describe what we do! 🙂 Plenty of weeds around here as well, which reminds me, it’s time to get out the weed whacker! Thanks, AC. –Curt

  1. I love all these photos of beautiful flowers, but you had me at elegant cat’s ear!!! Have never heard of this or seen one before. And it’s very interesting!!!! We used to have wildflower pilgrimages in the Smokies before the pandemic — would love to hike with someone knowledgeable to spot all the varieties we have in that park. All the best to you!

    • Cat’s ear truly looks the part, Rusha. Rarely does a common flower name fit so well! It’s a Western plant of Northern California and Southern Oregon, so I am not surprised it is new to you. I’ve always found that knowing something about animals, plants and geology enhances outdoor activities. And there is always something new to learn, not to mentions things you once knew but have forgotten! 🙂 Thanks. –Curt

  2. Thanks for this colourful (and informative) reminder that it’s Spring, Curt – April this year may indeed be the cruellest month but nature offers compensations too …

      • Ah yes, same here, was thinking more of the pandemic … also a nod to TS Eliot, who tried to overturn customary conventions of nature poetry with this:

        April is the cruellest month, breeding
        Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
        Memory and desire, stirring
        Dull roots with spring rain.

    • I grew up with manzanita in the foothills of California, Alison, but Oregon grape was totally new to me. It is a striking plant! The fawn Lilys were new as well although lilys are well-represented in the Sierra’s.
      My go-to flower book now is Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest. –Curt

  3. Native plant lover though I am, that yellow rose is my favorite. Could it be echoes of the yellow rose of Texas stirring? In any event, it’s beautiful, and who doesn’t love a flower with a history?

    • I have a CD that includes the Sons of the Pioneers signing the Yellow Rose of Texas, Linda. Do you remember them: Some of my favs: Tumbling Tumble Weeds, All Day I Taste… etc. –Curt

      • Do I remember them? Oh, my. I’m sure you know that Roy Rogers was part of that group before he became Roy Rogers. They always were included in the noon market report on WHO out of Des Moines: pork bellies, corn and soybean futures, and “Cool Water.”

  4. I think the only one I’m familiar with is the Oregon Grape (or whatever you call it.) Guess I spend too much time in the city. Lovely collection, in any case.

    • Thanks, Dave. And I am pretty sure you would find a number of them out in your woods. 🙂 We do have a drier climate in Southern Oregon, however, that you do around Portland. –Curt

  5. Mostly familiar, but you did a good job of searching up names I wasn’t sure of. That rose is certainly noteworthy and beautiful, too!

    I’m thinking my favorite might be the scarlet fritillary. Our Cat’s Ears up here in the Siskiyous are miniatures as are most plants that grow in the nutrient poor serpentine soil.

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