Butte County fritillary or Eastwood’s fritillary is oft-considered to be endemic to northern California, but the Flora of North America distribution map also shows an occurrence in southwest Oregon. The Oregon Plant Atlas displays a single dot, from observations and an herbarium specimen deposited by Frank Callahan (my understanding is that Callahan is an exceptional plant “finder”, with a reputation for finding new species or species range extensions in Oregon).
By some coincidence, the Oregon plants happen to be on Callahan’s property and even he seems to be uncertain whether it is native to the site or not (see his photograph from the observation: Fritillaria eastwoodiae, which he annotates “(native?)”). Apparently a bit of a mystery to be resolved, though it does seem like Callahan’s property lies within the same High Cascade Range bioregion as where some of the plants occur further south (scroll down for a range map from the Jepson eFlora: Fritillaria eastwoodiae).
The plant in today’s photograph, however, was growing in the densest occurrence cluster for the species in California’s Butte County. If you browse through the Calphotos site for photographs of Fritillaria eastwoodiae, you’ll note colour variation in the flowers from greenish-yellow to red. I was fortunate to find an individual with (in my opinion) the more attractive red flowers that could be safely photographed. When photographing rare species, it’s critical to minimize damage. In order to do so, one often needs to do “slow walking”, where one considers each next step carefully. It’s the same sort of walking one does around poison oak, though it becomes even slower when both poison oak and the rare species occur together (as in this instance). Add in another danger–rattlesnakes, for which one stomps in order not to surprise them–and I’m sure that my behaviour is at least mildly interesting to any passersby.
On the topics of passersby and coincidences, while photographing this plant, a US Forest Service botanist happened to walk by on the trail. After a bit of discussion about some of the intriguing plants in the area, we exchanged introductions. He happened to be Lawrence Janeway, who I immediately knew as the person who rediscovered the presumed-extinct Clarkia mosquinii (named after my uncle) (see: Janeway, LP. 1993. Noteworthy Collections. California: Reporting the re-discovery of species thought to be extinct: Clarkia mosquinii ssp. mosquinii and C. mosquinii ssp. xerophila (Onagraceae) Madroño 40:268-269).