CANNON BEACH — Onion Peak — similar in habitat to Saddle Mountain — is home to many rare plants, since some species specialize in high elevations near the coast, North Coast Land Conservancy Stewardship Director Melissa Reich said.
Three new plant species were identified this month on Onion Peak, the third-tallest point in Clatsop County at 3,057 feet.
“It’s significant because it tells us a little more about the biodiversity of the site and we’re constantly learning more about all lands, both conserved and not conserved,” Reich said.
Certain species found on the mountain, located east of Arch Cape, have not been found elsewhere in the region. Although the recently discovered plants are not new to the region, they are new to Onion Peak.
The new species are Carolina bugbane, Pacific waterleaf and kneeling angelica. The plants were not yet in bloom. The discoveries bring the plant species or subspecies identified on the peak up to 271.
Reich, botanist Kathleen Sayce, North Coast Land Conservancy Conservation and Stewardship Manager Amy Hutmacher, and wetlands ecologist Doug Ray were on the trip.
Although two timber companies own Onion Peak, North Coast Land Conservancy manages 387 acres at the summit for conservation. Timber cannot be harvested in that area.
Although discovering new species increases knowledge of lands, Reich noted that Onion Peak is private land and access is limited to protect the sensitive habitat. North Coast Land Conservancy only visits the site once a year.
A subalpine forest and meadow habitat, Onion Peak has open treeless meadows called “balds.” Other species found on the peak are Queen of the Forest and Chambers’ paintbrush.
Looking south from Cannon Beach, Onion Peak is distinctly rounded at the top, Reich said.
Onion Peak is located in a coastal edge conservation initiative area, a region between Tillamook Head and Nehalem Bay with unusual biodiversity, according to the North Coast Land Conservancy.
Reich said finding new plant species in an area is rare, but they will probably continue to find more at Onion Peak.