2015-01-2Steens Mountain is located in southeastern Oregon, just north of the Nevada state line. It is one of several fault-block mountains in the Great Basin. At 9,700 feet, it is isolated from other mountains of similar elevation such as Strawberry Peak (200 km north). It has more than 75 square km of contiguous alpine terrain (that is, terrain above 8,000 feet). Only California’s Sierra Nevada, 350 km southwest, and Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains, 320 km north, have more. In addition to these distinguishing topographical features, Steens Mountain has diverse wildlife, including mountain goats and bighorn sheep, and several endemic plant species and subspecies.

Dick O’Donnell travels throughout northern California, Oregon, and Arizona every year to learn about their distinctive floras. For the past two years he has been studying the serpentine flora of northeastern Oregon, visiting interesting places – like Steens Mountain – en route. A retired economist, he has no economic reason to do otherwise, he says. The best course of action, he adds, is to apply himself to the most rewarding undertakings and to share the findings with the botanical world.