Spring Break Trips

The spring break at CSU Bakersfield was this past week, conveniently timed for the start of flowering season. I decided to take full advantage by squeezing in three hikes that involved significant botanizing. Two were to Califonia’s central coast. First, I embarked on a long hike in the Silver Peak Wilderness in South-Westernmost Monterey County. While there were plenty of flowers, I didn’t turn up anything I hadn’t seen before. However I did come across some old friends:

Acmispon cytisoides (Bentham’s Deerweed, Fabaceae)

1Acmispon_cytisoides

Mimulus douglasii (Mouse Ears, Phrymaceae)

1Mimulus_douglasii

And a flower in the super underappreciated genus, the Sanicles. Sanicula bipinnatifida (Purple Sanicle, Apiaceae).

1Sanicula_bipinnatifida

I love the tiny fuzzy balls of Sanicle flowers. To prove it, I’ll post a second, even cooler Sanicle–Sanicula arctopoides (Footsteps of Spring)

2Sanicula_arctopoides

That last plant was actually blooming along another lovely coastal hike in Rancho Corral de Tierra, San Mateo county (just south of San Francisco). Flowers were less numerous here, but some of the ones I did find were new to me–Castilleja subinclusa franciscana (Franciscan Paintbrush, Orobanaceae)

2Castilleja_subinclusa_franciscana

Trillium chloropetalum (Giant Wakerobin, Melanthiaceae)

2Trillium_chloropetalum_1

and Arabis blepharophylla (Coast Rockcress, Brassicaceae).

2Arabis_blepharophylla

However, the clear botanical highlight of spring break occurred much further north, on the Table Rocks near Medford, Oregon. This area was covered by an ancient lava flow that has mostly eroded away. Currently all that’s left are two large, flat-topped mesas that each spring are covered with vernal pools and rare plants.

Upper_Table_Rock_1

I was a kid in a candy store. First, two plants in genera that are new to me. The modest Crocidium multicaule (Spring Gold, Asteraceae) looks like a typical daisy, but it can form massive colonies that carpet the ground

3Crocidium_multicaule

More impressive individually is Olsynium douglasii (Douglas’s Grasswidow, Iridaceae), which was already almost finished flowering in the area

3Olsynium_douglasii_1

While those two plants have relatively wide distributions, the next two are only found in Jackson County, Oregon.

Ranunculus austro-oreganus (Southern Oregon Buttercup, Ranunculaceae). You can distinguish this species from the much more common Ranunculus occidentalis by the red veins on the backs of the petals.

3Ranunculus_austro-oreganus

Limnanthes floccosa pumila (Dwarf Wooly Meadowfoam, Limnanthaceae) is found nowhere else in the world but the top of the Table Rocks.

3Limnanthes_floccosa_pumila

My favorite plant of the hike, however, was Erythronium hendersonii (Henderson’s Fawn Lily, Liliaceae). Flowers in this genus are usually yellow or white, making these purple flowers really unique. Additionally, the plant was crazily abundant throughout the hike up to the top. I tried to capture a sense of it in the second picture, but it really doesn’t do it justice.

3Erythronium_hendersonii_13Erythronium_hendersonii_field

Finally, I’ll close with another genus of lily, the Fritillaries. While I’ve seen all three of these species before, it’s one of my all-time favorite genera. Additionally, I saw one species on each of these three hikes, so there’s some nice symmetry there.

From the Silver Peak Wilderness, Fritillaria biflora (Chocolate Lily)

4Fritillaria_biflora_2

From Rancho Corral de Tierra, Fritillaria affinis (Checker Lily)

4Fritillaria_affinis

And from Table Rocks, Fritillaria recurva (Scarlet Fritillary)

4Fritillaria_recurva_1

With the semester winding down and the flowers ramping up, I should be posting much more frequently in the coming months. My plan is to start this weekend, when I might even try for more Fritillaries.

 

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Ready for more Rambles

Last winter, after half a decade of drought, the rains fell early and often across the state of California. By March, the deserts and grasslands were alive in a glorious riot of wildflowers–a genuine, bona fide Super Bloom. I joined the birds and bees, moths and mammals to greet those colorful fields of corollas. This March…well…it’s shaping up to be firmly less floral. The past few days, however, hope in the form of charcoal clouds and chilly rain showers. Will we have a miracle this March? Will my army of amazing annuals be delayed, but not dormant? Will I decide I’ve already used ample alliteration and alter my approach? I’m ready to ramble on regardless!

A couple weeks ago I met some friends in Anza Borrego State Park in Colorado Desert.

2018-02-17 16.12.07

I had every intention of ditching them to look for blog content (a.k.a. rare plants), but it was as dry as a desert out there! I wasn’t completely skunked, but it was close. All and all, I saw maybe 10 species in bloom. While there were no annuals in sight, desert shrubs are a tough bunch. Their deep taproots and water storage abilities mean that some of them can bloom on schedule, even in the driest years. The toughest among them don’t even bother with leaves while they flower. Case and point, Asclepias albicans (White-stemmed Milkweed, Asclepiaceae).

This is definitely the most hard-core milkweed I’ve ever met (and, incidentally, the tallest). It was happily blooming away on a bone-dry hillside in the Carrizo Badlands, basically just some chalky sticks and wonky flowers.

Another leafless wonder is Psorothamnus spinosus (Smoke Tree, Fabaceae), with its orange gland-dotted calyx. It’s quite a large shrub that commonly grows in dry washes.

Psorothamnus_spinosus

I only have one other plant to post from the trip. This one does have leaves and more normal flowers, but I think it’s pretty great anyway, as it’s rare–only found on the western edge of the Colorado Desert. Xylorhiza orcuttii (Orcutt’s Woody Aster, Asteraceae).

I also get to add this species to my growing collection of “plants seen with crab spiders” (check out the right picture).

I wish I had more to offer up (and better photos, the light was consistently terrible!), but this trio will have to serve as an tiny appetizer until next time. My current plan is to see if thing are bloom-ier in Death Valley next weekend. If not, my best bet will be to ramble much further North!

Eclipse Trip

Last week I drove a long ways to the to watch the coolest thing I ever will see in the sky–a total solar eclipse. To get there, I travelled through the Mojave Desert, onto the spectacularly scenic Colorado Plateau, and through the Great Basin Desert, before winding up in the Sawtooth Wilderness in the Western Rocky Mountains. If you’re into geopolitical boundaries, that’s California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho. As I drove east through the desert, I went from basically completely flowerless areas to places with a bunch of things in bloom. That’s because while summer rains are basically non-existent in the Western Mojave, more eastern American deserts have a summer monsoon season, and a group of late-blooming species have evolved to take advantage. Unfortunately (for this blog), many of the summer bloomers–especially the annuals–have tiny, boring flowers. Here are a couple late-blooming desert species that are showy enough to post.

Oenothera pallida (Pale Evening Primrose, Onagraceae)

Oenothera_pallida

Mentzelia laevicaulis (Smoothstem Blazingstar, Loasaceae)

Mentzelia_laevicaulis

Moving further Northeast, I started to run into more permanent sources of water, with more summer flowers. Around Utah Lake, I found Geranium viscosissimum (Sticky Geranium, Geraniaceae) and Cleome serrulata (Rocky Mountain Beeplant, Cleomaceae).

 

And in some depressions near Magic Reservoir in Idaho, I ran into Camissonia tanacetifolia (Tansy-leafed Evening Primrose, Onagraceae) and Downingia laeta (Great Basin Calicoflower, Campanulaceae)

 

The best botany, however was up in the mountains, where many montane and alpine meadows were still in glorious full bloom. Anticlea elegans (Mountain Deathcamas, Melianthaceae) formed large displays in marshy areas,

Anticlea_elegans

while Epilobium orbicordum (Rock Fringe, Onagraceae) grew among the boulders

Epilobium_orbicordum

Calochortus eurycarpus (White Mariposa Lily, Liliaceae) was amazingly common throughout the four day hike. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Calochortus I haven’t liked.

Calochortus_eurycarpus_2

I was particularly excited to find two late season wildflowers that were rocking the fringed look– Parnassia fimbriata (Fringed Grass of Parnassus, Parnassiaceae) and Swertia perennis (Star Gentian, Gentianaceae).

Gentians, in particular, scream “end of summer” to me, and thus this post will likely wrap up the rambles for the year. I’ll be back following the winter rains next year.

Southern Oregon and the Trinity Alps

As the summer has gone on and flowers have become harder to find, I’ve slacked off on my botanizing. The past week, I took a trip way up North to the Trinity Alps in North-West California, even sneaking into Oregon. While these are great places for weird and rare plants (see post from a year ago), this time, the late season and complete lack of botanical planning did me in. To be fair, plants weren’t my top priority this time. I did, however, scrounge up 10 post-worthy plants that I hadn’t previously photographed. First, here’s a picture of the beautiful and under-visited Trinities from near the Boulder Lakes with one of my favorite plants from my last trip here–Darlingtonia california (California pitcher plant, Sarraceniaceae), in the foreground.

2017-08-04 16.24.15

Okay, flowers in in no particular order: Calochortus tolmiei (Hairy Star Tulip, Liliaceae)

Calochortus_tolmiei

Nothochelone nemorosa (False Turtlehead, Plantaginaceae)

Nothochelone_nemorosa

Another large, pink, bee pollinated flower Mimulus lewisii (Lewis’s Monkeyflower, Phyrmaceae)

Mimulus_lewisii

Gentianopsis simplex (Hiker’s Fringed Gentian, Gentianaceae), a species actually more common in the Sierras than in Northwestern California

Gentianopsis_simplex

 

Rudbeckia occidentalis (Western Coneflower, Asteraceae). This species, unlike some others in the genus doesn’t have showy yellow ray flowers surrounding the brown disk flowers, but pollinators seem to find it just fine, anyway.

Rudbeckia_occidentalis

Pedicularis racemosa (Leafy Lousewort, Orobanchaceae), one of the few species with asymmetric flowers.

Pedicularis_racemosa

Cordylanthus tenuis (Slender Birdsbeak, Orobanchaceae)

Cordylanthus_tenuis

Goodyera oblongifolia (Western Rattlesnake Plantain, Orchidaceae)

Kopsiopsis strobilacea (California Groundcone, Orobanchaceae). This completely parasitic plant really does look like a pine cone sitting on the ground when it’s in flower. This individual is fruiting.

Kopsiopsis_strobilacea

Another plant with a great common name is Vancouveria hexandra (Northern Inside Out Flower, Berberidaceae). This is the first picture I’ve posted of this family, which also includes Oregon Grape (Berberis)

Vancouveria-hexandra

And finally, Trichostema simulatum (Siskiyou Bluecurls). Last post I talked about looking for the rare pink-flowered morph of the related Trichostema laxum. I found a whole pink-flowered population of this, more northern species.

Trichostema_simulatum

I’ll probably squeeze in one more post this year before going dormant for the fall and winter. I’m going to completely leave California behind to do it.

Botany on the Side

I’ve just returned from a week-long road trip into the North Coast Ranges (Sonoma, Lake, and Napa Counties) where the goals were to 1) visit friends and 2) do a little field research at McLaughlin Research Station. The focus of the latter was Trichostema laxum (Turpentine Weed, Lamiaceae), which normally looks like this:

Trichostema_laxum_purple

This plant usually occurs in large patches of plants (hundreds to many thousands of plants) in serpentine seeps (see previous blog posts for a description of this cool habitat). In many populations, 1 to a few individuals are pink instead of purple:

Trichostema_laxum_pink

This color is the result of a recessive mutation, and plants with pink flowers seem to be otherwise just as healthy and have otherwise the same traits as purple-flowered plants. Pollinators don’t really seem to notice the color difference, and will freely visit these mutants. The goal of this research is to take advantage of the mutation by finding, marking, and measuring pink-flowered plants, and then collecting their seeds. Because this is a super rare recessive trait, if the offspring are pink, it is very likely they are the result of self-pollination. Conversely, any purple-flowered progeny must be the result of out-crossing with another plant. Therefore if we can find a bunch of pink individuals, we can ask interesting questions about how things like the number of flowers, the flower shape, and the environment (such as whether the area has recently burned) affect outcrossing rates.

While the focus of this week was not at all recreational botany, of course I found and photographed a few plants.

First some relatively broadly distributed species that have not yet made an appearance on this blog. Clarkia amoena (Farewell-to-spring, Onagraceae)–a beautiful annual that is readily available as a garden ornamental.

Clarkia_amoena

Lilium pardalinum (Leopard Lily, Lilaceae)–I actually have photographed and posted this one before, but it was a few years ago on Facebook, and it’s enough of a show-stopper that I’m re-posting.

Lilium_pardalinum

and Mimulus bolanderi (Bolander’s Monkeyflower, Phrymaceae)–while this species is relatively common, especially in the central Sierras, plants in the inner North Coast Ranges such as this one are much smaller-flowered than elsewhere and may represent a distinct subspecies (or even a different species).

Mimulus_bolanderi

As I’ve blogged about previously, McLaughlin is a hotbed for rare flowers because it has large outcrops of harsh serpentine soils. While I’ve previously found and photographed many of these, I managed to add a few new ones this trip:

Collinsia greenei (Green’s Blue-eyed Mary, Plantaginaceae), the only all-purple member of the genus

Collinsia_greenei

Streptanthus morrisonii (Morrison’s Jewelflower, Brassicaceae). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you really have to meet plants in this genus in person for full appreciation. The yellow things sticking out of the flower are two sterile stamens than are fused together–function unknown.

Streptanthus_morrisonii

And two plants that are in fruit, rather than in flower: Lomatium repostum (Napa Biscuitroot, Apiaceae)

Lomatium_repostum

and Asclepias solanoana (Serpentine Milkweed, Apocynaceae)

Asclepias_solanoana_2

The former species has pretty boring flowers, so the fruiting stage is actually more photogenic. I’m a bit sad I missed the flowers on the latter, however, as it has beautiful purple and white flowers. It was still neat to see the typical milkweed pod on this weird prostrate plant. This plant may be from the southernmost population of this species.

I’m still debating, but I think my itinerary for next week will involve more rare serpentine plants from even further north. Who knows, maybe I’ll even find a flowering Serpentine Milkweed.

Transverse Range Traverse

This past weekend I headed south again, looping through the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains. This was my third trip to the San Bernardinos this spring. I had some unfinished business in the Holcomb Valley, as some of my target plants had not yet begun to flower when I was last here in late May. Besides having just a ridiculous number of rare plants, this valley is also notable for being the site of the largest gold strike in Southern California.

On the way, I found two tall plants with cream-colored flowers.  Asclepias erosa (Desert Milkweed, Apocynaceae) was the only thing blooming on the Mohave Desert floor.

Asclepias_erosa

Caulanthus major (Slender Wild Cabbage, Brassicaceae) was lining the highway on the way up into the mountains

 

In the Holcomb Valley, the highlights included three of the smaller representatives of their respective genera. Abronia nana (Dwarf Sand Verbena, Nyctaginaceae) with its nice compact habit,

Abronia_nana

Trichostema micranthum (Smallflower Bluecurls, Lamiaceae), which smells just as strongly as its larger cousins, Vinegarweed and Turpentine Weed,

Trichostemma_micranthum

and Navarretia peninsularis (Baja Pincushionplant, Polemoniaceae). This later is in one of my favorite genera, with each species having differently shaped spiky bracts (modified leaves below each flower) and sepals.

 

Another target in the Holcomb Valley was Packera bernardina (San Bernardino Ragweed), a rare Aster with cool spoon-shaped leaves

Packera_bernardina

The San Bernardinos are quickly becoming my favorite mountains in Southern California. While I’m pretty much done exploring the Holcomb Valley for the year, I might try to squeeze a last trip to their highest elevations later this summer.

From the Holcomb Valley, I headed west into the San Gabriels, north of Los Angeles. Along the way, I stopped at a large population of the poorly-named Phacelia mohavensis (Mohave Phacelia, Boraginaceae). This beautiful species does not occur in the Mohave.

Phacelia_mohavensis_2

The drive through the San Gabriels along the Angeles Crest Highway is absolutely beautiful, but unfortunately, not currently open to through traffic. A large sinkhole apparently opened under the road, blocking access to some of the areas that I wanted to botanize. Nevertheless, I still found a few great plants here, including the large showy shrub, Keckiella ternata (Blue-stemmed Keckiella, Plantaginaceae),

 

Mimulus johnstonii (Johnston’s Monkeflower, Phrymaceae), one of the less common of the 16 or so species in this genus I found on this trip,

Mimulus_johnstonii_2

And a second uncommon Ragwort species, Packera ionophylla (Tehachapi Ragwort, Asteraceae). While the flowers look very similar to the Packera bernardina, this one has pinnately-lobed leaves.

Packera_ionophylla

That’s all for now. In a few days I’ll be heading up to Northern California, and I’m pretty sure there are a few rare plants up there, too.

Western Transverse Ranges

I took an overnight trip into the beautiful mountains of Ventura County (with a brief detour back into San Luis Obispo County). Throughout most of California, Mountain Ranges run north to south, along faults formed by the collision of the Pacific and North American Plates (in Northern California, a third, more ancient plate, the Juan de Fuca, gets involved as it slowly submerges beneath the other two). In Southern California, from roughly the cities of Santa Barbara to Palm Springs, the edges of the plates jog east. Here, they “transverse” the state and form the east-west running San Bernardinos, the San Gabriels, and a jumble of ridges known as the Western Transverse Ranges. The botany in all three is great. I’ll return to the former two next week. This weekend I took a couple hikes in the later–one North of Ojai in the Southern edge of these ranges, and another in the Sespe Wilderness, pretty much smack in their heart. Both hikes included beautiful scenery and excellent, well-maintained trails. And both were surprisingly devoid of other hikers for a lovely weekend in early summer, especially considering their nearness to population centers.

Okay, onto the flowers. I’m starting to amass quite a collection of photos on this site. In fact, I’ve already posted photos of congeners (species in the same genus) for all ten of the following. I thought it would be fun to order these flowers from least to most commonly posted, as well as give a sense for how many species I have left to find.

Acanthomintha obovata cordata (Heart-leaved Thornmint, Lamiaceae). 1 previous species posted on this blog, 4 total species in California, none anywhere else. All four thornmints are uncommon or rare globally, but they can form huge populations. The patch of plants were I took this photo had hundreds of thousands of individuals, carpeting an entire hillside. Check out the amazing spiky bracts (modified leaf below each flower).

Acanthomintha_obovata_cordata

Frasera neglecta (Pine Green-Gentian, Gentinaceae). 1 previous, 6 total in CA, 15 globally (all in temperate North America). Many species in this genus have green nectaries bordered by hairs in the center of the petals.

Keckiella cordifolia (Climbing Penstemon, Plantaginaceae), 1 previous, 7 in CA and globally. This genus is closely related to the much more diverse Penstemon (total 250 species, several of which I have also photographed). This plant was common around Ojai, growing vine-like over the shrubs in the chapparal.

Keckiella_cordifolia

Abronia pogonantha (Mohave Sand-verbena, Nyctaginaceae), 2 previously posted (and I posted two others to Facebook before starting this blog),  8 in CA, 25 total, all in Western North America.

Abronia pogonantha

Eriogonum kennedyi (Kennedy’s Buckwheat, Polygonaceae). 3 previous, 119! species in California (and that’s not even getting into the numerous named varieties for many of the species), 250 total, all in North America. This is one of the largest genera in California and percentage-wise, clearly a group I’m biased against photographing. Many species simply aren’t that showy and they are often quite difficult to identify. This species, however, has a unique mat-forming habit (way of growing). Some of the plants were much larger, forming large splotches of gray-green over flat, pebbly areas in the Sespe Wilderness

Leptosiphon liniflorus (Line-flowered Leptosiphon, Polemoniaceae). 8 previously posted, 29 in CA, and only 1 species from elsewhere. This is one of the more widely distributed species. Conversely to the previous, I’m definitely biased toward this genus (and in fact this whole, beautiful family), explicitly seeking out species on my rambles.

Leptosiphon_liniflorus

Allium howellii clokeyi (Mount Pinos Onion, Alliaceae). 11 previous, 53 in CA (including some non-native species), 700 species throughout the North Temperate regions of the globe. This plant is only found in the Northern part of the Western Transverse Ranges, but it was abundant in the area. Check out the mating Midges (Chironomidae) at the top of the picture.

Allium howellii_clokeyi

Finally, lets get to species in two genera that are clearly obsessions. Calochortus palmeri (Palmer’s Mariposa Lily, Liliaceae). 16 previous, 45 in CA, 67 total, with almost all in Western North America.

Calochortus_palmeri_2

And two more Phacelias: Phacelia grandiflora (Largeflowered Phacelia) and Phacelia viscida albiflora (White-flowered Sticky Phacelia, Boraginaceae). These are the 23rd and 24th species out of 95 in California and 175 total that I have posted.

Even for these camera-hogging genera, I’ve only posted about a third of the species found in California. It will take many more rambles before I run out of new beauties!