I’m currently spending 7 weeks traveling across California to several natural history reserves with an awesome field course called California Ecology and Conservation. We started at Blue Oak Ranch Reserve near San Jose, and will return here a couple times, so I’ll hold off on pictures from there. Instead I’ll post some plants from Angelo Reserve. This Berkeley-run station in Coastal Mendocino County has an amazing old-growth Douglas Fir and Redwood forest along the South Fork of the Eel River. On the hills there are Madrones, Oaks, and some Chaparral. Some of the few flat areas have lovely meadows of wildflowers. Much of the North Coast Ranges has been logged, which in addition to changing things like stream water quality and wildlife abundances, also changes the soil quite a bit. Some plants, such as orchids are very sensitive to the changes caused by logging and are rare in across much of their former range. In Angelo, however, there are orchids everywhere! While most species bloom a bit later, we were treated to an amazing show of Calypso bulbosa (Fairy Slipper Orchid, Orchidaceae), growing in the deepest woods.
This orchid, despite its showy flower, has no reward for insect visitors. Insects are tricked into visiting because it sure looks like there should be some tasty pollen or nectar in there. The pollen is actually packaged into a pollinia that sits under the top lip of the pouch. The pollinia has a sticky pad called a viscidium that sticks the pollen package to the insect’s back. The pollen is then transferred to the next flower when the insect forgets the deception and is tricked once again.
Sharing the streamside banks with Calypso is Synthris cordata (Snow Queen, Plantaginaceae)
This is another uncommon plant that’s common at Angelo. Check out the 2 stamens with purple pollen.
Nearby in the meadows there were may Platystemon californicus (Creamcups, Papaveraceae)
In the openings in chaparral, I found a several additional photo-worthy plants.
Lomatium dasycarpum (Wooly-fruited Lomatium, Apiaceae)
Toxicoscordium micranthum (Small-Flowered Star Lily, Melanthiaceae)
Claytonia exigua (Little Spring Beauty, Portulacaceae)
Finally, on the drive out I stopped my van for a really beautiful Lily, Erythronium californicum (California Fawn Lily, Liliaceae). I love the mottled leaves that look like the spots on a baby deer.