My last couple blog entries have been about very “Californian” taxa, with their centers of diversity in the Golden State. With over 2500 species spread across all 6 of the continents worth botanizing, Astragalus is much more cosmopolitan. Still, California has its fair share, with nearly 100 species (and many more varities). I’ve collected photos of 18.

Astragalus is in the Fabaceae, or pea, family, which is one of the most easily recognizable. Flowers (at least in the subfamily Paplionoidae) have a characteristic bilateral shape, with a large banner petal on the top, two wing petals off to the sides, and two bottom petals fused into a shape resembling the keel of a boat. This close up of Astragalus purshii, a common mountain species shows the flowers well.

Fabaceae is even more recognizable by their pod-shaped fruits called legumes. In many members of Astragalus, these pods are inflated into fun, pop-able pouches. Here they are in Astragalus lentiginosus–in this species, they also happen to be freckled

Finally, this family tends to have compound leaves–in the case of Astragalus they are pinnately compound with leaflets arranged across from each other along a central axis. Look in the background of this lovely Astragalus lanyeae from the Mohave desert.

You can refer to plants in this genus by two different common names. The first, milkvetch, works for all species. But a number of species such as the A. lentiginosus shown above and this Astragalus nuttallii from coastal bluffs in along the central coast, produce a toxic compound called swainsonine.

This compound apparently tastes fine to livestock who will preferentially munch on Astragalus plants. If animals eat to much of it, it causes vacuolation and subsequent destruction of neurons. The resulting abnormal behaviors of poisoned livestock were noticed by ranchers in the 1800’s. They dubbed the plants “locoweed”. Unfortunately for the plant, knowledgeable ranchers will remove Astragalus from their pastures threatening the survival of some of the rarer grassland species.

Most Astragalus (and actually Fabacaeous plants in general) are bee pollinated. The stigma and stamens are enclosed in the keel. When a bee lands on the flower, its weight pushes the keel downward exposing the reproductive parts and allowing for pollination. Butterflies and flies just aren’t heavy enough to trip the keel. Here’s Bombus vosnesenskii pollinating Astragalus oxyphysus, one of the aforementioned threatened locoweeds from San Joaquin valley

The glorious exception to bee pollination in the genus is Astragalus coccineus, found in pinyon pine woodlands in desert mountains. This species makes use of hummingbirds that presumably press down the keel with their chin.

Even more than most taxa in California, Astragalus is a genus of extreme endemism. Many, many species are restricted to a very specific habitat in a very specific area. Even more widely distributed species, such as the A. lentiginosus and A. purshii are further subdivided geographically into varieties. Wherever you are, there’s likely a rare Astragalus near you. Here are just four of my favorite rare Astragalus:

Astragalus tener, a cute little annual specializing on vernal pools in the Bay delta.

Astragalus pycnostachyus, a stout perennial found in a few coastal saltmarshes in San Mateo, Marin, and Humboldt counties (unlike the east coast, there’s just not very much coastal saltmarsh habitat in California, so the few California endemics that specialize in them tend to be very rare).

Astragalus albens, from only the limestone soils of Cushenbury Canyon in the San Bernardinos. I love the strigose (short, appressed) hairs on the leaves, stem, and sepals of this one.

And finally Astragalus ertterae, found only in a approximately one square mile area just west of Walker Pass in the very southernmost Sierras (you have to hike down the Pacific Crest Trail to see it).

I highly recommend playing around on to find the rare Astragalus near you!



I’d now like to properly introduce everyone to the phacelias! This time, I definitely won’t need to cheat by using a whole family–with around 175 described species, almost 100 of which occur in the state, and 34 of which I’ve photograph there are plenty to choose from. Phacelias (that’s both the scientific and the common name) are in the borage family (Boraginaceae). This family has flower parts in fives, which, being fairly common across dicots, isn’t that useful for identification. The easiest way to know you’re looking at a borage is to see that flowers are arranged in a one-sided cyme. Basically, the next flower along the flowering stalk forms from the lateral bud of the previous flower. The result looks like the curled tail of a scorpion. Here’s a side view of Phacelia minor to showing a scorpioid cyme:

This southern California chaparral species has some of the biggest flowers in the genus, I have no idea why it’s called minor! Telling Phacelia from the other genera in Boraginaceae is a bit trickier, but flower color can help. Many phacelias have blue, purple, or pink flowers, whereas other common borage genera tend to have white or orange flowers. But color certainly isn’t a hard and fast rule. For example, here’s an adorable little white-flowered species, Phacelia neglecta, found in alkaline soils throughout the southwest US.

This genus really runs the gamut in size, from beefy perennials, such as Phacelia california, a Bay Area native,

To the tiniest of annuals, such as this rare Phacelia leonis from serpentine soils high in the Klamath Ranges.

With exceptions such as that last one, most species of phacelia are fairly showy and can bloom in large numbers along trails or other accessable open areas. They really seem like tempting targets for identification by amateur botanists. However, fair warning, keying out Phacelia is definitely not for the faint of heart. Many species are extremely similar, and can integrate where species ranges overlap producing plants with intermediate traits. You need both flowers and fruits to work the key, and a hand lens and millimeter ruler in order to see things like furrows on the seeds or to measure bits like the style. Even seemingly straightforward questions, such as “are the leaves compound?” become minefields of uncertainty. Making it all worse, many species have stiff, sharp hairs that cause handling the plant to be a painful experience. Phacelia brachiloba is an example of a common species that takes quite an effort to identify, despite its showy display.

So why bother? Well, identifying your local Phecelia can be extremely rewarding, because there’s a chance the plant you’re looking at is quite range restricted. Especially in Southern California, it seems like every little mountain range has its own species. Thirty-two taxa are listed as rare by the California Native Plant Society. Additionally few California taxa are new to science within the last 20 or so years, so with this group, it’s possible you’re looking at an unsubscribed species! Plus, many of them are quite beautiful, so you’ll probably want to photograph them and post about it. And there’s nothing more embarrassing than misidentifying a plant in a post, am I right?…. No….I’m the only one that feels that way? Huh. Well anyway, I’ve saved my 5 favorite phacelia photos until now. In no particular order,

Phacelia longipes, a large-flowered species from gravelly slopes in the Transverse Ranges

Phacelia pedicellata, my favorite of the widely-distributed desert species, has the great common name of Spider Phacelia

Phacelia mohavensis, the second really poorly named species of this post. It doesn’t occur in the Mojave (although it does inhabit nearby mountains)! I love the transparent windows in the petals of this one.

Phacelia sericea. This photo’s actually from Colorado (although the species does occur in far Northeastern CA). It was loved by the bumble bees I was studying while out there.

And finally the rare Phacelia nashiana, found only in decomposing granitic soils in the transition zone between the Southern Sierras and the desert. The flowers of this beauty make you question whether you’ve even seen blue before.


In my last post I mentioned I writing a series about my favorite genera. Last week I did some plant surveys that included two rare Navarretia species, Navarretia paradoxinota

and Navarretia leucocephala ssp. pleiantha

I have taken photos of 17 of the species in this genus and it’s definitely a favorite of mine. But I gotta say, they are pretty tiny, can look fairly similar to each other, and part of their interest comes from things like spiky bracts and funky sepals that just don’t photograph super well (although check them out in this shot of Navarretia peninsularis, another rare one!)

Well It’s my blog, so I can break my own rules! Rather than just sticking with one genus, I’m going to expand to a whole plant family, the “5, 5, 5, 3, Polemoniaceae!” I’ll post my favorite photo from each of 10 genera.

If you want to become a better botanist, learning the common plant families in your area is definitely the way to do it. All plant families, of which there are about 450 globally, end in -aceae, and tend to have a recognizable look and shape, or gestalt. They also often have the same number of floral parts. Those parts are represented by a floral formula–which indicate, in order, the number of sepals (5 in the case of Polemoniaceae), petals (5), anthers (male parts, 5), and carpels (female parts 3). In this family the result is a memorable (to me, anyway) rhyming chant! You can see the characteristic number of petals, anthers, and carpels in this picture of the beautiful and very rare Polemonium chartaceum, an endemic to the White and Sweetwater Mountains.

For the carpel count, look at the three curling lobes of the stigma. While the numbers of other floral parts is fairly common in other dicot families, the three-lobed stigma is probably the easiest way to know you’re looking at a plant in the Polemoniaceae.

Families are then divided into genera (there are ~25 in Polemoniaceae), each of which have 1 or more species (~350 total in Polemoniaceae). All families have a type genus, after which they’re are named. The reason a taxa is chosen to be the type genus often has more to do with history than taxonomy. Polemonium is the type genus for this family because it’s the only one found in Europe, where plants got their binomials earlier. The only other genus in the family that’s found in the old world is Phlox, which makes it into Asia. My favorite phlox photo is this shot of Phlox dolichantha, another super rare plant, this time from the San Bernardinos.

The rest of the family, with a few South American exceptions, is found in Western North America. California alone has almost 200 species, well over half of the family’s total diversity. Of those, I’ve photographed 72. The inspiration for this post, Navarretia, is a perfect example of the diversification that’s occurred in the state, with something like 90% of the ~40 species found here. I’ll go with this shot of the delicate Navarretia filicaulis from the foothills of the Northern Sierras to represent this genus (those first three pics didn’t count!)

Many of the species in this family are typical of a life history strategy wildflowers employ when dealing with California’s unique climate. They tend to be annual plants that produce seeds without a dispersal mechanism. Instead, the seeds can remain dormant in the soil for a long time, waiting for a disturbance such as a wildfire, when they can germinate and bloom in huge numbers. Many species prefer gravelly (well drained) soils, do best in full sun, and bloom in spring, when days are long but there’s still moisture from the winter rains. Gilia, perhaps the most well known genus on account of its inclusion in many wildflower mixes, typifies the family. I’ll go with Gilia achelleifolia, a common plant from the South Coast Ranges, for this genus.

Gilia also are a clear example of speciation in action. Many of the 30 or so species in the state have numerous subspecies and varieties, among which reproductive barriers are beginning to develop. In fact, these plants caught the attention of Verne Grant, who conducted some amazing and foundational work in plant evolution on them.

While much of the diversity in this genus is found in the part of California with a Mediterranean climate, there are some great Polemones from the desert. Sunbonnets, Lanloisia setosissima,

and Desert Calico, Loeseliastrum matthewsii,

are some of my favorite components of the Mohave early spring bloom. The woolystars including this Eriastrum eremicum are also common desert annuals, although some of the species make it into other parts of the state

We’re getting some funky bilateral symmetry in these last two, but the floral formula (5,5,5,3) still holds.

Rather than the desert, other species are found in gravelly places high in the mountains. That includes Polemonium as well as the genus Ipomopsis, including Ipomopsis congesta.

I’ll return the heart of the California Floristic Provence for my last three pics. Here’s Collomia diversifolia, a serpentine specialist from the North Coast Ranges,

Linanthus killipii, an extremely rare plant from the Pinyon/Juniper woodlands around Baldwin Lake,

and, finally, Leptosiphon dichotomus.

This last one isn’t rare. And it’s certainly isn’t my best photography work, but it was necessarily taken in low light. This species closes its flowers during the day. With its low growth form and linear leaves, it is very hard to find until dusk, when it opens its large white flowers for hawkmoths to find. Like many species of the family it tends to grow in large, dense patches. Therefore when it does open, it’s easy to see the inspiration for its poetic common name, evening snow. These amazing displays make Linanthus dichotomus maybe my favorite Polemoniaceae species–and in a family this cool, that’s very high praise, indeed.


A couple weeks ago, I went on an amazing hike last weekend to Snow Mountain–the highest point in Lake and Colusa counties.

The rocky slope on the way to the summit was covered with an beautiful lily that I had not met before, Fritillaria glauca.

Fritillary lilies are just the type of plant I love–many of them are both beautiful and rare. Fritillaria glauca is only found on serpentine talus slopes at relatively high elevations in Northwestern California and Southwestern Oregon.

Because they are a favorite, I have gone on numerous trips over the past several years to find and photograph them. In fact, I’ve seen 13 of the 19 species found in California. I know because I’ve been using some quarantine time to organize my photos. That got me to thinking. It would be fun to bring back my blog to highlight some of my favorite plant genera. So here we are.

This is the first in hopefully a series of 10 or so genera posts. For each, I’ll give a brief overview and some cool facts to help you understand my obsession. Then, rather than dump in all my photos, I’m going to choose ten of my favorite pics that highlight some of the diversity and interesting features of the group. Okay, let’s go!

Fritillaria is a genus of about 115 species distributed across Northern Europe, Asia, and North America. So California is home something like 15% of the species–not bad, but nothing like the percentages in groups I’ll highlight later. They are closely related to true lilies in the genus Lilium, and like true lilies they have 6 identical tepals (petals + sepals). The easiest way to tell the two genera apart is to look for a nectary–an often oval-shaped glandular depression in the bottom half of the inside of the tepal. Fritillaria petals have them and Lilium petals don’t. Here, I’ll show you using Fritillaria glauca again.

The nectaries are the yellow spots. They’re not always that obvious to humans, but spending time staring at the inside of a lily is always a good idea. They definitely are obvious to pollinators–the nectar that’s produced there likely attracts a variety of bees, beetles and flies.

Fritillaries also tend to be smaller and bloom earlier than other lillies–in fact, they can be some of the first flowers to bloom in an area. One reason they may be able to get an early start is their genome size. Fritillaries (and actually, lilies in general) have some of the largest genomes of any organisms–orders of magnitude bigger than humans. They are perennials and spend the fall and winter underground as a bulb. While they appear to be dormant, they are actually doing a bunch of splicing and dicing of their genome, allowing them to pre-form a lot of next year’s structures. Having so much raw genetic material makes this process much easier. Pre-forming everything early is really important in California’s short spring growing season–the time of year when there’s both plenty of moisture and sunlight. In fact, a recent paper on Lilium found species from the coldest, driest locations (places with very short growing seasons) tended to have the largest genomes. I bet the same pattern occurs in Frittillaria.

The name Fritillaria means checkered (it’s a name shared with a genus of checkerspot butterflies), and refers to the cool mottled petals of many of the species, as exemplified below by Fritillaria atropurpurea.

This guy, one of the two common Sierra species, has many of the features of your basic Fritillary. Along with the brownish checkered pattern, the nodding flowers are widely spaced on a tall stem. Its habitat is also pretty typical–relatively dry, open woods or scrub. The most common coast range species, Fritillaria affinis also fits the mold.

In addition to these common woodland species, there are some much rarer ones. This includes two species that took me multiple trips to find. Fritillaria brandegeei from the forests of the Greenhorn Mountains in the Southern Sierras.

and Fritillaria pinetorum from, yes, pine forests in SoCal’s transverse ranges.

Both of these are specialists on granitic soils. In fact, many Fritillaries in the state are soil specialists. For unknown reasons, these specialists tend to be shorter with more clustered flowers than the more common generalists.

If you’re looking for rare plants in California, your first task is often to find serpentine soil. Fritillaries have their share of serpentine specialists including Fritillaria glauca and Fritillaria purdyi, an adorable species from the North Coast Ranges.

Maybe the showiest species in California, Fritillaria recurva also occurs on serpentine, although it can be found in other soils with scrubby vegetation throughout the Northern part of the state.

Its red color means hummingbirds are also likely frequent floral visitors in addition to the usual insect crowd. It also tends to be a fire follower, bringing amazing bursts of red in otherwise blackened landscapes.

There’s another type of soil that seems to bring out the weird in fritillaries. Heavy clay soils have tiny particles that hold onto water and nutrients, making it hard for plant roots to extract. They also tend to form extremely hard clumps covered in salt during the dry season. As with many edaphically extreme conditions, some plants have figured out how to deal with heavy clay, evolving to specialize on the stuff. Fritillaries seem to be pretty good at adapting to heavy clays, particularly in the low elevation grasslands of the state whey they often occur in huge populations. Fritillaria biflora of the coastal grasslands is a great example.

Some of the clay specialists have another unique feature–smell. Fritillaria agrestis has a common name that says it all–stinkbells!

The stink is likely a trick to bring in scat-seeking flies. But rather than an off-putting scent, my favorite fritillary flower Fritillaria striata has a fantastic fragrance.

The sweet smell and white color make hawkmoths a likely candidate for the main pollinator of this very rare plant of the Southern Sierran foothills. However, as with all the species of California fritillaries, we’re not sure. As far as I know, despite the amazing variety of color, shape, and orientation of these amazing lilies, their pollination biology has never been studied.

California Ecology and Conservation

Last week, I finished my first run of a 50 day field course that I’ll be teaching for hopefully many years. The course (California Ecology and Conservation) runs three times a year and takes me all over the state–which means a whole bunch of flowers. Unfortunately, I won’t really have the time to focus on finding and photographing the rare ones. Therefore I’m going to make this my last post on I’ll continue to post pictures of flowers and other natural history curiosities on facebook (Tim Miller) and instagram (botanicalrambler).

Each quarter, the class goes to three main sites in the University of California Natural Reserve System. The summer run of the course took me to three very different habitats. The first location was Sagehen in the Northern Sierras (North of Lake Tahoe). Lots of things were flowering here, but I’ll just post a few of my favorites.

Castilleja pilosa (Parrothead Paintbrush, Orobanchaceae). I’ve been on a fuzzy Castilleja kick recently!


A couple of Sierra endemics–Primula suffrutescens (Sierra Primrose, Primulaceae)

1_Primula suffrutescens

Lilum parvum (Sierran Tiger Lily, Lilaceae)


Ivesia sericoleuca (Plumas Mousetails, Rosaceae), a species only found in volcanic meadows in the northern Sierras.


Drosera rotundifolia (Round-leaved Sundew, Droseraceae). Sundews are carnivorous plants that catch bugs on their sticky leaf trichomes (hairs). They secrete digestive enzymes to break down the bugs and extract nitrogen and other macronutrients. These guys were very common in a couple wet meadows around Sagehen. Some were also blooming (they have white flowers they keep well away from their leaves so as to not accidentally trap their pollinators), but it was really hard to get both the leaves and flowers in focus in the same shot.


Our next stop was Rancho Marino, on the western Santa Barbara coast. Back at sea level, most plants were done flowering. However, this Astragalus nuttallii (Ocean Bluff Milkvetch, Fabaceae) was still going strong.


The final stop was in the White Mountains in Eastern California. I had been looking forward to this stop the most, as I had never been to the area before. The field station was over 10,000 feet in elevation, but I took an additional trip to the summit of White Mountain at 14,252. At that elevation, basically all plants are low, mat-forming perennials. Some of my favorite examples follow.

Hulsea algida (High Mountain Hulsea, Asteraceae)


Eriogonum ovalifolium (Oval-leaved Cushion Buckwheat, Polgonaceae)


Trifolium andersonii (Anderson’s Clover, Fabaceae) and Bombus sylvicola (Forest Bumblebee)


and Polemonium chartaceum (Mason’s Sky Pilot, Polemoniaceae). This final plant is endemic to high peaks in Mono County, and has a really interesting funky scent that presumably attracts fly pollinators. It’s beautiful, rare, and a little weird–the three things I admire most in a plant. Therefore I’m content making this plant my final blog photo.



Piute Peak

I’m leaving Bakersfield for a new job in a few days. Before I depart, I wanted to get in one last Kern County botany trip. For my final act, I chose a return to Piute Peak. This little-known mountain is the Southernmost in the Sierras, and its slopes have an interesting mix of plants combined with amazing views.

Photo Jun 14, 5 04 21 PM

Last year, I botanized the lower part of Piute Mountain Road on foot and found a couple interesting endemics, including the Piute Cypress (see my “Greenhorn Mountains” post on last May 6th).  Because the road was closed, I wasn’t able to access the higher elevations. This time around, the road was open and I could drive the 15 miles into the Pine forests at the top. I’ll present my seven post-worthy plants in order of encounter, from the lowest to highest elevations.

Chorizanthe xanti (Xantus’ Spineflower, Polygonaceae)


Monardella linoides (Narrow-leaved Coyote Mint, Lamiaceae)


Perideria pringlei (Adobe Yampah, Apiaceae)


Aphyllon (formerly Orobanche) californicum. (California Broomrape, Orobanchaceae) This is a root parasite on plants in the Aster family that I have been wanting to meet for a long time. The flowers are tightly clustered together around a very thick, underground stem.


Sidalcea sp. (Unknown Checker Mallow, Malvaceae). I’m very intrigued by this plant. It was abundant in a recently burned area about halfway up the mountain. I’m positive of the genus, but the only two checker mallows that are confirmed to occur in Kern county are clearly not this plant. The whole genus is a bit of a taxonomic mess, and there is a strong possibility this is an undescribed taxa. My current best guess is that it’s an undescribed subspecies of Sidalcea hickmanii. But, unfortunately, I didn’t grab a specimen, so for now it will remain unknown!


Leptosiphon pachyphllus (Sierra Linanthus, Polemoniaceae).


Near the top of Piute peak are some really pretty outcrops of the metamorphic rock Quartzite. These outcrops are the only place in the world where Eriogonum breedlovei breedlovei (Piute Buckwheat, Polygonaceae) occurs. The white flowers of this rarity blend in to the white Quarzite rock on which they grow.


Return to the Trinities

The Trinity Alps, the tallest mountains in the Klamath Ranges, are one of my favorite places to hike in California. My love is due to the combination of spectacular views:

2018-06-08 12.42.27

and excellent rocks.

2018-06-08 16.31.04

In the picture above, marble dominates foreground and Sawtooth Ridge in the background is granite. While both of these rock types have edaphic specialists–plants that only occur on that rock type, the Trinities are particularly famous (among geologists and botanists, anyway) for their large amounts of serpentine–the rock type that is home the most rare plant species.

I was really excited to hike to the Caribou Lakes  in the heart of the Trinities this past week because my previous Trinity trips occurred much later in the summer. There were many early-blooming species I wanted to catch up with. It turns out there were two problems with this plan. 1) There wasn’t that much serpentine along the route, and 2:

2018-06-09 09.25.33

Yeah. It’s really hard to botanize in the snow.

Not impossible though! Here’s a little plant in the tomato family (Solanaceae) that I stopped to photograph in pretty bad conditions


It’s a good thing I did, too. I’m pretty sure this is Chamaesaracha nana (Dwarf Five-Eyes), which is a species found in the Cascades, but according to my resources, it hasn’t ever been documented in the Kalamaths before. It was growing in a recently burned area, and unusual plants do sometimes pop up from the seed bank after fire. I will have to investigate this further.

The trip wasn’t all snowy conditions, however, and I made sure to take some pictures while the sun was shining. First, three widely distributed pink flowers. Penstemon newberryi (Plantaginaceae) has one of my favorite common names, Pride of the Mountains. In addition to being here, it’s a commonly encountered flower on pretty much any hike in the Sierras.


Kalmia polifolia (Bog Laurel, Ericaceae) is one of the few plants I learned while in college in Maine that I encounter commonly on the west coast. I love the folded buds.


And Diplacus (formerly Mimulus) nanus (Dwarf Monkey Flower, Phrymaceae)


Next, a couple range-restricted species with tiny, yellow flowers: Eriogonum diclinum (Jaynes Canyon Buckwheat, Polygonaceae)


and Draba howellii (Howell’s Draba)


Per usual, I’ll end with the showy and rare. Lewisia cotyledon (Cliff Maids, Montiaceae)

and Cypripedium californicum (California Lady’s Slipper, Orchidaceae)

These last two beauties were the two species I most wanted to see. Therefore I would rate the trip a complete success, despite the snow!


The Oregon Siskiyous

The California Floristic Province (or CFP for those in the know) doesn’t stop at the northern border of the state. Just like California, southwestern Oregon has a Mediterranean climate with cool, relatively wet winters and hot, dry summers. Additionally, several mountain ranges extend from Northern California into Oregon. One of these is the Siskiyous. The Siskiyou Mountains are the largest section of the Klamaths, which also includes the Trinity Mountains to the south and a number of smaller ranges. The Siskiyous extend in a large arc from Crescent City, California in the southwest to their collision with the Cascades just west of Ashland, Oregon. This past week, I botanized two areas of the Oregon Siskiyous–the Soda Mountain Wilderness, and the Siskiyou Crest from Mount Ashland to Cow Creek Glade. The former area, at elevations from 4,500-5,500 feet was in glorious full bloom. The later, ranging from 6,500-7,500 feet was covered in snow until recently, and the flowering was just getting going. At both spots, the floral diversity was amazing.

A few of the species, particularly those at higher elevations, are extremely range-restricted. These include Horkelia hendersonii (Henderson’s Horkelia, Rosaceae),

Tauschia howellii (Howell’s Umbrellawort, Apiaceae)


And unquestionably my favorite find of the week, Castilleja schizotricha (Splithair Paintbrush, Orobanchaceae)


The latter has a beautiful rose-pink color and is amazingly fuzzy all over. Here is a flower that I have dissected a bit to reveal the fuzzy bract (modified leaf below the flower), the fuzzy sepals (structures above and below the petals), and the fuzzy corolla (petal) tube:


The next set of plants are found throughout a larger area of the Klamaths, but are mostly restricted to just Northern California and Southwest Oregon. We’ll start with a second fuzzy paintbrush! Castilleja arachnoidea (Cobwebby Paintbrush, Orobachaceae),


Triteleia crocea (Yellow Trumpet Lily, Themidaceae),


Allium siskiyouense (Siskiyou Onion, Alliaceae) with its pink bulb and falcate (sickle-shaped) leaves,

the adorable Lomatium fusiformis (California Biscuitroot, Apiaceae), which was blooming feet away from a melting snowfield.


and, like my last post, I found another beautiful cream-colored Iris Iris chrysophylla (Golden-leaved Iris, Iridaceae).


I took hundreds of photos this week, but I’ll just post a few more of my favorites of more widely-distributed plants. Will start with a Fritillary, Fritillaria atropurpurea (Mountain Fritillary).


Kopsiopsis strobiacea (California Ground Cone, Orobanchaeae). Yes it’s a flowering plant that appears to be mimicing a pine cone. Yes, that’s the whole plant–it doesn’t need green leaves because it’s a root parasite.



Camassia quamash (Common Camas, Agavaceae) with a butterfly visitor. The butterfly is an Olive Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus), whose caterpillars feed on trees in the Cupressaeceae (Junipers and Cedars).


And finally, two (distantly related) plants with large white flowers with yellow centers: Hesperochiron pumilus (Dwarf Hesperochiron, Boraginaceae)


and Polemonium carneum (Royal Jacob’s Ladder, Polemoniaceae)




Long story, but I ended up spending all of last week helping out with some bird surveys in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. The park (which as the visitor’s center t-shirts proclaim, doesn’t have whiskey or a town) is centered around Whiskeytown Lake, about 10 miles east of Redding, California. This puts it the southern foothills of the Klamath Mountains. While the science focused on birds and trees, I did make some time to point my camera downward. Most of the following flowers are only found in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

Dichelostemma ida-maia (Firecracker Flower, Themidaceae)


Mimulus kelloggii (Kellog’s Monkeyflower, Phrymaceae). They’ve actually updated the taxonomy of Mimulus, so I probably should start using the new names. It’s now Diplacus kelloggii.


I don’t often photograph shrubs, but when I do they have showy flowers. Philadelphus lewisii (Lewis’s Mock Orange, Hydrangeaceae). This genus is called Mock Orange because the flowers look like those of distantly related citrus plants, although the later have five petals.


A couple plants named after their blue color–Penstemon azureus (Azure Beardtongue, Plantaginaceae)


and Calochortus coeruleus (Blue Star Tulip, Liliaceae), with a crab spider lying in wait for a pollinator


A couple more widely distributed annuals–Clarkia rhomboidea (Tongue Clarkia, Onagraceae)


and Navarretia intertexta (Interwoven Navarretia, Polemoniaceae)


A couple plants in monotypic genera with no close relatives–Odontostomum hartwegii (Hartweg’s Doll’s-lily, Tecophilaeceae)


and Cycladenia humilis (Waxydogbane, Apocynaceae)


Lastly, Iris tenuissima (Slender Iris, Iridaceae) an absolutely beautiful iris that was delightfully common in the area.


Backpacking in the San Gabriels

The San Gabriel Mountains are the middle of three sets of transverse ranges–the only  mountains in California that run East to West instead of North to South. They sit due north of Los Angeles and due south of Lancaster and the Western Mojave. Further to the east are the taller and more isolated San Bernardinos, a botanical hot spot that I explored extensively last year. But the San Garbiels are unique and beautiful in their own right, and it was high time I spent some time there. So I went on a three day backpack trip into the Pleasant View Ridge wilderness, and wow, it did not disappoint. The “pleasant view” to the South was somewhat blocked by clouds. That’s okay, I didn’t need to see LA anyway.

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But the pleasant view into the desert was clear. This picuture doesn’t fully capture it, but I could see the whole way across the Mojave up to the Southern Sierras.

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Okay, onto the flowers. First, three relatively common flowers that were photogenic enough to include:  Penstemon grinnellii (Grinnell’s Beardtongue, Plataginaceae)


Calochortus kennedyi (Desert Mariposa Lily, Liliaceae)


Dudleya cymosa pumila (Low Canyon Liveforever, Crassulaceae)


Okay, all the rest of these plants are rare (or at least relatively range restricted). I found all of them on steep granitic scree slopes. Scree is a mass of loose rocks unstable enough that trees and shrubs have difficulty growing. This open environment allows small plants greater access to water and sunlight.  First, a couple plants that I’ve met and photographed once before. They are both amazing enought to deserve a second helping.  Fritillaria pinetorium (Pine Woods Fritillary, Liliaceae)


Mimulus johnstonii (Johnston’s Monkeyflower, Phrymaceae)


Okay, now to my new discoveries. Allium monticola (San Bernadino Mountain Onion, Alliaceae). I’m not too sure who came up with this common name, because there are far more populations of this species in the San Gabriels than the San Bernadinos.


Caulanthus amplexicaulus (Clasping-leaved Jewelflower, Brassicaceae). I’m going to keep trying (and mostly failing) to photograph jewelflowers. Their small, weird flowers are some of my favorites, and this species has really cool, veiny leaves too.

Chaenactis santolinoides (Santolina Pincushion, Asteraceae)


Phacelia austromontana (Southern Mountains Phacelia, Boraginaceae).  This picture is a bit confusing because there is another species of Phacelia (Phacelia longipes) in bud just to the left of the open flowers.


Oreonana vestita (Wooly Mountainparsley, Apiaceae). This is a new genus for me (there are only two other species in it, both with narrow ranges in southern California Mountains). Each gray-green leaf is folded in on itself like a head of broccoli, and the fruits are hidden in between sterile flowers.

Hulsea vestita gabrielensis (San Gabriel Mountains Alpinegold, Asteraceae). An absolutely adorable plant with super fuzzy leaves!


And finally, my favorite from the hike, Linanthus concinnus (San Gabriel Linanthus, Polemoniaceae).