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!

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San Luis Obispo

I day-tripped westward yesterday to a few locations in San Luis Obispo County (North of Santa Barbara and South of Monterrey) in what was likely my last coastal botany trip of the year. The trip was a bit of a mixed bag, as I couldn’t locate a few of my target flowers. I did, however, find the plant I most wanted to meet–the bizarre Calochortus obispoensis (San Luis Mariposa Lily, Liliaceae). This plant only grows on dry, rocky serpentine hillsides around the city of San Luis Obispo. Its habitat and bizarre appearance reminds me a bit of Calochortus tiburonensis (the Ring Montain Mariposa Lily) found in the North Bay last year (see post from May 25 of last year), but apparently it’s not that closely related within the genus. I guess serpentine just brings out the crazy in these plants.

Calochortus_obispoensis_2

A few more late season plants were hanging out on the same serpentine hillside, an uncommon congener, Calochortus argillosus (Clay-loving Mariposa Lily)

Calochortus_argillosus

and the rare Dudleya abramsii murina (San Luis Obispo Liveforever, Crassulaceae)

I also visited the immediate coast south of Morro Bay, for some sand dunes botany. Highlights here included Abronia maritima (Red Sand Verbena, Nytaginaceae)

Abronia_maritima

Chorizanthe angustifolia (Narrow-leaf Spineflower, Polygonaceae)

Chorizanthe_angustifolia

and Monardella sinuata (Curly-leafed Coyote Mint Lamiaceae). This last plant is not to be confused with one I posted a couple months ago, Monardella undulata (Wavy-leafed Coyote Mint, Lamiaceae), which is also a rare mint from the dunes of the South-Central Coast. The biggest difference is that this guy is an annual, while M. undulata is perennial. It seems crazy that in a genus of straight-leafed plants, two different species went curvy in the same area, but I guess that’s what happened!

Monardella_sinuata_2

I spent most of the late afternoon and early evening trying to chase down a couple showy inland rarities without success. I did get a couple tiny rewards for my efforts, rare plants with flowers only a couple millimeters wide. First, here’s another spineflower, Chorizanthe breweri (San Luis Obispo Spineflower, Polygonaceae). Spineflowers often form large carpets of plants in flat, somewhat disturbed areas. Therefore, so despite their miniature stature, they can be fairly easy to find. Their nifty, spine-tipped bracts and six-part flowers can only be appreciated at very close range, however.

Chorizanthe_breweri

Finally, here’s Nemacladus secundiflorus (One-sided Threadplant, Campanulaceae). Plants in this genus also can occur in large patches. However, their thread-like stems make them almost impossible to see. I’ve only ever found them when crouched down looking at other plants.