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:

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and excellent rocks.

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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:

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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

Chamaesaracha_nana

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.

Penstemon_newberryi

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.

Kalmia_polifolia_1

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

Mimulus_nanus

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

Eriogonum_diclinum

and Draba howellii (Howell’s Draba)

Draba_howellii_1

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!

 

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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.