Thursday, October 19, 2017

Oregon Excursion

At the Meadows Ski Area on the slope of  Mt. Hood.
In the summer of 2000, I attended a botanical conference in Portland, Oregon,and as always, took the opportunity to explore for wildflowers in the vicinity.  Though I had been in the northwestern section of Washington State many times, I found much that was new in the somewhat more southerly state of Oregon.

Wildflower gardens abound on the slopes
of Mt. Hood.  Here we have purple-blue
lupines, asters and other flowers.
I first headed to the Mt. Hood area.  The volcanic
mountain is a slightly downsized version of Mt. Rainier to the north.  At 11,250 feet, it is a little more than 3000 feet shorter than Rainier, though the wildflowers are all well below either of these snow-capped peaks.  The particular area accessed by road near the Meadows Ski Area seems to be drier and warmer than Paradise on Mt. Rainier, and in fact, at 4500- 5000 feet, a bit lower than Paradise.  Wildflowers were abundant and diverse however in the many open meadows.

Mimulus lewisii, the pink monkey flower,
is common along streams.

The Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja angustifolia is also common.

Calochortus subalpinus is common in meadows.
Another monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus,
is also found along streams.

Lotus corniculatus is a common member of the legume family, Fabaceae.

The second phase of the excursion was along the Pacific Coast, where the coastal bluffs and forests have their own set of wildflowers.  The highlight of the coast was a visit to the small Darlingtonia State Natural Site, dedicated to the preservation of the "Cobra Lily," actually a carnivorous pitcher plant, Darlingtonia californica.  Having already sought out the carnivorous plants of Florida, I was eager to see this one in person.

Phlox diffusa (Polemoniaceae)
As usual, I have attempted to identify all the plants as accurately as possible, but welcome corrections from experts or local wildflower enthusiasts.

A boardwalk leads past a population of the unusual pitcher plant, Darlingtonia californica,
("Cobra lily")

The carnivorous leaf traps of
Darlingtonia are covered by a snake-
like head. 
Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis, is
common along the coast.

Hypericum perforatum (Hypericaceae)
Oenothera biennis (Onagraceae) is an
attractive Evening Primrose found along
the coast.

Myosotis scorpioides, in the Boraginaceae,
is common in the  coastal forest.

A grove of white birch trees provides a
contrasting color pattern in a forest
near Saddle Mountain.

Wild blueberries are to be found throughout the woods of
coastal Oregon.

A colony of Sedum oregonum hangs
from the rocks on a road cut.
The red huckleberry, Vaccinium
, provides a tasty treat to birds
and other wildlife.
Anaphalis margaritacea (Asteraceae)

Fuchsias are native to the cool mountain
forests of Central and South America,
but adapt readily to the cool, damp
climate of the Oregon coastline.
A thallose liverwort is almost unnoticed on the ground.

Friday, July 21, 2017

California Spring Extravaganza 5. Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve

A typical specimen of Pinus torreyana overlooks the Pacific
On bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in one of the most densely populated
Camissoniopsis bistorta is a member of the Evening Primrose
Family (Onagraceae), with brilliant yellow flowers.  A
species of Cryptantha occurs with it.
parts of California, is an extraordinary natural oasis, Torrey Pines Natural Preserve.  It is the home of the main surviving population of the very rare Pinus torreyana, and a fine example of California's coastal chaparral community. In the spring, it lights up with a wonderful display of wildflowers, a little less gaudy than Antelope Valley or Anza-Borrego, but nevertheless filled with gems.  Some are similar to what can be seen at Pt. Mugu and other places to the north, but many that we saw only in this more southerly location. I've done my best to identify these plants correctly, but as usual will welcome corrections from those of you more familiar with California's amazing and diverse flora.
Ephemeral masses of a Cryptantha, probably C. muricata, fill
in around a more permanent beavertail cactus.
The sea dahlia, Leptosyne maritima (Asteraceae),
blooms abundantly in April on slopes in
the preserve.
A closer view of Cryptantha muricata (Boraginaceae)..
A beautiful red form of Mimulus aurantiacus (placed by some in the genus
Diplacus), Family Phrymaceae, is common at Torrey Pines.
Dichelostemma capitata, first seen in
Antelope Valley, seems to be everywhere
in California.
Acmispon glaber is a member of the Legume Family, Fabaceae.

Salvia mellifera (Lamiaceae), or black sage,
 is a common member of the chaparral
community in California.

Another form of Acmispon glaber has its
flowers more spread out.

The tarweed, Hemizona fasciculata

Saturday, July 1, 2017

California Spring Extravaganza 4. Cacti and cactus wannabees

Natural cactus gardens are common in the rocky slopes of Anza-Borrego.
No plants are more symbolic of deserts than cacti, and so they deserve a post of their own.  The cactus family consists of some 1750 species, almost exclusively inhabitants of the new world, and amply represented in the California desert.  So successful is the leafless, succulent habit of these plants, that regions of the world where the cactus family has not spread, have evolved their own cactus look-a-likes, or "wannabees" (want-to-be's) in the American slang.  In Africa, both the Euphorbiaceae and the Asclepiadaceae have produced their own cactus-like plants in great variety (see South Africa.8. Succulent Paradise, and others in the series).  And then there are the leaf succulents, Kalanchoe plus Aloe and their relatives in Africa, Agave, Sedum, in the new world.

The Ocotillo bush, Fouquieria splendens,
 superficially resembles a cactus.
In Anza-Borrego, a spectacular cactus mimic, ocotillo, is abundant. One can tell it is not a true cactus because after the rainy season its succulent stems are studded with small leaves, and the flowers are very different.  In the dry season, the leafless succulent stems could easily be mistaken for a thin-stemmed cactus.
In the rainy season, ocotillo sprouts small leaves.
Ocotillo flowers are produced in long racemes at the ends of the stems.

Ocotillo flowers are narrow-tubular, and pollinated by migrating hummingbirds that feed on their nectar.

The common beaver tail cactus in Anza-Borrego is
Opuntia basilaris.  A possible adaptive advantage
of the flattened stem segments is that the
noon-day sun strikes the surface obliquely.  This
may reduce the risk of overheating.
Like all cacti, the flowers of beaver tail cacti have
numerous petals and stamens.
Now for the real cacti.  Members of this family are leafless, except for some archaiec genera like Pereskia.  Actually, what were originally leaves in cactus ancestors were modified into spines, which occur in concentrated clusters along the stem,  Flowers in this family are large, with many petals and stamens, and an inferior (i.e. located below the petals and stamens) ovary with numerous seeds. So in flower, they are even more easily distinguished from their imitators. In Anza-Borrego several common growth forms are represented, including barrel cacti, cylindrical cacti, and beavertail cacti (having flattened, oval-shaped stem segments).

Mammillaria dioica is a small barrel cactus, and its stem is shaded by numerous long spines.

Cylindropuntia echinocarpa is one of the cylindrical cacti known as cholla.

Ferrocactus cylindraceus is another barrel cactus, here bedecked by a ring of flowers.
The flowers of Echinocereus engelmannii, a hedgehog cactus, resemble the beaver tail cactus that inhabits the same rocky slopes, but its stems are cylindrical. Photo by Gretchen Craig.

In this photo, the green stigmas of Echinocereus are seen in the center of the flower. Photo by Gretchen Craig.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

California Spring Extravaganza 3. Anza Borrego

The sand verbena (Abronia villosa) reached its peak in mid-March this year,
but there were still a few patches in the flats north of the urban pocket.
A desert is the last place you might expect to find luxuriuous carpets of colorful wildflowers, but
wildflower enthusiasts know that the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park provides one of the "biggest shows on Earth."  Under the right circumstances, that is.  The area is indeed part of the Colorado Desert, and by definition, a desert is an area of low rainfall that supports only a sparse woody vegetation and very brief appearances by annual and perennial herbs.  Most of the year sees no rain at all, but for a few
Coming into the desert from the west, the mountains are colored yellow by the desert brittlebush, Encelia actoni (Asteraceae).  We saw a similar, related species in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Encelia actoni, close up. Photo by Gretchen Craig.
months in the winter, rainfall can be abundant.  It is by no means consistent, but once every decade or so, Anza-Borrego gets a good soaking, and a large stock of dormant seeds, bulbs, tubers and rhizomes are awakened.

So it was in the winter of 2016-17.  After years of drought, southern California was hit by one of the rainiest years ever, so much so that damaging floods occurred in many areas.  The peak of the bloom comes earlier in the lower, warmer, Colorado Desert than in the Mojave and Antelope Valley to the north .  So by timing our visit to hit the wildflower extravaganza in Antelope Valley, we
Phacelia minor was also in the mountains as we
came across from San Diego.
arrived at the Anza-Borrego party a little late.  However a wildflower season is an affair lasting several months, and there was still much to see in the Colorado Desert. This time, we were joined by my sister Gretchen who lives in San Diego.
The desert chicory,  Rafinesquia neomeicana (Asteraceae) is one of the many
wild relatives of lettuce and dandelion found in California.

Finding  a delphinium  in the desert was a great
surprise.  I associate this genus with cool
temperate climates. This is D. parishii, adapted for
life in the desert, though it does only grow during
the winter and spring like most of the annual and
perennial herbs here.
Krameria bicolor (Krameriacae) is a shrub that is inconspicuous most of the year.
We did miss the desert lilies, evening primroses and much of the sand verbena that I reported on earlier (see California's desert in bloom), but we did get the peak of the cactus bloom, plus much  more, as compensation.  The cacti, in fact, deserve a post of their own, which will follow shortly.
The chuparosa, Justicia californica (Acanthaceae)  adds a rare
splash of red in the desert.

Peritoma arborea (Capparaceae) is called bladder  pod, for obvious reasons. 
Cryptantha sp. (Boraginaceae)
Senna armata, a shrub in the legume family.
Emmenanthe penduliflora, another member of the
prolific Boraginaceae.
Nama demissa (Boraginaceae)
Monoptilon belloides, the desert star.

Desert sunflower, Geraea canescens, puts on a big display in the Anza Borrego flats, even though a bit past its prime here.

Allionia incarnata (Nyctaginaceae), trailing windmills
Chylismia claviformis (Onagraceae), brown-eyed 
primrose, is a member of the evening primrose
The desert poppy, Eschscholtzia minutiflora, is a diminutive relative of the
California poppy.
The tiny desert monkeyflower, Mimulus bigelovii 
Psorothamnus schottii (Fabaceae), a shrub with deep purple flowers.