Field Trips Log
This was not so much a field trip as a hike with my wife, but even so I had a couple of specific things in mind that I was looking for, white-veined wintergreen (Pyrola picta) and little prince's pine (Chimaphila menziesii), both of which are in the heath family and both of which occupy similar ranges of montane coniferous forest to about 8000' blooming from June to August or so. Originally we had planned to go up the lower reaches of Mt. Baden-Powell, but driving up the Angeles Crest Highway, I saw a sign announcing that the ACH was closed to Wrightwood, and so we had to change our plans. Apparently the highway is still closed because of some significant storm damage from last season, and is not likely to be open this year. We picked Mt. Waterman as an alternate because it is approximately the same elevation and I had recorded seeing the Pyrola there some years ago.
It was a beautiful day, the sky a brilliant blue, and the piney air intoxicating as we started up the trail. Being August I did not expect to see a great deal in bloom, but there was some yellow catchfly (Silene parishii) and a few bedraggled blooms of mountain phlox (Leptodactylon pungens), also sulpher-flowered buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum). As we climbed higher we saw quite a few leafy daisies (Erigeron foliosus) and then masses of beaked penstemon (Penstemon rostriflorus), which turned out to be the definite star of the trail today. When we reached the point where we could look out over the ridges to the south, there was indian milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa) and a lot of silky lupine (Lupinus elatus), although this latter was about done blooming. Farther along I noticed some diminutive Brewer's lupines (Lupinus breweri), and I pointed out to Miriam such things as sugar pine (Pinus lambertianus) with their long cones dripping with sap, woolly mountain parsley (Oreonana vestita), bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), rock buckwheat (Eriogonum saxatile), and bush chinquapin (Chrysolepis sempervirens). Miriam mentioned that there is a species back in Virginia called chinquapin with a delicious nut encased in a spiky outer coating, and when I looked it up sure enough there is. It is Castanea pumila, also in the oak family, but it is a more tree-like species than our shrubby one.
Near and at the top of Mt. Waterman, I saw a single white catchfly
(Silene verecunda ssp. platyota), several wright's buckwheats
(Eriogonum wrightii), santolina pincushion (Chaenactis santolinoides),
and California-aster (Lessingia filaginifolia), but there was
nary a Pyrola or Chimaphila in sight. Still it was a nice
hike, and we had the trail all to ourselves.
Despite the warm weather, I decided to drive down to the Santa Rosa Plateau today to look for a few things I had seen on Tom's plant guides, and to try to supplement my photographs of grasses, of which there are a great many that I don't have represented in my website. I started out on Waterline Road just behind the Visitor Center where there was rattlesnake weed (Chamaesyce albomarginata) blooming. This was one I had been trying to find ever since I had realized that most of what I had thought was this species was actually the very similar small-seeded spurge (Chamaesyce polycarpa). I found some in a mulched area along the road and was able to get some good photographs.
I continued on the Wiashal Trail from the Visitor Center parking lot. The first thing I was looking for there was nit grass (Gastridium ventricosum), and thanks to a picture I had printed out from the an internet site, I thought I recognized it right away. I was also looking for triangular-fruit sedge (Carex triquetra), but couldn't find any of that. The Juncus I saw a bit further on turned out to be long-leaved rush (J. macrophyllus) which was a new one for me, and I also found scarlet monkeyflower (Mimulus cardinalis) in a drainage which Tom told me was the first sighting of it at the Santa Rosa Plateau in a long time. There was also durango root (Datisca glomerata) and California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) in the same drainage. I was however unable to find the wall bedstraw (Galium parisiense) that Tom had on his list, and I couldn't find that later on the Granite Loop Trail either. Just beyond that drainage there was broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) which is a species often seen in mid-summer. The last thing I paid attention to along here was the dodder (Cuscuta californica var. papillosa) which even under a hand lens showed clearly the papillae which covered the perianth and pedicel of each bloom. It's possible that I have seen this before but just never paid attention to this feature. I only did the first .20 miles of this trail because it is still officially closed beyond that point.
I next headed out on the Granite Loop Trail following Tom's plant guide,
being amazed once again that he listed 35 species even before the sign
at the trailhead, with a total of 55 in the first 0.00 of the trail!!
I checked the broom snakeweed at mile 0.06 and it was indeed the same
as the plants on the Wiashal Trail, confirming that id. Then I found
more dodders, again the papillate variety. I went down into the drainage
near the bridge at mile 0.20 to photograph the wrinkled rush (Juncus
rugulosus), rabbits-foot grass (Polypogon monspeliensis),
tall flat sedge (Cyperus eragrostis) and deergrass (Muhlenbergia
rigens), and saw there as well some creek monkeyflower (Mimulus
guttatus) and a nice patch of canchalagua (Centaurium venustum).
I missed the saltgrass at mile 0.49, then grabbed some photos of bull
thistle (Cirsium vulgare), California goldenrod (Solidago
californica), and narrow-leaved milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis)
covered with little butterflies, then found basket rush (Juncus textilis)
although I wasn't sure it was that until Tom identified one of my pictures.
All in all it was a very successful outing, with several new species
and improved photos of several others.
My wife and I hiked up the Mt. Wilson Trail this trail, starting at 8:30, and even at that time it was very warm. The trail was dry and dusty, and draped in the colors of August, the gold of wild oats and the reds of buckwheat. Cliff aster (Malacothrix saxatilis) was fairly prevalent, as was long-stemmed buckwheat (Eriogonum elongatum). The Nevin's brickellbush (Brickellia nevinii) had not quite started blooming yet and the small-seeded spurge (Chamaesyce polycarpa) was just about finished. I noticed a few twiggy wreathplants (Stephanomeria virgata) and then some lovely chicory-leaved stephanomerias (Stephanomeria cichoriacea) in full bloom. The scarlet larkspurs (Delphinium cardinale) were fading, but the trail was lined in places with laurel sumac shrubs covered with white-blooming canyon dodder (Cuscuta subinclusa). Miriam pointed out some red indian pinks (Silene laciniata), and I saw a few California fuchsias (Epilobium canum). On the section of the trail above the switchbacks, there was birchleaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides var. betuloides) with its beautiful feathery fruits glistening in the sunlight, and hollyleaf redberry (Rhamnus ilicifolius) with its clusters of red berries. The only other thing I saw in bloom was leafy daisy (Erigeron foliosus). I turned around at First Waters because I was planning on hiking again this afternoon, but Miriam continued on to the helicopter pad.
Around 2:30 I drove down to the Santa Rosa Plateau to meet Tom Chester and Kay Madore who were planning on botanizing the Coyote Trail/North Trans Preserve Trail/Ranch Road/Oak Tree Trail, a loop of approximately four miles beginning at the Hidden Valley trailhead on Tenaja Road. I was particularly interested in seeing and getting pictures of some of the many grasses that Tom knows and that I don't have in my website yet. The grass-lands of the Plateau are now a golden brown, with swales of red from the wrinkled rush and various Rumex species. We began using the term necrobotany because so many of the things we were identifying were dead. The first thing Tom showed me was soft chess (Bromus hordeaceus) for which he had coined the nickname "red boats" because of the persistent glumes that become apparent after the lemmas fall away. I recognized nit grass (Gastridium ventricosum) all over the place, having just learned it last Thursday. We looked for jointed goatgrass (Aegilops cylindrica) near the trailhead, but being an annual it was all gone. There was rattail fescue (Vulpia myuros) and both of the Avena species in profusion, and then Tom pointed out to me a nice patch of so-called seashore bentgrass (Agrostis pallens) under oak trees in an area that was a seasonal moist place. We also saw the exotic darnel (Lolium temulentum).
The most productive places right now are drainages, areas where until recently there was still moisture, and at the first one we found common spikerush (Eleocharis macrostachya) and wrinkled rush (Juncus rugulosus), another species I had just learned this week. The Mediterranean barley (Hordeum marinum ssp. gussoneanum), however, was another annual that had disappeared.
We turned right on the North Trans Preserve Trail heading south and crossing several small drainages. At a bridge over one such drainage we found three of the Plateau's Rumex species, the introduced whorled dock (Rumex conglomeratus) and curly dock (R. crispus), and the native willow-leaved dock (R. salicifolius), also long-leaved rush (Juncus macrophyllus), dense sedge (Carex densa), knot grass (Paspalum distichum), dallis grass (Paspalum dilitatum), tall flat sedge (Cyperus eragrostis), and rabbits-foot grass (Polypogon monspeliensis). It was discouraging to see bull thistle all over every drainage, far too many individuals to do anything about now, but it was kind of interesting to see the hundreds of bull thistle seeds caught among the leaves and flowers of graceful tarplants (Holocarpha virgata ssp. elongata) all over the place. There were also some nice patches of rigid hedge nettle (Stachys ajugoides var. rigida) still blooming, and we made note of both creeping wild rye (Leymus triticoides) and giant wild rye (Leymus condensatus).
We cut across to Ranch Road and began heading north again, looking for annual blue grass (Poa annua) which was unfortunately all gone, and Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon), a species apparently very common in people's yards, but which I was not familiar with. Very soon this latter appeared along both sides of the road, and I realized that I had seen it often before but just had never paid any attention to it because I didn't know what it was. Bermuda grass originated on the savannahs of Africa and is so called because it was introduced into the U.S. from the island of Bermuda. Other common names for it are Bahama grass, devil's grass, couch grass, wire grass and Indian doab. Bermuda grass is very invasive, can grow in poor soils, often occupies disturbed places where there has been grazing or fires, and in fact is one of the first successional grasses to recolonize burn areas. Being from Bermuda originally myself, I was interested to learn something about it. More information is given in the Blue Planet Biomes website.
Along with Bermuda grass we began seeing a mass of toad rush (Juncus bufonius) and stopped to look at it. The variants bufonius and congestus were among the things I wanted to see, since I had only managed to get pictures of var. occidentalis at the Vernal Pool earlier in the year. We began seeing var. congestus all along the road, and then realized that var. bufonius was mixed in with it. I took a picture of both variants side by side. Bufonius and occidentalis differ mainly in size, but differ from occidentalis in that whereas the first two have flowers that are solitary along the stem, congestus terminal clusters of flowers that are slightly coiled like a borage. It was about here that we saw our first tarantula. I don't know yet which of the two species of tarantulas at the SRP it was, possibly Aphonopelmus reversum, which is a blackish-colored species. In any case, it was the first of the ten individuals we saw in the course of the afternoon. It is a grassland species, perfectly adaped to the Plateau, and we found many tarantula holes lined with silk. The males are often out in the late afternoon searching for females to mate with, very carefully since it is a bit of a risky procedure.
Later on we came across California brome (Bromus carinatus var. carinatus), saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) and sand spikerush (Eleocharis montevidensis). We turned left on the Tenaja Truck Trail to reach the beginning of the Oak Tree Trail, where Tom pointed out to me Mexican rush (Juncus mexicanus), and this was the last of the grasses I had wanted to see and photograph. It is a really neat little grass with flattish leaf blades that are twisted, so that if you grip them tightly and slide your fingers up the blade, it rotates. Then when you release it, it whips back to its original position. It was getting dark as we followed the Oak Tree Trail along a little creek to its junction with the Coyote Trail and the sky was a beautiful reddish color. The warmth of the afternoon had almost completely dissipated, and I was absolutely sold on Tom's idea of hiking and botanizing in the late afternoon. Even in the middle of summer, the Santa Rosa Plateau is a beautiful place especially if you avoid it during mid-day.