I drove down to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Riverside
County this morning to photograph mission manzanita (Xylococcus bicolor).
Tom Chester had notified me that it was quite abundant along the Wiashal
(pronounced wee-uh-shawl) Trail, and he was not wrong. This was my first
official photographing trip to the Reserve to begin a collection of
pictures of SRP plants to be used in the book that Tom envisions.
The trail was muddy in places, but it is a nice trail that passes through chamise and hoaryleaf ceanothus 'forests.' The first mission manzanita I saw had flowers that were wilted and faded, and I thought, "Oh no, I'm too late." But its blooming period is supposed to be December through February, so this must have been a very early specimen. Within another few hundred yards there was a second shrub with no blooms on it. I pressed on knowing that Tom had been there only a few days before and had obviously seen prime blooming, and quickly began coming upon large manzanitas in full bloom practically lining the sides of the trail.
I took pictures of the beautiful urn-shaped flowers that range in color from a deep pink to white, and several of the leaves to show the difference between the upper and lower surfaces. Although nothing else was blooming, I also photographed some thick-leaved yerba santa (Eriodictyon crassifolium var. crassifolium), hoaryleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius), little redberry (Rhamnus crocea), California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), Torrey's scrub oak (Quercus acutidens), sugarbush (Rhus ovata), and some animal tracks.
Since I had achieved what I wanted and it was cold and threatening
to rain again, I turned around after a mile and returned to the car.
Tom's plant guide says that beyond the first mile and a half, this is
one of the steepest and toughest trails of the Santa Rosa Plateau, and
I left that part of it for a more pleasant day.
Monday-Tuesday, 13-14 December 2004 (Mt. Wilson Trail and Santa Rosa
I wanted as soon as possible to see actual rattlesnake weed, so I drove down to Santa Rosa Plateau on Tuesday morning and hiked what Tom has dubbed the Vista Grande Loop, which consists of parts of the Granite Loop trail, Vista Grande Trail, Monument Hill Rd, Fault Rd, and Waterline Rd. It was a beautiful day and the Reserve was almost empty. Red-tailed hawks circled overhead and harriers skimmed the grassy slopes. I set my GPS so I could easily find the Chamaesyce, but what I found first and which I was very pleased about was California maidenhair fern (Adiantum jordanii) which I have been seeking for some time. It was at the base of some rocks just past the Cole Creek crossing. There was also some California lace fern (Aspidotis californica) in the same location. I have discovered that there is another species of Adiantum in Southern California, aleuticum, which has Rancho Santa Ana vouchers for Santa Anita Canyon, Eaton Canyon and Fern Canyon, which are near to me and where I will look for it next month.
It's interesting that as in so many places like this, most people's
exposure to the Santa Rosa Plateau involves those areas that are either
closest to the Visitor Center or to a road. So here, probably 90% of
the visitors walk the Granite Loop Trail or the trail to the Vernal
Pools and miss the rest of the Reserve. I think that once you get out
on the Vista Grande Trail, especially as it goes up over the hill from
Waterline Rd into the "back-
When I got home, I took a picture of a single stipule with the leaves and the rest of the stem cut off just to show what it looks like, and even though the photo was taken through a hand lens, it turned out reasonably well and may be viewed here. The picture also shows a slightish white margin to the leaf, which is supposed to be another identifying characteristic, although the margins of most of the leaves on my sample had aged to a dull reddish color.
This will be my final outing and log for 2004, as I am leaving in a
couple of days to go back to Virginia to spend Christmas with my wife's
family. Happy holidays and best wishes for the New Year!