Saturday, April 19, 2014

Roadside Attractions, 4/19/2014

 Over the past week or so I've taken several hikes in the Quincy area to see what plants and animals were waking up for the season.  The blooming flowers shown here are from the area just north of Oakland Camp, near Gilson Creek, the Feather River College nature trail, and the PG&E pole line that crosses the Snake Lake Road about a mile north of the FRC turnoff.  Later today I hope to add natural history notes and identifications.  Meanwhile, enjoy the flowers.  Many of these will also be posted soon on the "Bloom Blog" with their common or popular names.  But, if you want a path into the scientific names and relationships, check back here later. 

It is now LATER:  I'll start with the common or popular names of these.  Above photo is the Stout-beaked Toothwort,  a member of the mustard family.  Below is a Stickseed, a member of the Borage family that contains Forget-me-nots and Fiddleneck.
Next, we have two photos of the Red Larkspur or Delphinium, a member of the Buttercup family.

Below is a Henderson's Shooting Star, a member of the Primrose family.
The Henbit Dead Nettle, in the Mint family, has practically no odor.  Very small and common on roadsides, the flowers are typical of the Mint family and the stems are square in cross-section.
This early-bird member of the Mustard Family is the Elegant Rock Cress.  It blooms early in the season and keeps blooming well into the summer.
The Dusky Horkelia, a member of the Rose family, is close to the ground and bends in with most ground covers so it is easy to overlook.
The Death Camas, a lily, has been grazed upon.  Some animal nearby is either dead, very sick, or immune.
The California Waterleaf, wouldn't you know, is a member of the Waterleaf family.  Genus Phacelia, it is often known by that name as a common name.
A California Buttercup surrounded by the leaves of several other common spring wildflowers.  If you click on the photo for an enlargement, you might be able to spot them.
The Bue-eyed Mary, formerly in the Figwort family or Scrophulariaceae, has been moved to the Plantain family.  Very tiny, hiding in the grass.  It helps if you know where to find them
The Arrow-leaf Balsamroot, superficially resembles Mules Ears, but blooms earlier and has quite a different leaf shape.  See the arrow shape?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Time to Keep the Camera Handy

 Flower of the day, Blue-eyed Mary, now in the plantain family, formerly in the Scrophulariaceae, is blooming in the grass adjacent to my office at FRC.  It's so tiny, it often goes unnoticed.  Even people who notice the little blue and white specks seldom are motivated to get down on hands and knees to really enjoy the details.  Providing that service is one of the purposes of this blog.  I walked by this
 patch of flowers several days in a row without my camera.  Now, every day I am seeing signs of spring that tell me it's time to "wake up" and keep the camera and notebook by my side.  I have a very
busy weekend ahead of me, but beginning next week I plan to record spring wildflowers and their invertebrate visitors with more regularity.  I'll also be blogging, AKA ranting, about environmental
destruction, hoping to put up a little resistance.  An editorial in this week's local paper made my blood boil.  Essentially, it mocked the idea that the government would spend any money to save the Mountain Yellow-legged Frog, particularly if it involved removing a non-native trout from lakes inhabited by the frog.  I am looking forward to writing about the ignorance revealed in that editorial. But, I'll keep posting happy stuff, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Riot of Violets. They're All Yellow!

 Yellow violets are blooming in lots of places around Quincy, but the excitement comes from a closer look.  There are at least four different species within a couple miles of my home in Quincy.  The most recent one to bloom, and also the least common around these parts, is the Douglas' Violet (above and below), Viola douglasii.  Besides the yellow flower with its rusty smudge on the backside of the petals, it is distinguished by parsley-like leaves.
 Growing in the same area as the Douglas Violet is the Goosefoot Violet, Viola pinetorum.  Not surprisingly, it is called the Pine Violet in some field guides, but then so are several other species.  The common names of popular wildflowers often vary greatly from region to region, or even within a region.  Hopefully, I've got the scientific names correct, although I do tend to get corrected by botanists around this time of year.
 The first yellow species that I saw blooming around Quincy made its appearance several weeks ago on the Feather River College Nature Trail.  That would be Shelton's Violet, Viola shletonii (below).  It is still blooming beneath the tall pines and oaks along the trail, mostly coming up through oak leaf litter.
 The last to bloom around here, with a much more restricted habitat, is the Stream Violet, Viola glabra.  The large, heart-shaped leaves are easily mistaken for those of the Lemmon's Wild Ginger, and the two are often found growing together.  The photo below was taken next to Boyle Creek just above town in Boyle Ravine.  That's the only place I've seen this species around Quincy, but I'm sure it's found in similar habitat by many of the streams that flow into the valley.
In another few weeks we'll actually have violet violets blooming. By the side of the road out to Oakland Camp, very close to the site of the Mountain Lady Slippers, we'll be seeing the Western Dog Violet, Viola adunca.  Then, around the same time or a little later, Macloskey's Violet, a white one, will be blooming out at Butterfly Valley Botanical Area.  A good time to tiptoe through the violets.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Looking for Blue-eyed Mary

FOr the first time this season, I took a hike out past Oakland Camp to Gilson Creek.  There's a little slope between the dirt road to the creek and the railroad track where I usually find Blue-eyed Mary around this time.  But, the slope was so dry, there were hardly any flowers at all.  But, growing out of the creek as usual there were a few Indian Rhubarb blooming.  Click on the photo for a closer view and you will see a Goldenrod Crab Spider devouring some kind of bee or wasp.  If that were the only photo I got, I would have been satisfied.  But, there's more.  I select the best and make another post in a short while.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Catching Up With Spring

Ways of looking at a tulip

 I remember some years ago visiting a huge tulip garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.  It was by a windmill and if only Don Quixote were there, the simulation of Holland would have worked completely.  But, there were so many tulips, it was impossible for me to look at just one.
In Quincy, it's another story.  The first tulips I noticed this spring bloomed in a sunny spot in front of a downtown cafe.  There were perhaps a dozen blooming about a month ago.  I live only a few blocks away from said cafe, but I am on the shady, north-facing slope of Claremont Mountain.  This morning, I celebrated my first bloom of tulips for the year.  Two, in fact.  I could have stared at them for a long time and sketched and photographed from many angles, and maybe waited awhile to pay another visit when the sun angle changed.  But, I was too busy.  I did capture these few images while I marveled at the details of tulip anatomy as well as their amazing hardiness.  No bugs bother them, and they come up every spring despite my extreme neglect as a gardener.
 Triangles and hexagons.  Tulips are great props for geometry class.
 These amazing colors must be attracting something besides humans, but I've yet to see any pollinators visit my tulips.

I have a few other varieties getting ready to bloom.  Solid yellows and solid reds, if I remember correctly. And they remain interesting after the petals drop and the ovaries develop.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tiptoe Through the Tulips...

 ...and you might find Grape Hyacinth.  Genus Muscari.  This is a fascinating plant that has become naturalized.  It has a fascinating taxonomic history, long a member of the Liliaceae but now placed in the Asparagaceae.  What fascinates me is finding it in what appear to be wild areas of a forest, but usually always a symptom of an earlier human habitation.  When I find Grape Hyacinth in the forest, I usually always find old bottles and rusty tool nearby.  The ones pictured here are blooming in the tulip bed in our yard.  I'd guess they were purchased at a nursery and planted here by a previous owner.  I've found them along the Keddie Cascades Trail.  Start with the Wikipedia article on Muscari if you want to dig into their fascinating history - going back to Linnaeus.