Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Last Installment of May 2 Canyon Trip

More images, identifications and commentary to be added later today.
Here I am: I'll start with IDs, then include some "nature notes."
From top to bottom, we have Foothill Poppy (very similar to the California Poppy found at lower elevations), a wild radish, of which there are several types, penstemon (close-up), and bunch of pentstemon (on which I'll comment below), manzanita, paintbrush, Hansen's Delphinium, Kellogg's Monkeyflower, and Sierra Iris.
Lots of food for thought contained in these flowers. Or, more properly, stimuli for thought. First, the wild radish. Note the four petals arranged like a cross. This family was once called Cruciferae. For technical reasons, it is now Brassicaceae, or, the mustard family. The genus Brassica, includes mustard and several other common vegetables. Great in anti-oxidents. The radish genus is Raphanus. The wild variety doesn't have a particularly enlarged root and is more bitter than the domestic variety, if that's possible. However, if you pull one up by the roots and either scratch or even taste the root, it will be obvious if it's a radish. The penstemon has an obvious resemblance to monkeyflower, family Scorphulariaceae, where it has resided for years. However, with the DNA analysis and other sophisticated techniques available today, it has proven to have more affinity with the plantains, Family Plantaginaceae. It is quite common in the plant and animal kingdoms to find two or more species that are superficially very much alike (think dolphins and sharks) but may be only distantly related. Likewise, sometimes we find a family, like the Ranunculaceae (buttercup family) which contains closely-related species that superficailly appear quite different. In the buttercup family, for instance, we find buttercups, columbine, baneberry, larkspur, and monkshood. In the deadly nightshade family, Solanaceae, we have the nightshade, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, all kinds of peppers, and the infamous Jimsonweed. The manzanita (little apple in Spanish) is in the heath family and is quite startlingly beautiful to anyone newly arriving from the East Coast as we don't have anything with smooth, red bark quite like that back there. I've still never gotten over my amazement at large specimens of manzanita with that beautiful, smooth bark, nor its relative, the madrone. And there is quite a variety of smaller wildflowers in that family which will be featured here as they bloom. The paintbrush (I am trying to cure myself of the habit of saying "Indian" paintbrush, as well as "digger" pine, and "squaw" carpet), is still in the Family Scrophulariaceae, as far as I know. Interestingly, only the top few flowers are actually flowers. The rad color extends downward to include several rows of leaves, giving the impression of lots more blossoms than are really there. Take a closer look. When I find a name like Hansen's Delphinium ( a white larkspur ) I get curious about who Hansen was. Could have been a wonderful botanist, or possibly a jerk. Usually always interesting to search these things. I haven't yet done so for this Hansen person. The Kellogg's Monkeyflower, similar to Dwarf Monkeyflower, is a pretty,almost irridescent purple, and I have found out that Dr. Kellogg was a great person, a medical doctor and amateur botanist. He nominated two women to the California Academy of Sciences when women were still denied membership. One of them later became president of that esteemed organization that now runs a great facility in San Francisco. The California Black Oak is Quercus kelloggii, and I chose that name for my blog as well as my publishing company partly to honor Dr. Kellogg, but mostly because I love huge old oaks, acorns, and the ecosystems they support.
That's all for today - oh, bottom photo is the Sierra Iris.

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