Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Mystery to Me

I posted a photo of this flower on April 16 when I first saw it under an old apple tree on Lee Road in Quincy at an elevation of around 3,500'. At that time, the plants were around 3 - 5" tall and the pink blossoms were about an eighth inch across. The ones in my dirt parking space, which I first saw last summer, were barely breaking ground at about 1/2" tall. I wouldn't have recognized them at this early stage if I hadn't seen them at maturity last summer. Well, today, they are still only around 1 1/2" tall in my yard and not blooming. This afternoon in Portola, at nearly 5,000' in elevation, I came across a large patch of them averaging around 4 - 6" in height and blooming profusely. This drove home the idea of micro-habitats. My yard, in a shady, north-facing slope, is locally known variously as "the cold spot" or "pneumonia gulch." This alone could explain why mine are blooming a bit later than those on Lee Road. Lee Road is nearly the same elevation as my home, but receives much more sun. But why are the ones in Portola well ahead even of the ones on Lee Road? There could be a very localized greenhouse effect due to various windbreaks, trapped warm air, etc., or perhaps a soil or moisture difference comes into play. Lots of questions - could make a good high school science project. I enjoy sharing these fits of curiosity, but I would enjoy it even more if some botanist or botany hobbyist out there could identify the plant for me. Remember, you can click on the image twice for closer and closer views.

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