Monday, March 12, 2012

Chapter 4, Table Mountain flowers

I love the look of the big clusters of flowers on the streamside willows on Table Mountain, but it gives me a headache to try to identify the different species of willows.  Ironically, the bark contains acetylsalicilic acid, good for headaches.  I'm comforted by a simple line on the willow page in John Muir Laws' Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada, "Willows are difficult to identify."  Another interesting point is the willow thickets along the streams provide great habitat for various animals that find few other places to hide in the wide-open spaces atop Table Mountain. The buttercups, Ranunculus sp., in the bottom photo are growing in the muddy creeks that flow among the willows.  The second and third photos here are species of Owl-clover, the Purple Owl-clover, Castilleja applegatei, and C. attenuata, locally known as Valley Tassels, neither being actual clovers which are in the pea family, Fabaceae.  The Owl-clovers are in the figwort or snapdragon family, Scrophulariaceae.  The fourth photo down is the Fremont's Goldfields, Lasthenia fremontii, which form prominent yellow carpets over wide areas of drying up puddles on the mountain, and are common in many fields lower down in the valley. Next is a photo of wild radish, Raphanus sp., common along the roadsides all over the West, but fortunately have not invaded the wildlife preserve on Table Mountain to a great degree.
Judging from what we saw last Saturday and the predicted wet weather for the coming week, I think the last week of March and the first couple of weeks in April should be great wildflower viewing on Table Mountain.  However, don't forget there are lots of points of interest in Table Mountain besides flowers.

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