Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Way Home

My previous two posts are about my trip through the Yuba River watershed last Monday.  I was reminiscing a lot about having lived in Sierra County many years ago and renewing my acquaintance with certain wildflowers and trees I hadn't seen in years.  When I got to the vicinity of Camptonville on Highway 49, a prominent roadside presence was Scotch Broom.  This non-native is considered a pest, and is usually described as invasive.  Since it has been a pretty successful immigrant, it is sometimes called "naturalized."  In any case, when blooming it is beautiful and the flowers have a strong peach-like aroma.  The flowers (top photo) are typical of the pea family, Fabaceae.  In Latin, the Scotch Broom is Cytisus scoparius.  
 On the outskirts of Nevada City, we ran into an old friend, Mountain Misery.  I knew it by a friendlier name given to it by the Miwok people, Kit-kit-dizze.  To botanists, it's a member of the rose family and is called Chamaebatia foliolosa (2nd photo).  It's pretty obvious when around this plant that we humans don't all have the same olfactory apparatus.  To some, it has a stench; to others, it has a very pleasant, spicy or woodsy aroma.  I'm in the latter group.  This early in spring, they aren't blooming yet, but when they do, the flowers look very much like those of strawberries. 
The third photo is one of the more attractive roadside waterfalls with a lush growth of mosses, ferns, and liverworts on either side.  This one was in a canyon between Indian Valley and Camptonville.
The next part of our trip had more to do with lunch and shopping in Nevada City and Grass Valley, and making the hard decision about which way to go home.  We opted for more nostalgia and decided to take Highway 20 down to Marysville, then get on 70 and return to Quincy via the Feather River Canyon.  Specifically, I wanted to follow up on a rumor that Scarlet Fritillary was blooming in the canyon.
I had to make one little detour to take in the tiny communities of Smartsville and Timbuctu.  Between the two towns, I found a nice crop of Blue Dicks (4th photo) by the roadside.  This is one of the many lily-like plants once named Brodiaea captitatum, and placed squarely in the lily family, but now known as Dichelostemma capitatum and moved into the Asparagaceae.  I'm working on a pamphlet I'll call "Those Elusive Lilioids" and Blue Dicks will play a starring role in the story.
After refreshments in Marysville, we headed north and entered the Feather River Canyon past Oroville.  As we descended from Jarbo Gap, a bright orange cluster of flowers got my attention on a dangerous curve.  I managed a safe stop and hiked back to find a lone Wallflower, Erysimum capitatum, on the roadside overlooking the Feather River far below.  (5th and 6th photos above)  The characteristic four petals are why it was originally in the family Cruciferae.  It's still in the same family, the mustard family, but its new technical name is Brassicaceae.  In this part of the canyon they are bright orange, but the closer we got to Quincy, the more likely they were yellow. 
On my way back to the car, I kept my view close to the ground in search of Grass Pinks, Petrorhagia dubia, a successfully naturalized member of the Family Carophyllaceae.  I found a few with pinkish buds, but none opened yet.  I did stumble across a nice specimen of Paintbrush however. (7th photo)  Finally, the reason I chose to come home via the canyon: near the former Indian Jim School I found a patch of Scarlet Fritillary on the left side of the road at a very bad place to stop.  I have photographed them here before, so I knew to drive another hundred yards or so toward safer parking and hike back.  I got a dozen photos when my camera notified me that my card was full.  Close call.  These are beautiful flowers, and they are still lilies: Fritillaria recurva.

No comments:

Post a Comment