Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hot Spot for Orchids and Lilies

Fellow naturalists Spencer and Dalynn Dykstra showed me the spot where they recently located the California Lady's Slipper.  What a magical place.  At the edge of Caribou Road, around 4 miles off Highway 70, there's a beautiful cascade tumbling down on the left side.  What first strikes the eye are the large Western Azalea bushes. Then, when you slow down, the abundance of California Lady's Slippers jumps out.  It's a rare orchid, but there's a great concentration of them here.  We knew from this sort of habitat, there was a good possibility of finding the Stream Orchid.  At first, we found a few that were not yet blooming, blending in with grasses, sedges and Reed Lilies all around the Lady's Slippers.  Then Dalynn, exploring the roadside ditch a few yards away spotted a few that were blooming.  This is a spectacular flower, but easily overlooked because its greenish-yellow sepals blend in with the stems and leaves.  The petals, however, have brightly colored insides and are complex like most orchids.  We also found lots of Reed Lilies, also known as White-flowered Shoenolirion.  Later today, I'll post scientific names of these and other flowers we saw, plus some notes on butterflies and the Yellow-bellied Racer.  Look also on the Bloom Blog at, and Spencer's Expressions Blog on his web site, Spencer Dykstra Photography.
6/2/12  -  Better Late Than Never?
This "hot spot" might be taken for granted by anyone who lives nearby, but, then, it appeared that no one lived nearby.  If it were not for a paved road passing through, it has the feel of a truly wild place.  This despite the nearby presence of a power dam and some huge water pipes.  Anyway, here are the 'scientific' details of the flowers posted here.  The top two photos are of Stream Orchid, Epipactis gigantea.  I first discovered these last year near the Greenville Y, but have seen no signs of them yet this year.  So, it was exciting to discover this other location for them.  The third and fourth photos are of the California Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium californicum, and this was the first time I'd ever seen them.  A special thanks to Spencer and Dalynn Dykstra for showing me this place.  The fifth photo, also a new one for me, is the Reed Lily, AKA Rush Lily, AKA White-flowered Schoenolirion, Hastingsia alba.  This one was attracting a good variety of insects - bees, butterflies, hover flies, beetles, and spiders.  Some were probably casual visitors for a rest stop, some were dining on pollen and nectar, others might be serious pollinators, whether they knew it or not!  Photo #6, a dominant presence at this site, is the Western Azalea, Rhododendron occidentale.  Not only impressive-looking shrubs, but they cast a wonderful fragrance over the area.  Finally, a single blossom of the Purple Milkweed, Asclepias cordifolia, AKA Heartleaf Milkweed.  This one was photographed near Oakland Camp in Quincy.  I include it here to show the typical structure of many milkweed species for comparison purposes.  At the Orchid and Lily site described here, we found a specimen of milkweed, species as yet not known by us, that looked exactly like the Purple Milkweed, except its blossoms were pure white!  The leaves were a similar shape, too, but had no trace of purple.  Still working on this one.  Images of it in the next post.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nature Journaling, June 17 - 24

During the week of June 17 - 24, I'll be teaching a class at the Feather River Art Camp (at Oakland Camp) called Adventures in Nature Journaling.  There's still time to sign up.  We'll explore some local trails, all leading out of Oakland Camp, and talk about, sketch, and write about the flora and fauna and visit with mostly Bay Area folks who are taking a variety of art classes during the week.  There are classes in ceramics, all painting media, guitar, writing, etc.  Type Feather River Art Camp into a browser for more information, or call me at 283-1746.  I've been participating at Oakland Camp for three years and it's lots of fun, one of Quincy's little known secrets.
The first four photos are a sampling from my nature journals, and the bottom four are photos I've taken recently in the Quincy area.  Larger, framed versions of the frog and the rose bud are showing at Main Street Artists Gallery in downtown Quincy.  Click on any of these images for a close-up view.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


After an intense day of blogging about the flora and fauna, I thought I'd post something whimsical, a couple of images of things I do for fun, experimenting with containers and paints. Gearing up for a summer of nature sketching.  It's not too late to sign up for my 5-day class Adventures in Nature Journaling at Feather River Art Camp, June 18 - 22.  Listen to camp director, Karen LeGault, on Quincy's KQNY Tuesday night, May 29, at 7:00, interviewed by Erin Roth.

Mt. Hough #5: A Faunal Sampler

For such a quick trip up Mt. Hough and back, I am quite satisfied with the variety of invertebrate life I saw.  In this post, I'll stick with the "common" or "popular" names of the critters with one exception, and that's the second photo.  If any readers want help with the scientific names or locating natural history lore, feel free to email me or make a request in the comments section below.  So, from the top, we have: 1.) A Checkered Clerid Beetle eating pollen of a Purple Milkweed, AKA Heart-leaf Milkweed.  2.) What the locals call Stink Bugs, the field guides mostly call the Dentate Eleodes, Eleodes dentipes.  It's a Tenebrionid beetle, and as far as I know has no common name that distinguishes it from other bugs.  "Stink bug" is applied locally to hundreds of different species. 3.) A Centipede resting beneath a large piece of bark on a cold morning.  It wasn't interested in moving. 
4.) & 5.) A Butterfly dining on nectar of a Dusky Horkelia.  The larger green leaf behind the butterfly is of Sulphur Flower, a kind of wild buckwheat.  The Horkelia is beneath the butterfly and is only clearly visible in photo number 5.  6.) The protective "spittle" of the Spittle Bug on a stem of Salsify.  The nymph stage of the bug is hidden within the white stuff.  When it emerges as an adult, it is a Treehopper or Froghopper, and is the world champion jumper, outdoing fleas, by jumping up to 100 times its body length.  7.) My first Goldenrod Crab Spider of the season is this baby one on a Purple Milkweed, the same plant, in fact, as the top photo showing a Checkered Clerid Beetle.  8.) Another photo of a different species of Crab Spider eating a fly while perched on a Blue Gilia.  I ran this photo a few posts ago, but I love it, so I'm posting it again.  It was right at the side of the road.  I'm glad I got out of the car and walked around a bit.  9.) Scorpions are suddenly abundant under large hunks of Ponderosa bark, especially in areas that have experienced fire around the lower foothills of Mt Hough. This one was near Gilson Creek, a tributary of Spanish Creek.  10.) A group of caterpillars on a nearly dead Thistle.  From a distance, it looked like the beautiful Red-Shouldered Ctenucha moth.  I knew it was too early in the season to find those, but I had to get pretty close before I realized I was looking at a swarm of moths.  11.) An unidentified (by me) beetle on a blossom of Arnica.  12.) A Hover Fly caught in the act of dining on a blossom of Yerba Santa.  Questions about any of these are welcome in the comments section or by email.  I'll do my best to answer them.

Mt. Hough #4: Random Flowers

These are the remaining flower photos from my Mt. Hough trip except for a few that will appear in my next post on animal life because they are hosting the various insects and spiders I saw that day.
The top two photos are of a shrub I'm used to calling Blue Ceanothus, Ceanothus parvifolius, but some of the guide books call it Little-leaf Ceanothus.  [This just in: One of my readers with more botany experience than I have says this one is Lemmon's Ceanothus, C. lemmonii.] It's in the Buckthorn Family which includes the familiar Buck Brush, Deer Brush, Mahala Mat, and Cascara Buckthorn.  Some of the white-flowering members of this group are popularly known as California Lilacs, but the true cultivated Lilacs are not closely related to these.  Instead, they are in the Olive Family, Oleaceae.
The next two photos are different views of a Paintbrush, Castilleja.  My best guess is that it's Applegate's Paintbrush, C. applegatei, but there are many similar-looking species and I'm not an expert.  Paintbrushes have traditionally been in the Figwort Family, Scrophulariaceae, but some recent field guides have them in the Broomrape Family, Orobanchaceae.
The fifth photo from the top is Snow Plant.  It had long been in the Heath or Blueberry Family, Ericaceae, but some botanists have erected a new family for this and a few other saprophytic plants, Monotropaceae.  In case there's any doubt, the red plant is the Snow Plant and the green leaf in the foreground belongs to a Lupine.
The sixth photo is Bitterbrush, Purshia tridentata, a member of the Rosaceae.  Ironically, it's common in the Great Basin deserts alongside Sagebrush, a composite, and they have similar looking leaves resulting in the species name, tridentata.  The last photo is of another member of the Rose Family, Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus, the same genus as the blackberries.  There's a great crop of blooming Thimbleberry in Boyle Ravine this year.  If you're interested in a woodsy feast, keep an eye on these so you're ready to dine before the birds discover them. Next up: some animals of Mt. Hough.

Mt. Hough 3: Composites

The composites, which used to be in the Family Compositae, are now in the Family Asteraceae.  The earlier name was descriptive of the type of flowers, each "head" that looks like one flower is actually a cluster of "disc" flowers (the central portion of a daisy or sunflower) surrounded by "ray" flowers, each so-called petal actually being an individual flower.  The newer names follows a a rule that says a family name should be derived by its most typical genus, thus Asteraceae is named for the genus Aster of which we have several native species locally.  The most familiar members of this family have showy disc and ray flowers like daisies, sunflowers, fleabanes, and asters.  However, some members of the family have only disc flowers and others have only ray flowers.  I'll leave it to my readers to speculate on why they would thus qualify as members of a "composite" family.  It reminds me of the question my students ask, Why is the Legless Lizard still considered a lizard rather than a snake?  Fun stuff for the curious.
I have examples of several tricky composites in the above collection, especially ones whose flowers are so small that a hand lens is needed in order to recognize that they are composites.  If you've followed this blog for a while, you'll be amazed that I didn't include dandelions in this post.  I usually take every opportunity to shout in support of dandelions, so it took some real restraint not to do so this time.  From the top, plants with composite flowers I've found on Mt. Hough since Thursday:
Arrow-leaved Balsamroot, Balsamorhiza sagittata; Single-stemmed Groundsel, Senecia integerrimus; Pineapple Weed, Matricaria discoidea; Yarrow, Achillea millefolium; Mugwort (not yet blooming), Artemisia vulgaris; Sagebrush (not yet blooming, and close relative of Mugwort), Artemisia tridentata; Trail Plant (not yet blooming), Adenocaulon bicolor; Salsify, Tragopogon dubius; California Thistle, Cirsium occidentale. The Trail Plant, Mugwort, and Sagebrush have such tiny flowers that they usually go unnoticed. The flowers of the California Thistle will be bright red.
Other composites that are now blooming or will bloom soon include Mule's Ears, several species of Arnica, and several Asters.  Oh, one of my favorites: Gum Plant.  Some of these are beautiful in their own right, but some are especially interesting because they attract a wide variety of interesting pollinators and other guests.  I'll finish this series of Mt. Hough flora with a post on animals, including some of these insect and arachnid visitors.

Mt. Hough #2: Lilioids

I found many interesting plants, animals, and pieces of litter during my brief drive up Mt. Hough last Thursday afternoon.  I've divided my findings into several different posts with different themes.  See also Plumas County's Bloom Blog for another version of this post.  It can be found at  Click on Wildflowers, then Bloom Blog 2012.  Sroll downward for a month or so of postings on local wildflowers.
I titled this one Lilioids because the Family Liliaceae, in the broadest sense as used 30 to 60 years ago, included plants that have more recently been placed in several new families.  A few of these plants have been "members" of several different families over the years and are still the source of debate among botanists.  So, don't be surprised if a few of my labels disagree with your favorite field guides.  That's when you need to focus on enjoying their beauty and let others argue about how they are classified.
The top two photos, case in point, were once called Brodiaea capitata and placed in the Family Liliaceae.  Currently, it's more often named Dichelostemma capitatum and in the Family Themidaceae.  Botantists argue about whether the latter family should be recognized.  The most popular "common" name is Blue Dicks, AKA Bluedicks, although several of its other popular names are Snake Lily, Twining Brodiaea, and Ookow.  Trouble is, each of these other names also refers to other species.  Type Blue Dicks into any browser and you'll be introduced to the confusion.
The third photo fro the top is of Death Camas, Zigadenus venenosa, Family Liliaceae.  In older field guides the genus is sometimes spelled Zygadenus.  As you might have guessed, it's poisonous - to both people and cattle.  Native Americans harvest bulbs of edible lilies like the Blue Camas, Camassia, before they flower.  It is nearly impossible to distinguish the plants before they flower, so the custom was/is to mark the location of individual plants after they flower (Camassia flowers are blue) so they can be safely harvested the following spring.
The last photo is Calochortus coeruleus, Family Liliaceae.  The most popular common name is Beaver-tail grass, although like most species of Calochortus, it is called a Mariposa Lily or a Star Tulip.  In the California Coastal Range, I used to see Calochortus elegans, or Elegant Cat's Ear, which resembles this one with all the hairy projections inside the petals.  Blooming soon will be Leichtlin's Mariposa Lily.