Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween

In case I'm too busy tomorrow, which is likely, I'm posting this Halloween-appropriate image of a wonderful little wood carving handing on our front porch.  I bought it some 15 years ago from an artist in Chester whose name I've forgotten.  I hope she's still around and sees the photo.  Meanwhile, it meets my quota of one post per day for the month of October.  Still to come are further reports on my recent hikes to the Keddie Cascades and Butterfly Valley.  Oh, and my driveway where the mushrooms are going crazy!

The Hibernaculum

This is the second of several reports on my recent exploration of the Butterfly Valley Botanical Area.  In order to entice a certain friend to come along, I dug a few photos out of my archive from last summer.  Above is a pair of Damselflies that I watched make an unfortunate landing on a Sundew.  They had been flying in tandem preliminary to mating.  When they got stuck on the Sundew, they separated and began to struggle to get free.  I found a needle of Ponderosa Pine nearby and was able to carefully free each one.  The first one flew off and landed on a nearby lily.  I freed the second one a few seconds later, and it immediately found its partner and they flew off together in tandem.
Here's a better view of  Sundew unencumbered by its prey.  These two photos were taken in early summer.  I had no idea if I'd find Sundew in October.  Fortunately, my friends Spencer and Dalynn knew of the Sundew's winter survival habit, the production of a structure known as a hibernaculum, or winter bud.  Dalynn was determined to see one.  We spent some time searching the areas of the bog where Sundews are abundant in the summer, and were getting discouraged.  Most of those bright red leaves had shriveled out of sight for winter.  Finally, while Spencer and I were wandering around and photographing other things, Dalynn let out a yell.  She had found a Sundew with a hibernaculum.
Here's the scene (above) from about 3 feet away.  I'd never have found this on my own because I didn't know what to look for. 
Here's a close-up.  Click on it for an enlarged view.  The bulbous structure in the middle is the hibernaculum and to either side you can see summer leaves in different stages of shriveling up for winter.  I did some reading about these and discovered that they are heavier than water.  Before the snow flies, they usually sink below the surface and are thus protected from freezing.  In spring after the snow melt they produce new shoots that grow into plants like the ones in the first two photos.
Here's a photo of the bug-catching leaf of a Pitcher Plant taken last summer.  The colorful, mottled look of these in the fall is shown in a photo I posted recently.  Just scroll back past the Orange Peels.
This is what the flower of Pitcher Plant looked like last summer.  By the fall, they are mostly dried up and shriveled beyond recognition.  I didn't get any good photos of them in this state, but Spencer did.  Check out his report on Spencer Dykstra Photography. 
In my previous post I showed a cut across the base of a stem revealing the collection of partially digested bugs.  Here I've made a longitudinal cut to reveal the bugs more clearly.

Carnivorous plants are just a few among the many wonders of the Butterfly Valley Botanical Area.  There's more to come.

R. I. P. Orange Peels

 You knew I would do this.  A few blog posts ago I said I wouldn't shoot any more photos of the Orange Peel Fungus unless in its end-of-season deterioration I saw aesthetic qualities that I couldn't resist.  Well, that happened today.  I made my daily visit and decided there was something very appealing about the signs of their returning to the soil.  These are all connected beneath the surface by a thin membrane called a mycelium, so the fungus isn't really dying.  It's simply a matter of the above-ground parts shrinking back and disappearing for the winter.  I decided to take some photos without removing any of the leaves and pine needles that were beginning to cover the area.
 Any day now, I figure a snow storm or a groundskeeper will finish the process and I won't see them again until the fall of 2014 - except when I review my blog.

For a last chance to see this unusual fungus, check out the open area among the 6000 series buildings on the FRC campus.  This area is beneath an outdoor stairway visible just outside the north-facing window of Dr. Trutna's office.
If anyone reading this knows of other patches of Orange Peel Fungus in Plumas or neighboring counties, I would love to know about them.  Email me your photos and I might post them.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fast Forward

 Too busy.  Can't keep my priorities straight.  Here's the evidence.  I'm not finished with posting photos and story about last weekend's hike on the Keddie Cascades Trail.  I've made three posts on the leaves along the trail, but am not finished with the text.  I've yet to post the final episode about the fungi along that trail.  I'll get to it though.

But today, I was paid a wonderful visit by my friends from Paradise, Spencer and Dalynn.  We had a rousing conversation at breakfast which alone was probably the equivalent of several cups of coffee as far as brain stimulus is concerned.  Spencer and Dalynn are also naturalists.  It's not often that I get to hike with people who see things before I do.  Great fun.  The Amanita muscaria above was spotted first by Dalynn.  Spencer and I were getting our feet wet exploring the Darlingtonia bog while Dalynn kept to the drier woods.
 My favorite sighting of the day was this spider, spotted first by Dalynn.  It looks like one of the orb weavers I often find on my porch, but prettier.
 This was the first time I've visited Butterfly Valley in the Fall, and I found the subtle colors of the Pitcher Plant intriguing. 
 There was no one else in sight, and finally yielded to an urge I've had for several years.  I cut open the bottom of a leaf to inspect the "belly full" of insects.   I only cut one, and there will be more pictures of it in my next post. 
 This plant is amazing.  Click on it for a closer view.  I'm getting sleepy now.  As soon as I got home I had to move a lot of my firewood under cover as rain and snow are expected tonight.  When I returned to the house,  I found a tiny jumping spider on the dining room table.
My next few days are rather tightly scheduled, but I plan to finish up the Keddie Cascades posts, then probably have two or three more on today's Butterfly Valley trip.  Fall is a great time for photography and for seeing the less well known parts of lots of life cycles.  We each saw several things for the first time, and we agreed that the wonderful thing about practicing natural history is there is no possible way we'll ever run out of new things to experience.  Check out Spencer's great photos at Spencer Dykstra Photography. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Leaves of Keddie Cascades, Part 1

 It's been a very busy week for me.  My last post was Monday, following a hike on the Keddie Cascades Trail.  Here I am on the brink of another weekend adventure, but just now getting around to sorting my photos from last weekend.  I set out to look for colorful leaves.  The photos I got of leaves will take up two series, or maybe three.  But a funny thing happened early in the trip.  I got distracted by a mushroom.  I started seeing an interesting variety of fungi, and it was as if my brain had a toggle switch.  Suddenly, I wasn't seeing leaves any more; I was only seeing fungi.  After a hearty dinner, I plan to continue this narrative, and show the results of the brain shift.  To punctuate the very satisfying hike, I also found a Helgrammite under the same rock where I have found one every time I have looked for the past three summers.  It's nice to feel I can count on consistency from Mother Nature.
Sat. a.m.  When I began the hike, I was on the lookout for the color red.  Maybe Dogwoods, maybe Umbrella Plant, but the first to get my attention was a nice patch of wild grape.  I think it is not the California Wild Grape, but a remnant of planted grape vinyards from the homesteads that occupied this area over a century ago.
The first glimpse I got of Umbrella Plant by the edge of Spanish Creek was not encouraging.  Most of the large leaves had turned a rusty brown and were disintegrating without achieving the bright reds and oranges that make them famous this time of year.  I took a couple of photos from 100 feet away, but did not go down by the creek.

Then, at one of my favorite sunny spots I saw a young Sugar Pine whose leaves are called needles.  I photographed this very tree when it was a seedling a couple of summers ago.  Nice to see that it has not gotten washed down the loose, gravelly slope.
Nearby was a group of leaves of White-veined Wintergreen.  This is easily confused with Rattlesnake Plaintain, which I hoped to encounter along the trail for comparison photos.  The Wintergreen is in the Wintergreen family, Ericaceae, which includes Manzanita, Madrone, Snow Plant, and many other well-known shrubs.  The "Plantain," however, is acgtually an orchid.  This is obvious when it is flowering, but in the fall it can be tricky.
Sure enough, a few yeards further along the trail I came across the orchid.  The leaves were somewhat obscured by fallen pine needles and oak leaves, so I scraped aside just enough to be able to identify the orchid in a photo.  Note the difference in venation of the leaves.
Then I came across a nice patch of leaves of the Pacific Starflower.  This is not an evergreen, so I was surprised to find them still looking pretty healthy and green.
Then I came to the best stretch of Dogwood along this trail.  Their color had passed the peak of redness, at least for this location.  The pink leaves still stood out against the background of large Douglas-fir trunks in the shade.  I decided to get a few close-ups rather than any panoramic shots.  The venation of dogwood leaves is a giveaway. 
So, now I'm going to gather up another set of photos of the leaves I found along the trail, then transition to the fungi.  When I was startled to see a bright red fungus, probably an Amanita, at eye level, my mind radically shifted toward looking for fungi.  That's about all I photographed on the rest of the walk.  Funny how that works.  I don't remember looking at colorful leaves during that period.  Just mushrooms.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend Memory

Took a nice weekend hike on the Keddie Cascades Trail and the most memorable image I caught was this "diseased" leaf of Bigleaf Maple.  This is in keeping with the Ambrose Bierce reference a couple of posts ago.  I saw lots of beautiful ugly things on this hike.  More photos and stories to follow soon.
I'd love to have some wallpaper like this.  Click on the photo for a closer view of the patterns.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


As promised, I'm finding the Orange Peel Fungus "apeeling" even as it begins to disintegrate.
The Asters, still blooming profusely in spots that have both sun and water, got my attention as I passed the xeriscape in front of the FRC library.

I am an optimist

I found this inspiring quote from Ambrose Bierce while searching for something else.  It seems to work that way often when I'm searching for particular items in the forest.  So, I set out on a long walk with the specific aim of finding things that more often than not are judged to be ugly and finding beauty in them.  I'll have more to say about the individual photos later today.  For now, scroll through them, maybe click on some for enlargements, and see if Bierce's idea works for you.