Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Currently Blooming Near Quincy

 In the vicinity of Oakland Camp, 7 miles NW of Quincy.  Scarlet Fritillary.
 Showy Phlox.
 Red Larkspur, or Delphinium.
 Pine Violet.
 Checker Bloom.
 False Solomon's Seal.
Arrowleaf Balsamroot.  That's all for April.  Hoping to have more time to add natural history lore during the month of May.  Also, I still have more from Oakland Camp area and the Feather River Canyon taken this past week.  Will post later today.  Lots of things starting to bloom.  Drought conditions showing, but not yet disastrous.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Searching for Asclepius

 Didn't find Asclepius, but did find lots of Asclepias.  The former being the Greek god of healing, or one of them.  I drove around 5 miles up the Caribou Road from Highway 70 early Monday morning and found quite a few plants specimens of Asclepias cordifolia, mostly with buds but a few blooming.  The above view is from my car window, and they're easy to miss when surrounded by other roadside vegetation.  But I remembered this spot from last year when friends and I came here to view the Stream Orchids and Azaleas.  In rambling around the cascade that supports the latter two species, we came across quite a few A. cordifolia.  The species name describes the leaves which are heart-shaped.  The genus, Asclepias, is named after the aforementioned Greek healer and was given its name by Linnaeus. 
 I took quite a few photos of the various flower clusters and was lucky enough to come across one that was playing host to a Goldenrod Crab Spider (below), the first one I've seen this year.
 You may click on any of these photos for a closer view.  The flowers of Milkweeds are quite impressive.
This next photo might also be Asclepias cordifolia, but it has white flowers!  I spotted this one last summer and wondered if it was a new (to me) species or a mutant cordifolia.  I got distracted by dozens of others species beginning to bloom around the same time and never the research.  I need to get down there with my Jepson's manual and see if I can figure it out.  The leaf shape and overall look of the body and the flowers seem to be identical to the Hear-leaf Milkweed, but it might differ in some detail I'm not noticing and actually be a different species.  Still searching.
The next five photos were taken between Oakland Camp and Gilson Creek this past Friday.  This spot is around 1,000 feet higher, so the season is not quite as advanced.  The several species of Milkweeds have broken ground, but none are yet blooming.
This first one could easily be mistaken for grass, but I returned to a spot where I've been watching this species for several summers.  It's the Narrow-leaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis.
Click on the above photo for a close-up which makes the latex oozing from a leaf I snipped more obvious.  This species plays host to quite a nice variety of insects and spiders over the course of the summer including the Monarch Butterfly.
This newly-sprouted specimen of Asclepias cordifolia (above) is quite purple which explains its other common name - Purple Milkweed.
Here are two more views of slightly more mature specimens showing that there are many flowers about ready to bloom.  These two shots also make the heart-shaped leaves more obvious.
I'll be visiting my various "milkweed spots" a lot more often this coming spring and summer because I've gotten to know a UC Davis doctoral student who is studying them.  He discovered me and my milkweed photos and commentary of prior years via this blog and got in touch with me and asked for a tour.  I gladly obliged this past Friday and will be interested to see his project develop.  On Friday I didn't have my camera along, so I went back on Saturday and found quite a few new spring arrivals.  My next few posts will catch up on blooming wildflowers I saw in the Feather River Canyon on Monday and around Oakland Camp on Friday and Saturday.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Two for Spencer

 An explanation for these two photos will be posted tomorrow.  It turns out my friend Spencer and I, in two different places, photographed the Woodland Star, a Saxifrage, yesterday.  His were on Table Mountain, and mine were in the Feather River Canyon near Storrie.  Stay tuned....

Monday, April 21, 2014

It Would've Taken Muir Two Months

 Or William Bartram might have taken a year.  That is, to cover around 600 miles of California byways.  I took one day.  It was exciting to attend my son's Senior Concert at HSU where he is a graduating music major.  But, I had to make the round trip in one day.  Since I brought my camera and notebooks, I was determined to enjoy some roadside exploring along the way, and that necessitated driving through the night in order to get back in time to teach a class on Monday.  I'll report on the flowers and animals I saw in three or four posts of which this is number 1.    For this evening, dear readers, enjoy the photos.  I'm too tired to post the narrative.  I'll just say this first set were taken at my first stop in the middle of the Feather River Canyon.  There were a couple of other "hot spots" that I'll cover in part 2, and then there was the stretch on Hwy 299 from Redding to Arcata where I saw plants and animals I hadn't seen in over a year.  A very enjoyable trip, especially the concert, but the whole time I was longing for the day when I could take a month or two to cover the same stretch.  Maybe this summer.  When I'm rested, I'll post photo IDs and nature notes.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Roadside Attractions, 4/19/2014

 Over the past week or so I've taken several hikes in the Quincy area to see what plants and animals were waking up for the season.  The blooming flowers shown here are from the area just north of Oakland Camp, near Gilson Creek, the Feather River College nature trail, and the PG&E pole line that crosses the Snake Lake Road about a mile north of the FRC turnoff.  Later today I hope to add natural history notes and identifications.  Meanwhile, enjoy the flowers.  Many of these will also be posted soon on the "Bloom Blog" with their common or popular names.  But, if you want a path into the scientific names and relationships, check back here later. 

It is now LATER:  I'll start with the common or popular names of these.  Above photo is the Stout-beaked Toothwort,  a member of the mustard family.  Below is a Stickseed, a member of the Borage family that contains Forget-me-nots and Fiddleneck.
Next, we have two photos of the Red Larkspur or Delphinium, a member of the Buttercup family.

Below is a Henderson's Shooting Star, a member of the Primrose family.
The Henbit Dead Nettle, in the Mint family, has practically no odor.  Very small and common on roadsides, the flowers are typical of the Mint family and the stems are square in cross-section.
This early-bird member of the Mustard Family is the Elegant Rock Cress.  It blooms early in the season and keeps blooming well into the summer.
The Dusky Horkelia, a member of the Rose family, is close to the ground and bends in with most ground covers so it is easy to overlook.
The Death Camas, a lily, has been grazed upon.  Some animal nearby is either dead, very sick, or immune.
The California Waterleaf, wouldn't you know, is a member of the Waterleaf family.  Genus Phacelia, it is often known by that name as a common name.
A California Buttercup surrounded by the leaves of several other common spring wildflowers.  If you click on the photo for an enlargement, you might be able to spot them.
The Bue-eyed Mary, formerly in the Figwort family or Scrophulariaceae, has been moved to the Plantain family.  Very tiny, hiding in the grass.  It helps if you know where to find them
The Arrow-leaf Balsamroot, superficially resembles Mules Ears, but blooms earlier and has quite a different leaf shape.  See the arrow shape?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Time to Keep the Camera Handy

 Flower of the day, Blue-eyed Mary, now in the plantain family, formerly in the Scrophulariaceae, is blooming in the grass adjacent to my office at FRC.  It's so tiny, it often goes unnoticed.  Even people who notice the little blue and white specks seldom are motivated to get down on hands and knees to really enjoy the details.  Providing that service is one of the purposes of this blog.  I walked by this
 patch of flowers several days in a row without my camera.  Now, every day I am seeing signs of spring that tell me it's time to "wake up" and keep the camera and notebook by my side.  I have a very
busy weekend ahead of me, but beginning next week I plan to record spring wildflowers and their invertebrate visitors with more regularity.  I'll also be blogging, AKA ranting, about environmental
destruction, hoping to put up a little resistance.  An editorial in this week's local paper made my blood boil.  Essentially, it mocked the idea that the government would spend any money to save the Mountain Yellow-legged Frog, particularly if it involved removing a non-native trout from lakes inhabited by the frog.  I am looking forward to writing about the ignorance revealed in that editorial. But, I'll keep posting happy stuff, too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Riot of Violets. They're All Yellow!

 Yellow violets are blooming in lots of places around Quincy, but the excitement comes from a closer look.  There are at least four different species within a couple miles of my home in Quincy.  The most recent one to bloom, and also the least common around these parts, is the Douglas' Violet (above and below), Viola douglasii.  Besides the yellow flower with its rusty smudge on the backside of the petals, it is distinguished by parsley-like leaves.
 Growing in the same area as the Douglas Violet is the Goosefoot Violet, Viola pinetorum.  Not surprisingly, it is called the Pine Violet in some field guides, but then so are several other species.  The common names of popular wildflowers often vary greatly from region to region, or even within a region.  Hopefully, I've got the scientific names correct, although I do tend to get corrected by botanists around this time of year.
 The first yellow species that I saw blooming around Quincy made its appearance several weeks ago on the Feather River College Nature Trail.  That would be Shelton's Violet, Viola shletonii (below).  It is still blooming beneath the tall pines and oaks along the trail, mostly coming up through oak leaf litter.
 The last to bloom around here, with a much more restricted habitat, is the Stream Violet, Viola glabra.  The large, heart-shaped leaves are easily mistaken for those of the Lemmon's Wild Ginger, and the two are often found growing together.  The photo below was taken next to Boyle Creek just above town in Boyle Ravine.  That's the only place I've seen this species around Quincy, but I'm sure it's found in similar habitat by many of the streams that flow into the valley.
In another few weeks we'll actually have violet violets blooming. By the side of the road out to Oakland Camp, very close to the site of the Mountain Lady Slippers, we'll be seeing the Western Dog Violet, Viola adunca.  Then, around the same time or a little later, Macloskey's Violet, a white one, will be blooming out at Butterfly Valley Botanical Area.  A good time to tiptoe through the violets.