Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Floral Abundance

 The floral abundance on Table Mountain at this time of year is truly awesome.  First impressions are made by the panoramas which must contain millions of flowers.  As we began our walk (Saturday, March 26) we soon began looking downward, both to spot individual species to photograph and to avoid tripping as most of the table top is covered with little cubes and random-shaped basalt.  We stayed off well-trodden paths for several reasons, to be explained later.  Click on any photograph for an enlarged view.  Identifications and comments will follow shortly.
It's dense patches of mixed species like this (above) that set my mind wandering between the near and the far.  It's hard to take in acres of this sort of abundance, so I get down on the ground and single out individual flowers for close-ups and to discover details, including visiting bugs, many of which are likely pollinators.  When I stand up again, my mind wanders over the expanse of flowers and beyond to the sky, the cloud patterns, and beyond that to who knows what?  Sometimes I feel like Thoreau felt in Chapter 9 of Walden when he writes about "two fish on one hook."  The prominent red flowers in the photo are Owl Clover.  Click on the photo for a closer look.
According to the Wildflowers of Table Mountain authors, Bird's Eye Gilia is rarely found singly, so the one above was a special treat.  It was the first one I saw on this hike.  But soon afterwards, we encountered the more familiar situation - dense clusters over hundreds of square feet (below).
Likewise, the Meadow Foam, here just a few blossoms at the edge of a creek, but mostly encountered in huge expanses at the edges of creeks on Table Mountain, then covering acres of meadow land off the mountain on the way to Chico.
The Dwarf Monkeyflower is a special type of bright red that results in "noise" on the camera's sensor.  The edges of petals in the photos tend to be a little blurry, or more accurately, seem to glow.
These yellow composites (below) are Yellow Carpet, Blennosperma nanum.  Until Spencer helped me out, I realized that I never before distinguished between these and the better-known Goldfields, Lasthenia californica. Once I learned the difference, I became more aware of the habitat difference and was able to distinguish them from a distance.
This next plant is Johnnytuck or Butter and Eggs, Triphysaria eriantha.  It's probably best to call it Johnnytuck, if you don't do scientific names, because there are several different plants that are known as Butter and Eggs.
The Filaree, or Stork's Bill, seems spectacular to me because we have a species in the Quincy area whose seed pods seldom exceed 2" in length while the species on Table Mountain have seeds over 4" long.
When I first saw the scene below, I thought I had found one of the main flowers I was seeking, the Bitterroot, but on closer inspection it was somebody's idea of hiding a plastic bag, otherwise known s litter.  Later on the hike, we did end up finding lots of Bitterroot.  That will be in the next "chapter."

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