Tuesday, November 8, 2011

San Gabriel Story

Jane Strong, member of the San Gabriel Mountains Chapter, recent winner of our Grand Prize, sent in a nice little write up on the chapter's project: 

"In doing the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt for the second year in the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County, I'm struck by how things change and how things stay the same.

Take road conditions, for example. Last year, 2010, it was a detour around the burn area adding more miles and more driving time required to reach the study area. This year, it was two washouts closing the road miles before the usual starting point necessitating a 7-mile snowshoe journey. However, another road opened up on the south side of the mountains in late March. Now only a 4-mile trek up-and-over the main ridge along a narrow, windy, poorly maintained trail was needed to get there. Poor road conditions are always with us, but the reasons for them change.

But the flowers don't wait for the snow and ice to melt or the road to open to bloom. The new routes led to new discoveries! We recorded eight rare species not seen last year.

The most thrilling new find is Fritillaria pinetorum, the stunning pine fritillary, CA Rare Plant Rank 4.3 found along the trail from Crystal Lake (see above photo by Kathryn LaShure). More mountain finds: Eriogonum kennedyi var. alpigenum, southern alpine buckwheat, 1B.3, Heuchera abramsii, Abram's alumroot, 4.3, and Monardella cinerea, gray monardellla, 4.3.

We explored new territory in the Station burn area and found the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains sunflower, Hulsea vestita ssp. gabrielensis, CA Rare Plant Rank 4.3, thriving in the newly exposed ground along Santa Clara Divide Road. Last year we found another species of Hulsea, heterochroma, red-rayed hulsea, not so rare, in the 2002 Curve Fire area. So two burn areas of different ages have two different species of Hulsea as fire followers. Fires are always with us, but the fire following species change.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

More Awards and Honorable Mentions

Volunteer Hour Award
The award for most volunteer hours completed goes to both Jane Tirrell for 491 hours and Walt Fidler for 394 hours. These San Gabriel Chapter members visited the Lily Springs study site almost weekly throughout the season.

Honorable Mentions:

The East Bay Chapter put a twist on the Rare Plant Treasure Hunt with their Adopt-a-Rare-Plant Program. In this program’s first year, over thirty volunteers committed to surveying for certain rare plants throughout the East Bay Chapter’s area. Data are still coming in from East Bay, and we are excited to see their results!

Partner Recognition Awards:
Our partner, George Butterworth, working for the DFG, George submitted over 20 survey forms for rare plants in the Carrizo Plain.

And the Desert Survivors Club. Members of the club helped organize, lead and participate in several treasure hunts in the Mojave Desert, many of them traveling from the Sacramento and the East Bay! 

Thank you all for your dedication!

Essay Winner

From John McRae: Lewisia kelloggii. Photographer uncertain

Looking for Lewisia: a Treasure in the Klamath Mountains near Orleans
June 25, 2011
by Carol Ralph

We turned off Highway 96 south of Orleans onto Forest Service roads and rumbled up the steep, forested slopes, leaving behind the smooth, quiet ride of pavement, the sinuous but gentle Klamath River valley, and the comfort of a cell phone signal. Dust, bumps, loose gravel, steep drops by narrow roads are standard fare even on well maintained Forest Service roads. The security of having the most recent Six Rivers National Forest map was eroded by the knowledge that roads on the map could have been blocked, intentionally or accidentally, or roads Forest Service doesn't want used were simply not shown on the map but were still obvious on the ground. The map's campground symbols floated ambiguously in the steep, twisted landscape, indicating only vaguely where the patch of level ground with picnic tables and fire ring were. Security in this country comes from having plenty of water, overnight provisions, at least one spare tire, and tools. Did I mention it is steep? This was wild country, penetrated by fearless bulldozer drivers during the road-building frenzy in the 1970's. Wild, steep, and grand.

In this mountain vastness 15 of us were headed to see a 2-inch tall, 1-inch diameter rock garden flower that blooms for a few weeks in only one place in the entire Klamath Ranges. Armed with good maps and photos provided by the Forest Service botanists we still needed the guidance of Kirk Terrill, the sharp-eyed naturalist who spotted this flower and knew that he hadn't seen it anywhere else in all his years working for the Forest Service in these mountains. It was in the only stand of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) he knew of in these mountains, at about 4,000 ft elevation, between Slate Creek Butte and Cedar Camp. Last year Forest Service botanists determined this flower to be Lewisia kelloggii, previously known only from the Sierra Nevada. Sure enough, there it was, dazzling white pinwheel flowers squeezing above the pebbles of a gentle, rocky, serpentine ridge patched with Huckleberry oak (Quercus vacciniifolia) and manzanita (Arctostaphylos viscida?) and dotted with lodgepole pine. It didn't match the photos we had to help our search image. The photos showed a rosette of leaves, similar to those of Siskiyou lewisia (a.k.a. cliff maids, Lewisia cotyledon). We were looking at flowers with only stubs of leaves below them. Some herbivore--deer? jack-rabbit? caterpillar?-- had enjoyed the small resources of this deep-rooted plant. The flowers had the gland-toothed sepals that define this species. We noted a small, yellow-flowered lomatium, later diagnosed as Lomatium tracyi, growing in the same area, and the stonecrop Sedum laxum ssp heckneri

The Forest Service contingent of our group stayed at this site to collect samples for DNA analysis by a Forest Service lab and to scout the full extent of the population. The rest of us drove a short ways to a knoll with a weather station just south of Mud Spring, which had shown promise in aerial photos as habitat similar to where the L. kelloggii was. In reality, it was different--steeper, no lodgepole, a different lomatium, a different sedum. No Lewisia. After establishing camp at Cedar Camp about a mile away, we walked a road-trail to Mosquito Lake, through more rocky and shrubby pine woodland. No Lewisia.

As evening approached we shared a picnic dinner at Cedar Camp, named for incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), not Port Orford-cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana). Then some of us departed, while 7 camped for the night in the fresh mountain air among the cedar and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Early next morning our Rare Plant Chair, Dave Imper, who has a good sense of direction, discovered that the Lewisia site was 15 minutes away by walking down an old road from Cedar Camp. Our goal for the day was to drive through Louse Camp to Onion Mountain, which has rocky balds that might host Lewisia kelloggii. This road had clearly not received Forest Service attention since the late departure of winter. We dodged rocks and trees on the road. With good teamwork and a scavanged timber we even moved a boulder about the size of a VW bug (well maybe a doghouse) enough to squeeze through a rock fall. We made it to Louse Camp, a lovely refuge under big trees by Bluff Creek, for lunch. Faced with a long uphill across a scree slope that had released lots of rocks onto the road, we abandoned our plan, reversed course, and headed out east to the G-O Road and down to Orleans.

How many botanists does it take to move a boulder? The smart one is watching for falling rocks. We moved the rock Gary is studying. Photo by the author.

This expedition was organized by our chapter and by the Forest Service as a Rare Plant Treasure Hunt, a program started by state CNPS rare plant botanists. We found our treasure in only one place, a known place, so we helped document the extremely restricted extent of this population. We didn't contribute much to the burning questions rare plant biologists face continually: Why only here? and how did it get here? The DNA analysis might clarify a little by suggesting to which other population this L. kelloggii is most closely related

As a road tour of our wild mountains we were more successful. Besides the grandeur we saw spots and corners of beauty and interest: pockets of rhododendron's (Rhododendron macrophyllum) fresh pink flowers or mountain dogwood's (Cornus nuttallii) glowing white; a population of Dicentra formosa ssp. oregana (a rare bleeding heart), expanded from 3 to 50 plants over 27 years; elegant ruffles of Iris tenuissima and I. tenax ssp. klamathensis; white spears of blooming beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax); intriguing, ghostly stems of spotted and western coralroots (Corallorhiza maculata and mertensiana). We discovered places we can recommend others visit: Cedar Camp, Mosquito Lake, Louse Camp. A pre-trip campout by a few of us also tested E-Ne-Nuk Campground along highway 96, and the Bluff Creek Historic Trail, both on the list for future outings. The route followed on our chapter's Lily Heaven field trip winds through these mountains. For the slightly adventurous this area in Six Rivers National Forest offers good botanizing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Treasure Hunt Chapter Awards

In the San Gabriel Mtns near the Lily Springs study area (photo by Stacey Hoopes)

The winner of the Grand Prize for CNPS chapter with the most rare plant occurrences found and updated and hours logged is the San Gabriel Mountains Chapter. As a part of their continuing Lily Springs project they documented many populations and put in hundreds of hours. Thank you to all participants including Jane Strong, Jane Tirrell, Graham Bothwell, and Walt Fidler.

The 2nd place chapter award goes to the San Diego Chapter. They recorded many rare plant occurrences on the coastal dunes of San Diego County, including over 700,000 rare Coastal woollyheads, Brand’s phacelia, Nuttal’s lotus and Robinson’s pepper-grass plants. Special thanks to the trip organizer and leader, Frank Landis.

3rd place goes to the Mount Lassen Chapter, which organized two chapter-wide Rare Plant Treasure Hunt field trips. Members of the chapter also led several trips in small groups, collecting data on nine different rare plants. And thanks to Ron Coley for his work organizing and planning trips.

Photo Contest winners

This exquisite photo has won our 2011 First Place Prize for Best Photo. Lara Hartley is the photographer and the subject is Calochortus plummerae, Plummer's Mariposa Lily, rank 1B.2. Beautiful. Thank you Lara for your dedication to the California flora.
Don Davis took a lot of great pictures this year and this one may be the best! It has snatched our second place prize. This is the comical pollination of Mimulus johnstonii, Johnston's Monkey flower, rank 4.3. Thank you Don.
This lovey photo showing treasure hunters at work in the meadows of the Sierras was taken by Rich LaShure and won our 3rd place prize. Good work Rich!
And a big thank you to all who submitted photos, we had so many good ones. Remember next year to have contest in mind when you're in the field!