Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter 2011 in the Highlands

our eggs

brightest flowers (geraniums) that caught my eye

Bird Island of Point Lobos

hidden egg

my favorite spring garden view

Per my standard Easter entry, I have a specific set of pictures that I post here on Nature ID. To see all my Easter posts from 2011, 2010, and 2009, click here.

What was not standard this year was Cynthia Williams, the matriarch of "The Carmel Institute", died at the end of January after more than a year of failing health with the need of round-the-clock care. I added a postscript of her obituary and a link to Design Faith's blog entry about Cynthia in my 2010 post. A heartfelt and intimate memorial with lots of laughter was included at the end of the traditional Easter soiree.

The family's annual Easter celebration has been held for almost 70 years! Anyone who wanted to participate was invited and welcomed with open arms. It always included sequestering the children in the living room while the adults hid hard-boiled eggs in the expansive garden. Cynthia, dressed in her colorful Easter attire, blew her horn to start the hunt. After most of the eggs were found, the older children then hid decorated cans of beer for the adults, often vigorously shaking them as a prank on their dads. It wasn't unusual for the dogs or the gardeners to find old eggs or cans of beer up to a year later in the bushes. After the hunting for eggs and beer ended, a scrumptious potluck of massive proportions ensued with libations of punch, wine, and gin fizzes. Plastic swords, big wheels, tire swings, trampoline, acoustic music, and a poison oak lined path to the south Point Lobos beach were post-brunch activities for the young and old alike. I have every confidence that the family will continue this Easter ritual.

Another thing that was not standard this year was I was extremely sick from what I thought was a severe cold that even ruptured my only good eardrum. Normally, I would have stayed home to keep from spreading my germs, but I needed in my heart to attend and share in Cynthia's memorial. While I stayed away from most people and didn't socialize like I would have liked, partly because I couldn't hear too well, I am very glad I went. A few days later I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia and other complications. I'm still recuperating... but I can't help but believe this was Cynthia's way of instructing me that I need to take better care of myself.

Thank you, Cynthia, for your joie de vivre, generosity, and inspiration!

seaside painted cup ~ 04/24/11 ~ Carmel Highlands

Monterey paintbrush / seaside painted cup
Castilleja latifolia
CNPS 8th Edition Inventory
Orobanchaceae (formerly Scrophulariaceae)

Have you missed my posts? This is the first day that I've felt somewhat better in 3 weeks (posted 05/10/11). Hooray! This is a new species of paintbrush for Nature ID. Isn't it pretty? I can't believe I haven't posted a picture of it before now. It's a rare plant found only here in CA along the coast. Vern Yadon states in Wildflowers of Monterey County that the seaside painted cup is semi-parasitic on beach sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala) and the colors can vary from orange, yellow, white, and red. Check out the embedded links in the ID below the pictures above.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

habitat ~ 04/17/11 ~ Fremont Peak State Park

April 17, 2011

We haven't been to Fremont Peak since 11/29/08, because we thought it closed due to CA's budget cuts. It's nice to see it's still open. It's a good place for a picnic, yet there isn't much in the way of hiking trails and basic camping facilities. However, the views from the peak are incredible! The photo I use on my maps page was taken from Fremont Peak. I believe that tower to the left above belongs to KSBW-TV; it's one of three antennas and two microwave dishes (hah, no, not the Stouffer's frozen t.v. dinner kind). The biggest attraction (and not well known, at least to me) is the Fremont Peak Observatory. We've never been, but now that I know it's open to the public, we just may go sometime this year.

This view is looking northeast towards Hollister and the San Justo Reservoir, which may or may not still be closed in an attempt to control the spread of the invasive zebra mussel.

This view is looking southeast along the Gabilan Range, which as the crow flies ends up at Pinnacles National Monument.

This view is looking straight west towards Prunedale, Castroville, and the Monterey Bay. See the marine layer over the water?

Final shot! This is not from Fremont Peak State Park; it's some unmarked back road that occasionally becomes the winding Old Stage Road. I absolutely love the rolling green hills. It doesn't even look like it belongs in CA. There were no wildflowers, thanks to the mowing abilities of the cows. If it weren't for the "meadow muffins" that I'm sure exist everywhere, I fantasize about rolling down those hills like a little kid and getting grass stains everywhere.
This is an appropriately named mustard; it must have been at least 3 feet tall on a slender stalk. We only noticed this one. So, as I was reading the Wikipedia entry about tower mustard, and considering it's native to Europe, Asia, North Africa, and apparently to California and elsewhere, a big question comes to mind: How do people determine if any plant is native or introduced?

At first I thought this might be a chia (S. columbariae), but the flowers and leaves totally don't match. The leaves remind me of the garden sage (S. officinalis) I get from the farmers' market to make crispy sage in browned butter. Yum! Other than that, I can't seem to find a match for this pretty little plant. I thought this would be easy to ID. Nope. Can you ID?

ps 05/01/11 - I originally posted this as an unknown sage in a fit of fever and lack of energy. Just a few hours after posting the above on 04/27/11, I ended up in the emergency room and spent a few days in the hospital. I'm finally home and free to go to the bathroom without having to disconnect from wires and tubes and haul around an IV stand. As a parting gift, the nice doctors gave me a colorful cocktail of more pills than I've ever taken in my life. While I try to minimize mentions of my personal troubles on Nature ID, I am issuing a disclaimer: I may start posting some wonky/excessive blog entries in the next week as I stay home to recover while high on these meds. Please ignore or have a good laugh. Thanks to commenters and Brian LeNeve from the Monterey Bay Chapter of the CNPS for providing me with the name of this plant, so named for the way it spreads along the ground. As usual, I've corrected the ID's above with embedded links for anyone who would like to see and read more information.

baby blue eyes
Nemophila menziesii var. atomaria
Boraginaceae (formerly Hydrophyllaceae)

I asked Andy to stop the car as we were heading down from Fremont Peak so that I could get a closer look at the huge patches of white flowers on the side of the road. I love the detail in the petals. I wonder what it would look like under UV light. I totally did not notice these flowers going into the park, but as Carol LeNeve from CNPS pointed out to me, it matters which direction you're driving to notice many flowers. As an aside, I'm still looking for a wildflower book that can help identify roadside flowers going at 55 m.p.h. Hey, it's not always easy or convenient to stop the car to get a closer look.

This is another first flower sighting for me... I've never noticed the white version of baby blues eyes before. To be quite honest, I'm making an assumption about the variety here based on pictures of white blooms on CalPhotos (linked in the common name below the pictures). I have not found any plant list to double-check this variety. Calflora and Jepson do not show this variety as occurring in San Benito County. Even though Fremont Peak borders both San Benito and Monterey counties, these two floral resources seem to consider Fremont Peak as being in San Benito County.

I'm taking my cue from James of Lost in the Landscape, whose recent comment reminded me about not allowing distribution data to blind me from recognizing rarer plants. This is in stark contrast to how some people are so excited that they've found something so rare and so unusual that they make outlandish ID claims. Generally, my stance on Nature ID is that whatever I manage to find is not too unusual for the area.

Pacific hound's tongue ~ 04/17/11 ~ Fremont Peak

Pacific hound's tongue
Cynoglossum grande


I first heard of this flower last year from Clare's forget-me-not post at Curbstone Valley Farm. I'd never seen one until now and was surprised to discover the flowers are larger than a U.S. nickel coin. I'm out of words this morning, but I'd like to point out the sparkles of the petals (Katie at Phyteclub has a creative post on floral iridescence) and the 1-4 lobed, prickly, berrylike fruit (called nutlets).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

sunrise ~ 04/14/11 ~ at home

sunrise from home
April 14, 2011

I should note that I NEVER digitally alter my sunrise pics. I like how my little point-and-shoot captures low-lighting. It doesn't always match with what my eyes see, but the colors end up being incredible.

Wishing everyone a happy Easter, Resurrection Sunday, or plain old 'nother day of the week!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

tree year project 2011, #6

Columbian black-tailed deer
Odocoileus hemionus columbianus

This poor deer was grazing underneath the coast Douglas-fir tree, so I am including it in this year's Tree Year Project. Despite the total lack of photographic merit in the 2nd and 3rd photos above, I wanted to show this buck's torn ears. Indeed, his right ear is nearly torn in half with the outer edge flopping about, and the left has a decent sized notch in it. I'm assuming this is fairly common, as Jim Coda featured a torn-eared buck in a recent post. Those annual antlers must be a pain! I'm wondering if this is the same buck I saw back on October 28, 2010, especially considering I haven't seen another buck around home in 5 years.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

habitat ~ 04/09/11 ~ Garrapata Canyon

Garrapata Canyon
April 9, 2011

I don't have much to publicly say about this beautiful place, except that it's private property. It hasn't been functioning as a trout farm in at least 30-40 years. The depressions shown in the third pic above were once trout hatcheries. All the piping and valves are still there, rusted, but still there. Considering this is private property and I was a guest, I'll lead blog visitors to the publicly available nearby Garrapata State Park here and here.

habitat ~ 04/09/11 ~ Highway 1

Highway 1 at Palo Colorado Road
April 9, 2011

posted 04/21/11 - Here's one piece of local news: the Hwy 1 closure 12 miles south of Carmel, before Rocky Creek/Bixby Bridge, is now open as of 8:00 PM last night according to fellow blogger bigsurkate. I mentioned the closure in a previous post, but this KSBW video provides better information of the highway collapse on March 16, 2011. When I took the picture above, I was already down in the area for a meeting when I decided to see what the closure looked like. It was surprising to see so many people eager to walk the closed portion of the highway. Normally, this treat only happens during the Big Sur International Marathon. Speaking of which, I think the BSIM planners will change their out and back course with a loop through Point Lobos, even though Hwy 1 is now open north of Alder Creek (i.e., you still cannot drive all the way through Big Sur to get to San Simeon and Cambria). Have I mentioned it's been an unusual year?

Friday, April 8, 2011

habitat ~ 04/08/11 ~ Garland Ranch Regional Park

posted 04/20/11 - As is my custom on Nature ID, I'm posting a final habitat entry to mark the end of this day's hike of IDs. These photos are a bit dark. Have I mentioned it snowed on us during this hike? Snow in April, or anytime, is extremely unusual around these parts. It's been an unusually wacky spring in 2011. There are other IDs I'd like to show from Garland, but I'm behind on my blog posts; I have several newer photos and places in the queue that are already more than a week old.

The last pic above is looking down on Laureles Grade and Bernardus Lodge. It's so fancy and spendy at the lodge that I've only ever been there once for a work meeting. It was very nice, but I think I would have liked it better had I been for pleasure (especially the spa), rather than business.

fringepod ~ 04/08/11 ~ Garland Ranch

best guess hairy fringepod or narrowleaf fringepod
best guess Thysanocarpus curvipes or T. laciniatus

The seed pods are quite stylish; they remind me of the 70's fashionable wallpaper that has now cycled around to be hip again. If I had to take a guess between the two species found at Garland Ranch, this would be the hairy fringepod (T. curvipes), mainly because these were found on the sandy floodplain of the Carmel River and not up on the hilly and rocky slopes. Even after looking up the keys in Jepson (its regular usage of "±" wacks me out as it's not informative at all), I still have no idea about the difference. I am uncomfortable making a positive ID.

Such as it is, I've never looked at fringepods this closely. In a similar train of thought to my past comment about how Monet and other Impressionist painters must have been myopic, I'm starting to really appreciate macro photography (not mine, but others, which show better). Eh, my new eye doc says I need "reading" glasses simply because I'm getting older. I don't have an issue wearing glasses as I've needed them to see distance ever since the 6th grade when Mrs. Harris went out of her way to notice and comment to my folks that I could not see the Five-A-Day math quiz on the chalkboard. However, I'm wondering about the quality of the new eye doc's corrective examination as I can read clearer without contacts, or glass at all, and through my old glasses from 6 years ago, all compared with this new prescription. Erga.

hill star ~ 04/08/11 ~ Garland Ranch

hill star
Lithophragma heterophyllum

Oy! It's taken me a while to figure out which species this is as several Lithophragma flowers look exactly alike with small, white, fringy flowers on long stalks. A few years ago, I even wondered if the color of the stalk, green or red, had anything to do with the different species. Nope.

Thanks to multiple sources, there are only two species recorded for Garland Ranch, L. heterophyllum and L. affine (commonly known as woodland star; please note other species are also called this). At our recent wildflower show, a very friendly volunteer overheard my conversation with my companion as I was describing my confusion between the two. She pointed out differences in the leaves, with one being roundish and the other being deeply lobed to the point of looking spindly. I thought, "Aha!" Again, nope. As you can see from my 2nd and 3rd pictures above, there's a variety of leaf shapes found on the same plant.

However, after researching this, including looking up Jepson's descriptions, I would have assumed the plant samples were inadvertently switched, except that my pictures from the wildflower event clearly show what I now consider a more reliable distinction: L. heterophyllum has a squarish calyx base (bell-shaped or U-shaped), whereas L. affine has a tapered calyx (obconic or V-shaped).

Are you confused, yet? I am and may have to review/edit this later and make sure I got it correct.

best guess zigzag larkspur
best guess Delphinium patens ssp. patens

Here's my heart photo (in response to a comment made by Jeannette of Bread on the Water)... The first time I heard the word Delphinium was several years ago when a good friend from college asked me to do her summer wedding flowers. I am by no means a florist, gardener, or an expert in anything botanical, but she gave me a wonderful gift of special memories. We poured over flower books for months beforehand, calling and e-mailing, picking good color combinations and shapes of flower arrangements. The day before her wedding we visited the Columbus, OH morning flower market to haul buckets and buckets of flowers home. I spent an exhausting 28 hours straight prepping and arranging roses, delphiniums, bells of Ireland, and numerous other flowers in the cool of her basement. However, she insisted on making her own wedding bouquet. After I noticed she was too busy accommodating her guests, I made a bouquet for her as a just-in-case and hid it in the fridge. She was in tears as she was desperately trying to get ready for her wedding ceremony and never got around to making her own bouquet. I said, "Never fear, my dear." Then, I showed her what I made for her all wrapped up neatly in a large satin ribbon. She burst into more tears. While I understood her appreciation, I hadn't meant to cause her more tears... plus, her eyes would be puffy for photographs. That moment was one of my favorite memories of a friend, gifts to each other of the heart. Thank you, Paula.

So, onto the ID stuff... This is my best guess. The other possibility is the Parry's Larkspur (Delphinium parryi ssp. parryi). Delphiniums are nowhere to be found on the 2006 CNPS plant list for Garland Ranch. It's thanks to my handy-dandy, brand new Wildflowers of Garland Ranch - a field guide by Michael Mitchell and Rod M. Yeager that I could even begin to narrow down the 57 species and subspecies of Delphiniums found in CA and 22 found in Monterey County alone. It's not a terribly uncommon flower at Garland as I have photos of this beautiful purple from past anniversary hikes, unfortunately not posted on Nature ID. I usually associate delphiniums with Pinnacles National Monument where some years they grow in impressive patches along the little creek. I was surprised to discover this flower is related to the buttercups.

Castilleja attenuata
Orobanchaceae (formerly Scrophulariaceae)

posted 04/16/11 - I'm very pleased with this find as I was attempting to get pictures of another flower at the time. I would have walked right past it since it's so small and inconspicuous, especially among the grasses.

I learned of this ID during a visit to our town's Good Old Days last weekend. One of the regular booths at this annual street fair is hosted by the Monterey Penninsula Regional Park District. They had a copy of the newly released book Wildflowers of Garland Ranch - a field guide by Michael Mitchell and Rod M. Yeager, which I was very excited about. Unfortunately, they were not selling the book at their stall. As it so happens, the following weekend (i.e., currently as I post this blog entry) is the 50th Annual Wildflower Show hosted at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History and run by a small group of dedicated volunteers from the local Monterey Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. While I didn't have enough cash on me to purchase the book (no credit cards accepted), I did return later yesterday with cash in hand.

I'd like to give public kudos to Carol and Brian LeNeve, who are always so kind and informative and tirelessly do the brunt work of the wildflower show.

ps 06/01/11 - This ID of C. attenuata was confirmed by Mark Eggar on Flickr. He's a public school science teacher up in Seattle, WA, and I consider him one of the most accessible Castilleja experts around. Check out Eggar's impressive Castilleja photo collection.

black cottonwood ~ 04/08/11 ~ Garland Ranch

I usually limit my ID posts to 3 pics at the most, but I really liked these pictures of the black cottonwood. Garland Ranch is the only local place I know where if you hike in the springtime, little fluffs of cotton float around in the air. It's like a dreamy snow globe on the floodplain of the Carmel River. Little did we know that it would actually get cold and snow on us an hour later up on the Mesa.