Wednesday, January 19, 2011

habitat ~ 01/19/11 ~ Fort Ord - BLM Creekside

Fort Ord - Creekside entrance
January 19, 2011

Fort Ord has become one of my favorite places to hike. It can be very green this time of year through to June. After a very wet December, we haven't had much rain and it's been unseasonably warm (77 °F this day). I expected to see more water in the vernal pool. There are still 3-4 months of rainy season left.

I have two location labels for Fort Ord BLM lands (Creekside entrance and InterGarrison entrance), but I've combined the two with others for the Fort Ord habitat - all label. Eventually, when all the munitions are removed, the Fort Ord BLM lands will include about 15,000 acres.
If it weren't for the neon yellow color, I'd have a hard time identifying this low-growing plant in the carrot family. Vern Yadon states, "Think of someone walking across a dark carpet with bleach on their shoes and you will visualize these chartreuse green flowers in a dark green field." I only spotted a few patches of footsteps during this hike. If my notes from past years are correct, they should last until about mid-March. This is the earliest I've seen them; of course, we've had an incredibly mild and warm January this year.
Omphalotus olivascens
more related information

posted 01/25/11 - I wince every time I put up a "can you ID?" post. Given the increasingly limited time I'm willing to put into blogging, I tried and failed to make a positive ID, and yet I'm still curious enough to post this to Nature ID to ask others. The past several days, I've looked sporadically for online photographic matches of this fungus and have come up empty handed. In the mean time, I've made a new grouped list specifically for fungi (labels and grouped lists, at the bottom of each post and linked to the right of my home page, are mostly ordered alphabetically). I'd appreciate any genus names or hints if you're familiar with this particular mushroom. From the top view, it reminds me of delicious, golden pancakes with gills underneath. Where's the butter and syrup? Unlike other "bracket" type (i.e., growing from wood) mushrooms, these were not found on a rotting log or stump, but were stretching out from a dirt cliff. Upon closer inspection, it looks like there's an old woody branch sticking out of the dirt - possibly an old tree root?

I was considering writing a ranting monologue about the nature of traditional identification keys for the various biology disciplines and how they're really only useful to the few people who already know what they're looking at. However, I'll skip the wordiness here and leave you with some links to what others have to offer:

Ecology of Commanster's caveat and note on identification keys
Random Truth's flickr fungi of california set
The Fungi of California
Mushroom Hobby
Mushroom Expert

ps 01/26/11 - Thanks to commenters, I've edited and corrected this post and the ID above. I'm a bit embarrassed as I have already ID'd this particular fungus. In my defense, the one above looks very, very different from the jack-o-lanterns I've been visiting almost every day.

fiesta flower ~ 01/19/11 ~ Fort Ord

fiesta flower under oak
Pholistoma sp. under oak
Boraginaceae (formerly Hydrophyllaceae) and Fagaceae

I love the bright green and shape of the fiesta flower leaves. I'm not positive which species creates this lush green carpet under the oak trees (there's a blue and white version, each with subspecies)... nor have I taken the time yet to ID specific oaks. Interesting to note, I only see fiesta flowers under the oak canopies. Isn't there a name for the condition where things grow directly under the branches of trees due to the shade and extra moisture from fog and rain they provide to the understory? I plan to pay more attention this spring when I'm out hiking.

The song birds really loved flitting through the dried poison-oak. I couldn't tell what they were or if they were picking at the seeds. Since I don't carry binoculars with me on hikes (sheesh, I can barely tolerate carrying my point-and-shoot), I wasn't about to get closer for a better look.

For anyone who enjoys outdoor activities in California, it's a good idea to learn to recognize poison-oak throughout its many seasonal variations. Click my previous poison-oak posts for more pictures and information. Even the bare winter twigs can cause a rash in many people. And as my husband learned the hard way, animals that run through the brush can collect the rash-inducing oil on their coats. He helped a lost dog named Lola on December 8, 2010 and even now still has poison-oak rash scars. While I love dogs, especially ones that don't jump on me and knock me over, I will go to great lengths to avoid touching any dogs I meet on trails.

ps - I'm starting to use an alternative common naming convention for plants, where if the last noun is not the actual thing, then I hyphenate. Pacific poison-oak is not a true oak, like coast Douglas-fir is not a true fir. I've also seen poisonoak as one word. To read my rant on common naming conventions, see my bat star post. If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'd love to hear from you.

Arctostaphylos sp.

Before I started Nature ID, I pretty much ignored manzanitas. Hey, they're shrubs and I usually don't get too excited about shrubbery. However, I've since come to appreciate the varied beauty of manzanitas, from their amazingly artistic, maroon and grey bark to their delicate pink and white flowers. While there are 123 species records of Arctostaphylos listed on Calflora (click on the scientific name above to link to the database), I've narrowed down the species to just 7 possibilities at sandy Fort Ord. Perhaps, this year I'll look into how I can distinguish between the different species. Can anyone help me identify these rather cool shrubs?

jimson weed ~ 01/19/11 ~ Fort Ord

Datura stramonium

I rarely remember the individual plants that I happen to post pictures through the seasons, but this jimson weed stands out in my mind. Those are some gnarly seed pods! Click to see pictures of it in its full summer glory from August 21, 2010. The switch of green vs. dried parts between jimson weed and grass, from August to now in January, is quite fascinating to observe.

ps 01/22/11 - Thanks to Phyte Club Katie's comment, I've discovered this plant is apparently fairly toxic, i.e., do NOT use for a recreational high.

pss 10/27/11 - Found another blog post of the actual seeds. I like. Check out Backyard and Beyond's Jimson.

shootingstar ~ 01/19/11 ~ Fort Ord

Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. sanctarum

Here's my first spring wildflower post for 2011. And, there wasn't just one or two, there was a whole hillside covered in these padre's shootingstars (the common name given to the species as opposed to the subspecies). I've been telling my husband for years that spring essentially starts in mid-January along the Central Coast of California, but he still poo-poos this idea having hailed from colder Washington state and holding firmly to the "traditional" timing of seasons in the northern hemisphere. Who hasn't heard "in like a lion and out like a lamb" as a description for the month of March? Hey, where I live, that's a better description for January!

I'm having trouble getting clear shots of wildflowers with longer, delicate stems, especially when the wind blows almost non-stop around here. I was very disappointed to find most of my pictures were too fuzzy to post. Does anyone have any suggestions, besides picking the flowers and taking them home to photograph in the kitchen, or besides purchasing a spendy new fast-action camera?

ps 01/30/11 - I sometimes use the Fort Ord plant list to confirm my IDs and D. clevelandii ssp. sanctarum is the only Dodecatheon listed. Personally, I would not be able to easily distinguish between the 12 species records listed on Calflora.