Friday, February 11, 2011

habitat ~ 02/11/11 ~ Jacks Peak County Park

Jacks Peak County Park
February 11, 2011

posted 02/19/11 - I think this will be the last post for this hike at Jacks Peak. I have more photos but nothing extraordinary to share. It's Andy's favorite destination to trail run from home. Yep, he regularly runs 7-15 miles several times a week; I don't usually run... I prefer to do other things. It's great in that he finds hidden, non-mapped trails and then shows me. I prefer parking on one of the lower roads like Aguajito and then hiking up. Jacks is the highest peak on the Monterey Peninsula. Truth be told, most of the ID pictures shown below are from outside of the park boundaries. We're still not sure who owns the land that we use and appreciate so much. The trails to the park are often used by horse riders. The park itself is a classic county park with running water, bathroom facilities, big fields of lawn, bbqs, and picnic tables. The trails within the park are fairly flat and some have incredible views of both sides of the peninsula. Even after almost 8 years of living here, I still get turned around on the peninsula. Based on older pics of the Bay, this looks like it's above and to the west of Huckleberry Hill, consisting of the same Monterey pine forest.

Monterey pine ~ 02/11/11 ~ Jacks Peak

male cones with pollen

old female cones

pine trunks in native habitat

Monterey pine
Pinus radiata
CNPS 8th Edition Inventory
for more information click here and here

posted 02/19/11 - If you click on the first photo to enlarge it, you may be able to see the yellow pollen borne on the air to the right of the pic (no, that speckly stuff isn't due to my poor photography skills). During the last week of January, we noticed the thick annual pollen dusting on many parked cars - I wonder if there's some kind of electrostatic charge that particularly attracts pollen to the metal and glass of cars. There are many species of trees in the area, so I don't know if I can blame the Monterey pines for our non-stop runny noses. The recent rains do seem to help alleviate the allergies.

While the Monterey pine tree has been introduced around the world for lumber, apparently, the Monterey Peninsula is one of the few remaining places of native forests; it's actually considered a rare and endangered plant in California. I do find it interesting how the shape of the tree changes as it ages, from a traditional triangular Christmas tree shape when it's younger to a tall, rounded top shape once they mature.

dwarf mistletoe on Monterey pine ~ 02/11/11 ~ Jacks Peak

western dwarf mistletoe on Monterey pine
Arceuthobium campylopodum on Pinus radiata
CNPS 8th Edition Inventory
Santalaceae (formerly Viscaceae) and Pinaceae

When I saw this I thought it was some kind of insect gall based on the swollen twig area. I figured once I got home, I'd easily be able to search Monterey pine galls and get my answer. However before I even got around to doing that and while I was looking up other plants for Jacks Peak, I noticed a picture that looked very similar to what I saw here. It's a mistletoe! Who knew mistletoes also created gall structures? See and learn something new every day, if I just bother to look.

woodland strawberry ~ 02/11/11 ~ Jacks Peak

I never noticed the proliferation of strawberries at Jacks Peak before. It helps that these bright white flowers caught my eyes. I certainly have never seen the fruit there. I don't know if they get eaten by animals, collected by humans considering it's a popular public park, or rarely produce fruit since it's so shady.

As I was looking for more information, just to learn something new since I've never bothered to look up strawberries before, I was surprised to find there's a second Calflora site out there. The one I use most often, highly recommend, and link to in most of my plant scientific names is The second one is, which is the personal site of Michael L. Charter and is based out of Southern California. Other than being a little irritated at the similarity of names, (don't know which came first as they both started in 2005), I'm highly impressed by Michael's elaborate website. Can you imagine the time it took him to create that sucker?!?

So, this got me wondering this morning (posted 02/17/11)... what the heck am I doing with this blog? And, why? It started out innocent enough as a casual "I want to learn about the things I see on my hikes." Now, first thing almost every morning (well, after a bathroom visit and a huge cup of tea), while my husband gets his beauty rest, I quietly work on Nature ID. Plus, with any free pockets of time, I'll update or add more posts, many of them backdated far enough that most followers won't even see them. I'll admit to being a bit obsessive. I'm already at 413 labels and 583 posts and I have yet to reach my 2 year blog anniversary (in May). The label lists along the right side of this blog are becoming unwieldy and extraordinarily lengthy (all that scrolling is probably why my wireless mouse eats through so many batteries). At a certain point, I imagine Google's Blogger will complain with site crashes or start charging for hosting. I don't know where this is going or how I want my blog to be in another year. I watch as several other bloggers stop adding new posts or close their accounts entirely and I suspect they simply got burned out - I still really miss Steve Wilson's Blue Jay Barrens blog. However, I do know what I do not want. I do not want to sell anything and am very proud that this is an ad-free blog. And, I do not want to "network" or show off my abysmal nature knowledge - in other words, there's something really freeing in not being the expert and being totally comfortable in saying, "I don't know." I'm relatively anti-social, hence why I like hiking to get away from people and into nature. I'm not on facebook anymore and generally refuse to join nature groups, clubs, and societies. Although, I have met some very nice people online with similar interests. My questions about the future of Nature ID remain unanswered for now.

With that said, I'd love to hear from fellow bloggers on why you blog.
western cauliflower mushroom
Sparassis radicata

Did a quick search this morning and can't find anything that quite looks like this. I'll keep searching. It looks like an airy toasted pastry. Can you ID?

ps - I posted this earlier today (02/16/11) as an unknown meringue-pie-looking fungus. Indeed, it was about the size of a pie, too. Thanks to Jim Johnson's comment below, I was able to track down the ID. Interesting to note, MushroomExpert (linked in the common names) states this is a different species from the eastern cauliflower mushrooms (S. crispa and S. spathulata), which are supposedly primarily found under hardwoods, whereas our true western version is found under pines, as evidenced in my picture. The toasty look in the pic above simply means it's an older fruiting body. Like pie and cauliflower this is an edible mushroom... I think I'm hungry.

broad-leaved lupine
Lupinus latifolius

Lately, I've been relying heavily on Calflora's What Grows Here search query to help me identify plants, which I would usually have a difficult time figuring out and sometimes spend a couple days agonizing over correct IDs. This is a fairly big lupine and I picked the only perennial lupine on the list. And, it looks correct!
dark-eyed junco / Oregon junco
Junco hyemalis

Well, at least I'm still trying to get photos of birds. These pics aren't too bad for me. I have a better pic of a dark-eyed junco here from last April. It's only because I previously looked up this bird that I even knew what these were on the spot. I had fun watching a group of them as they chased each other from ground to low hanging tree limbs; it was almost as if they were playing tag.

Fremont's star-lily ~ 02/11/11 ~ Jacks Peak

Toxicoscordion fremontii (formerly Zigadenus fremontii)
Melanthiaceae (formerly Liliaceae)

This plant is also known as death camas due to its toxicity to people and animals. Wayne's Word (1/2 way down the link) has the best description I've found describing this with history and references.

As an aside, does anyone else have difficulty taking decent photographs on a sunny day in shaded woods?

There've been major revisions on how to classify this plant in the last decade or so. It's thanks to a couple other bloggers that I even heard of the new names. It used to be in the lily family and has now been separated out to the false hellebore family. Plus, it used to be included in the Zigadenus genus, which is still most commonly used online and is the name in all of my wildflower books. For a nice series of linked pages that explains this at the Pacific Bulb Society, click on the family name above in the ID. I'm updating my previous star-lily posts.

ps 01/05/12 - I moved a 4th picture to a new ID of soap plant.
banana slug
Ariolimax sp.

This is the first non-yellow banana slug I've seen in California. Additionally, it's the first time I've seen a California one not under redwood trees. This pic was taken at Jacks Peak, which is dominated by Monterey pines and oaks, as evidenced by the leaf litter in the pic above. Interesting to note, I've seen this darker version while hiking in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon (but didn't know what they were at the time), also not under redwood trees. I wonder if the habitat has anything to do with the coloring of the slug. We tried to take a picture with my hand next to it, but our camera battery died after the first flash. Based on the size of my hand, I would say this individual was slightly more than 6 inches in length. I'm still searching for a source that can describe the visible difference between the 3 Ariolimax species.

ps - Had I remembered it was Valentine's Day when I posted this morning (02/14/11), I probably would have picked something more romantic... not that I'm much of a softy, ever.
California buttercup
Ranunculus californicus

The first buttercups I've seen this year. It's a cheery little flower. There is a tiny Diptera in the second picture, and you've got me if you can ID it.

wavyleaf soap plant ~ 02/11/11 ~ Jacks Peak

posted 01/05/12 - Once again, thanks to Nature of a Man blogger randomtruth based on his comment, I moved the above photo from my original death camas post.

If you look closely at this picture you can see evidence of browsing (all my newer Nature ID pics can be clicked on for a larger and zoomed photo view).