Sunday, February 20, 2011

habitat ~ 02/20/11 ~ Garland Ranch Regional Park

Garland Ranch Regional Park
February 20, 2011

So often Nature ID posts are of specific things, getting as close as my point-and-shoot will allow for a positive ID. However, I do like to take a step back and look at the larger picture. I hope I can convey in my habitat shots what any location is like throughout the year. While my blog is not a hiking blog (there are much better ones, like Way Points and Bay Area Hiker), I believe people may be able to get a sense of if and when they'd like to hike at the many locations shown here. All locations are labeled with an 'x' and grouped to the right of my blog towards the bottom.

In the 2nd picture above, there is indeed snow on the hill tops. To the left is the Sierra de Salinas range and to the right is the better known Santa Lucia Range. By Saturday after these pictures were taken, we had snow here at sea level along the Monterey Bay.

broadleaf stonecrop
Sedum spathulifolium

Without these in bloom, I have little chance of identifying this plant. I'm assuming they're a species of Dudleya, but I could be incorrect. I've checked a handful of plant lists for Garland Ranch and only one even mentions succulents. As you can tell from my pictures, this is a very moist area... but only in the winter and spring. Several years ago when I returned to CA, these were the very first wild (i.e., not garden) succulents I had ever seen in this area, and if my memory is correct, I believe the blooms were yellow. Can anyone ID?

ps 03/02/11 - Boy, did I have this wrong! At the very least, I knew this was a stonecrop thingahoo. I originally posted this as an unknown dudleya. Nope. No wonder I couldn't find a match after searching through hundreds of pictures of dudleya. Many thanks to Megan and Matti at Far Out Flora, I got an ID. I also double-checked the CNPS Garland Ranch plant list from 2006 and this is the only Sedum on their list. I've corrected the ID above.

dudleya ~ 02/20/11 ~ Garland Ranch

First ferns, now succulents? I am trying to branch out and look at plants outside of my comfort zone. This is typically a more southernly plant and Monterey County is about as far north that it grows naturally. Does anyone have a good dudleya ID site to recommend?

California maiden-hair
Adiantum jordanii

If I had a garden of my dreams, this is the one native fern I would definitely include. I suspect it would require quite a bit of moisture and could be challenging to grow in an artificial setting. That's Garland's waterfall in the background of the third photo, which had water running after a week of decent rain. Interestingly enough, this is not CA's only maiden-hair fern; there's another called southern maiden-hair (Adiantum capillus-veneris) that looks a lot like cilantro, the herb staple of many salsas.

If you didn't know what you were looking at, I think many people's brains would have a hard time making sense of this image. I took about 30 pictures of this true bug on a pond surface with a reflection of winter trees in the "background." Shown above is the best shot I got. I'm tempted to post another pic under the label crappy photos.

While Aquarius remigis (also formerly known under the genus Gerris) is generally agreed to be the most common water strider in CA and the U.S., I'm hesitant to place a positive ID considering my picture doesn't show enough details, nor did I take the time to physically capture this insect to bring home and examine the relative tarsal and antennal segments under my scope for proper keying. Powell and Hogue state there are about 10 species of gerrids in CA; indeed, UC Berkeley's Essig Museum of Entomology lists 12 species in their Heteroptera PDF.

I haven't spotted a saxifrage in a very long time, actually not since March 14, 2009 at Fort Ord. The blurry second pic with my hand is to show just how tiny these flowers are and why they can be easily overlooked. Indeed, this was one flower that was not included in the Garland Ranch Visitor Center's current blooms display, despite the fact they were feet away from the only spot of Padres' shootingstars we saw during this hike. The shootingstars were also mentioned to us from a friend we ran into who regularly volunteers at Garland - Hi, Andy! - not my Andy, but a female Andy. I love the delicate combination of salmon colored anthers of the California saxifrage with the bright green ovaries (they look like they're split in two) and enveloped in white petal folds. Can you tell I've been refreshing my memory on flower parts?

giant wake-robin / giant trillium
Trillium chloropetalum
Melanthiaceae (formerly Liliaceae)

We only saw trilliums in two sections of our hike, one by the waterfall and the other down a heavily-shaded, steep ravine. I wish my last photo turned out better, but I'm posting it because I want to show the yellow center of this new shoot. It looked like the yellow spadix of calla lilies, but I suspect it was just the covering of what would end up being the dark purple parts. Can anyone help direct me to a website that illustrates the different parts of the trillium plant? And, like with star-lilies, this plant has been moved from the lily family to the false hellebore family.

ps 04/26/11 - I always like seeing what other people have in their neck of the woods, especially when I can compare and learn more about what is closer to me. Found this trillium post from Ohio, my ol' stomping grounds: Midwest Native Plants, Gardens, and Wildlife.

fairy fingers ~ 02/20/11 ~ Garland Ranch

It is thanks to fellow bloggers, like John Wall and Jim Johnson, who have helped me with fungal IDs, that I'm now not too afraid to take pics with hopes to properly identify them. Most online pics of this club and coral mushroom are bright white, but then again like the cauliflower mushroom I found at Jacks Peak, I think this fruiting body is a bit older. Oh, as an explanation of how I even know which oak is shown above, this is the branch that Andy and I married under before it broke off. We affectionately call this tree our wedding tree. As this tree dies, we've been amazed at how much life is growing on it. More to come from this tree...

California milkmaids
Cardamine californica

Um... oh boy, I got an eyeful as I tried to search for more information on this plant. Makes me wonder about the etymological relationship of the family name Brassicaceae with brassiere. I might add more information once I get the boobs out of my memory.

This plant is also known as bitter-cress or toothwort. There's a small section above the waterfall trail at Garland Ranch where I can always count on seeing this small white flower in February.

toyon ~ 02/20/11 ~ Garland Ranch

toyon / Christmas berry
Heteromeles arbutifolia

Despite their bright red berries, I've usually ignored this plant during hikes. Quite honestly, I prefer to look for pretty spring flowers. It's thanks to fellow blogger GretchenJoanna at Gladsome Lights and her comment a couple weeks back mentioning toyon. The common name strikes me as a bit funny; I keep thinking back to those Toyota commercials with people jumping in the air, since I have a couple friends with old, beat-up, red Toyota trucks - funny how the brain works. So, when we checked out the Garland Ranch Visitor Center for a little pre-hike pit stop and to check out the current blooms (they cut flowers and place ID tags for people to see what's currently blooming), the name toyon jumped out at me. They had samples of the red berries but not the white blooms. I'll be on the look-out for the white flowers later this summer. Sure enough, the worn out red berries weren't difficult to find. To help me find toyon blooms later, I made a mental note of the finely serrated leaves and the height of the shrubs. For more information, check out Las Pilitas Nursery.

wedding tree ~ 02/20/11 ~ Garland Ranch

wedding tree

posted 03/02/11 - No, it wasn't our anniversary when we visited this tree back on February 20, 2011. That was the first sunny day after a week of nonstop rain and we wanted to take full advantage of the nicer weather and get outside. I'll admit I'm a bit sad to see this magnificent tree decline. Other valley oaks (Quercus lobata) were already sprouting new leaves, so I suspect this tree may not have much to show anymore in terms of its own growth. Andy was kind enough to point out to me that the dead branches are now supporting a variety of life, including numerous fence lizards, an unknown nest (shown in the first pic), and numerous fungi, mosses, and lichen. It's the cycle of life. I'm sure we'll visit our tree again come April 8th.