Sunday, March 20, 2011

habitat ~ 03/20/11 ~ Fort Ord - BLM InterGarrison

Fort Ord Public Lands - InterGarrison entrance
March 20, 2011

Considering it had been raining for a solid week before this hike, and indeed during our hike, all the vernal pools we passed were filled. They look like lakes, but most of them do dry up by the end of summer. Many rare plants can be found around the vernal pools, including Hickman's popcorn flower, which we found completely submerged by the recent rains.

This is quite possibly the largest vernal pool at Fort Ord. It extends to about twice as wide as shown in the picture. The InterGarrison parking area, consisting of a sand lot with no facilities, is located straight as the crow flies to the left of the water tower and a bit beyond.

I took this photo to show how this particular meadow looks before the sky lupine really gets going. There is only one lone lupine blooming now with some fiddlenecks. For a comparison photo taken from almost the exact same spot, see my May 8, 2010 lupine post.

This photo is looking southeast over towards the Creekside entrance where the trails are a bit more established and erm, less dangerous...

And the last photo is a reminder that the BLM lands were once an Army training site. I didn't get a great shot of the sign, because I was more interested in the brush clearing they were doing of a trail that had been previously open. The sign says, "Danger. Do not enter. This area is being investigated for ordinance and explosives." I got on my soapbox and mentioned this in my star tulip post from this hike.

While I don't particularly like hiking in the rain, Andy convinced me to get out there with hopes to see the bobcat he spotted the day before during a trail run. We only saw some bobcat poop in the usual places. I have to say, I think Fort Ord is becoming my favorite local place to hike, even more than Garland Ranch Regional Park.

ps 05/12/12 - At the end of April, I was contacted by a California Stare University, San Jose student who is working on a group project regarding California coastal wetlands. Apparently, Fort Ord vernal pools was his assignment for a presentation. Since his photos from a March 8 personal tour were of very dry vernal pool areas, he used and credited my first 2 pictures above to show vernal pools at Fort Ord with actual water in them. It pleases me that students and university professors are finding my blog for first-hand accounts, which are not simply repeated blurbs found on so many sites.

blue dick ~ 03/20/11 ~ Fort Ord

blue dick
Dichelostemma capitatum ssp. capitatum
Themidaceae (aka Asparagaceae and formerly Liliaceae)

It always amazes me how one or two colors of wildflowers seem to dominate at a time. During this particular hike at Fort Ord, lilacs (blue dicks, ceanothus, fiesta flowers, star tulips, yerba santas) and bright yellows (buttercups, footsteps of spring, oak catkins, sun cups) were everywhere. It's as if Mother Nature only had two tubes of flower paint and also consulted a color wheel.

CA yerba santa ~ 03/20/11 ~ Fort Ord

California yerba santa
Eriodictyon californicum
Boraginaceae (formerly Hydrophyllaceae)

I've hiked past these always wondering what they are, most notably for the black fungus covering most of the leaves. You can see some black leaves in both pictures above. Wikipedia says this fungus is called Heterosporium californicum, but I can't find any online information other than this sooty fungus is common on this plant. This is the first time I've seen these shrubs blooming. It's really hard for me to believe that these are in the same Eriodictyon genus as the woolly yerba santa I spotted at Pinnacles recently. Erg. Once again this plant has changed families from the waterleaf family Hydrophyllaceae to the borage family. These family changes are harder to track than women who change their surnames due to marriage and/or divorce.

large flowered star-tulip ~ 03/20/11 ~ Fort Ord

I've posted this large flowered star-tulip before from May 8, 2010, but I want to note the March timing of this bloom, which was found in almost the exact same spot as last year. These are not very common and are restricted in where they grow, near wet meadows and vernal pools. I wish I could have gotten some other photo angles, but the surrounding grass was taller than the bloom. The flower is surprisingly large (almost 2 1/2" across) compared to its diminutive height (maybe 6" tall at the most). They're difficult to spot unless they're fairly close to a trail, and I generally stick to trails out of respect for the sensitive public lands I hike.

After the vandalism the past two years of "closed trail" signs, there's a new sign at the InterGarrison entrance that now states all trails are closed unless specifically marked as open. Considering the Army is still in the process of removing old ordinances, this isn't only for the safety of plants but also for people (no joke, we sometimes hear explosions when they do their annual burns). I love Fort Ord and I hope all those folks who wish to continue using it for recreation such as hiking, biking, horse riding, and nature loving will appreciate the hard work of the land managers who want to save this unique habitat for everyone and everything. OK, I'll get off my soapbox.

ps - I'm in the process of back-posting the rest of my Fort Ord finds with hopes to refresh my memory for my favorite wildflower months of April and May. I always date my CA nature posts to the date of the photographs. Depending on how you access my blog, say through a reader, this might not make sense; it may look like this pic was taken the day I post (03/29/11) or look like I haven't posted in a couple weeks due to the date of the photograph (03/20/11). If you go straight to Nature ID, all pics and posts are dated and in the order that I intend for later archival reference. Apologies, I still haven't figured out a way to explain this properly since everyone has different ways of reading and following blogs, and the way I post is not typical of the blogosphere.

coast live oak ~ 03/20/11 ~ Fort Ord

older coast live oak with lace lichen
Quercus agrifolia var. agrifolia with Ramalina menziesii

posted 03/25/11 - This is the best ID you're going to get from me this morning. I wasn't feeling well during the night, which makes for an unpleasantly grumpy Katie. Add to the fact that I have difficulty identifying most trees.

I need help. Can anyone ID these and help me name the flower-ish parts? I think I have at least 2 different live oaks shown above... possibly. I can't imagine the first two pics are the same species as the last two pics. Either one is, at least I believe, coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia var. agrifolia). There are 7 species/subspecies of oaks recorded for Fort Ord and I'm too tired to figure out which ones are which. Three species in the list are called "live oaks": Quercus agrifolia, Q. chrysolepis, and Q. wislizeni. If you're curious and look at my embedded links, you'll see the subspecies look very different, with some having smooth leaf margins and others having jagged leaves.

I plant to edit this post with better information once I feel a bit better.

ps 03/28/11 - I originally posted this simply as live oaks, meaning oaks that keep their leaves throughout the year. After much help from commenters below and searching online, I've finally decided both sets of pictures are of the same species but different ages. Having looked into douglas-firs and Monterey pines, I know trees can change shape considerably as they mature. I found Cindy's comments below (of the Dipper Ranch blog fame) to be very informative. Also, Hastings Reserve and Las Pilitas Nursery have great keys and information about oaks specifically found in Monterey County and California. The next time I'm out at Fort Ord, I'll do my best to check the leaves, but I'm fairly confident of these IDs now.

blue fiesta flower ~ 03/20/11 ~ Fort Ord

blue fiesta flower among Pacific poison-oak
Pholistoma auritum var. auritum among Toxicodendron diversilobum
Boraginaceae (formerly Hydrophyllaceae) and Anacardiaceae
It rained off and on during our hike. These sweet purple faces all seemed to be a bit downturned; I don't know if that's typical or is due to the rain. I had to get really low to the ground, trying to avoid touching the poison-oak, in order to get the first 2 pictures. It's funny the things you notice as you're taking a photo. I've seen blue fiesta flowers blooming in several places, including our recent hike at Pinnacles on March 4, 2011, but believing I had already posted this flower on Nature ID, I haven't bothered photographing it before now.

Also, I'm regretting the day I started including plant family names in my posts. As I've said before, this blog is my learning tool, and I hoped by including family names I could start recognizing related plants. It's been 20 years since I've had any formal botany class and barely remember anything more than the names of flower parts and checking to see if leaf margins have notches. So, here's the rub for the regret: once again as with many other flowers I post, fiesta flowers have been moved to a different family - from Hydrophyllaceae (waterleaf family) to Boraginaceae (borage family). Calflora and all my flower books are now outdated. Erg. I'll try to go back and fix the labels for all my previous waterleaf posts.

sun cup / golden egg
Camissonia ovata

Sun cups were without a doubt the most numerous blooming plant I noticed during this hike at Fort Ord. While I've posted sun cups from the InterGarrison entrance before, I want to log the March date of blooming and show a diversity of photo angles. Lately, whenever I can I try to show a close-up shot or detail of some sort, a medium range shot, and a step-back shot.

Indian warrior ~ 03/20/11 ~ Fort Ord

Indian warrior
Pedicularis densiflora
Orobanchaceae (formerly Scrophulariaceae)

This is the best showing of Indian warriors I've ever seen. Wikipedia says this is a root parasite of plants like manzanitas. Until I read this, I didn't actually notice the low growing manzanitas, during our hike nor in my pictures, along the trail where we found these. My eyes gravitate toward the bright and colorful. To be politically correct, Jepson's recommends the following common names: dense-flowered pedicularis, dense-flowered lousewort, red warrior, or warrior's plume. However, I doubt anyone who's familiar with these plants would know what I'm referencing if I called it a lousewort, so called because there was apparently a belief that a lice infestation would occur if livestock fed on these plants. I was amazed at the variation of Indian warriors we saw within one stretch of trail, from light salmon colored flowers to deep purple leaves; for additional pictures, check out my Flickr set.