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).