Friday, July 22, 2011

dodder and pickleweed ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

salt marsh dodder on pickleweed

The orange stringy stuff is dodder, and the cactus-looking plant is pickleweed. When I first saw dodder at Elkhorn Slough, I thought someone's brightly-colored, tangled, plastic fishing line had washed in from the last high tide. It took seeing dodder at Pinnacles, too far away from any fishing, for me to figure out it is a plant, parasitic and alive.

blooming salt marsh dodder
Cuscuta salina 
Convolvulaceae (formerly Cuscutaceae)

So, imagine my further surprise to find dodder blooming... not just tiny little blooms, but relatively good-sized white blooms, way bigger than the thin orange stems supporting them. As of 1998, it has been moved to the morning glory family. Wild.

blooming pickleweed
Salicornia virginica (aka Salicornia depressa, Sarcocornia pacifica)
Amaranthaceae (formerly Chenopodiaceae)

When I first saw the dodder blooms, I thought it was the pickleweed blooming. Nope. Pickleweed has barely noticeable white blooms as shown above, which apparently has allergenic pollen. It, too, has been moved to a new family.

ps 10/07/11 - I wished I had linked to the reference of where I read the pollen was allergenic. I do remember a volunteer-looking fellow had stopped as I was taking these pictures to point out the tiny flowers on the pickleweed. We had a brief quip about how that was unexpected considering the more showy dodder blooms. In any case, the main reason for this postscript is that Wanderin' Weeta states the white stuff on the pickleweed are actually salt crystals, not flowers. I haven't been able to find any information about this. Do you know?

bull and milk thistle ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

bull thistle (left) and milk thistle (right)
Cirsium vulgare (left) and Silybum marianum (right)

posted 09/28/11 - The above are easily identifiable and distinct. However, I recently realized that I often falsely assume look-alike plants do not grow right next to each other. Once I think I've made an ID, I walk by similarly looking plants believing they're all the same. I may have hastily overlooked differences in patches of Clarkia, Delphinium, early leaves of soap plant and death camas, and false Solomon's seal. In upcoming posts, I'll have additional examples of this.

cliff swallow ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

juvenile cliff swallow
Petrochelidon pyrrhonota (formerly Hirundo pyrrhonota)

posted 09/26/11 - This poor little thing had fallen out of its nest. The dutiful parents were still swooping down to feed it even though people were only feet away from the entrance to the nature center building. Judging by the amount of piled poop, I wonder if it was close to being fledged. By the time we returned from our hike the juvenile cliff swallow was gone. Surely it didn't fly away on its own? We went inside to inquire what had happened. One of the volunteers is a wildlife rehabilitator and took the bird. Apparently, there were many things wrong with it, including open sores and a misshaped wing. I know bird lice are common, but that wouldn't necessarily explain the open sores. And, how would one rehab a bird with a misshaped wing? My question was shrewdly evaded by the volunteer.

I've posted pictures of cliff swallows at Elkhorn on 05/13/10 with their distinctive gourd-shaped nests. The volunteers told us that the odd wooden structures in the meadows were built specifically to lure the cliff swallows to nest there, instead of on the nature center and research buildings. It didn't work. That may explain why for a couple years I noticed strips of reflective ribbon exactly where this bird's next was.

ps - I often don't think things through before commenting on others' blog posts. I couldn't figure out why Tree in the Door's Fauna and Flora has pictures of cliff swallows in cup-shaped nests, like what barn swallows have. Duh! I should have noticed the birds were adult and that they were just starting the process of building their nests.

chicory ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

posted 09/16/11 - I'm very fond of this weed. Not only is the light lilac color my favorite, I have cherished memories of when I first saw it in Ohio. During the college years, we lived in a rather poor neighborhood of Cleveland, and this plant, ever the cheerful survivor, would spring up through the cracks in the sidewalks and in abandoned lots. I ignored the rusty hypodermic needles, brown bag wrapped empty bottles, and McD's wrappers strewn about the streets, and I would focus on the thrill of seeing my favorite color. Sonja told me how the roots have been used like coffee. That was the first time it ever hit me that wild plants could be used as food, and this is coming from a girl who grew up on a family farm. My naiveté seems silly now, but I really didn't know much about the world around me. Maybe I still don't. I think I've seen chicory occasionally here in CA, but until now I wasn't sure since it's not often that I see the same plants that live in OH as in CA, even if they're weeds. For what it's worth, chicory supposedly is native to Europe.

curly dock ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

posted 09/12/11 - I usually only notice this non-native (and other Rumex spp.) sticking out by its reddish-brown, erect, mature form. I believe I've seen it frequently in the late summer vernal pools at Fort Ord (the second picture in my post from 08/04/10 shows a good example). I was surprised to discover this is classified as Polygonaceae, the buckwheat family; although, worldwide I think the family is better known as the knotweed family. To my untrained eye, docks seem very, very different from buckwheats. Wikipedia says this originated from Europe and western Asia. Cal-IPC and UC IPM classifies this non-native as a limited invasive weed.

Sigh, I'm still trying to examine my prejudices against non-natives and will probably post more non-natives here on Nature ID. Isn't that the American way? Non-natives making a new life for themselves, surviving and succeeding in a new environment against all odds? Apologies, the media proliferation of the 10-year anniversary of 09/11 is still running through my head, and I'm wondering what it means to me to be a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. If anything, the seed coverings are an interesting form.

field bindweed ~ 07/22/11 ~ Elkhorn Slough

field bindweed / orchard morning glory
Convolvulus arvensis

Seriously, after this post, I think I'm going to stay away from even attempting to identify bindweeds/morning glories. Between Calystegia, Convolvulus, Ipomoea, and Polygonum/Fallopia convolvulus (black bindweed) there are at least 51 sp./ssp./var. in CA with multiple name changes. Of those there are only a handful distinctive enough for non-experts like me to ID on the spot. Based on Wikipedia, I'm guessing this is the narrow leaved Convolvulus arvensis var. linearifolius. As a comparison, see what I think is the broader leaved variety from Hopkins.