Monday, May 28, 2012

habitat ~ 05/28/12 ~ Fort Ord National Monument

May 28, 2012

I've been going out to Fort Ord several times this month of May with various groups and guides. I hope to post more pictures from other outings, so keep an eye on the newest (backdated) entry section above if you don't subscribe to my blog.

This particular outing on Memorial Day was with Dr. David Styer, the 9+ year volunteer who has kept an impressive plant list and has an intimate knowledge of Fort Ord. He goes out every single day and walks a small section and records every blooming plant he sees. I first remember meeting him and his wife Jane on April 1 of this year when Andy and I happened to be out hiking. Apparently, they were both out on the same Army Lands tour that we took last year, but I don't remember particularly meeting them.

The first and last photos above are different views of Mudhen Lake. I questioned David about the difference between lakes and ponds. We talked about the varying temperature differences bottom to top for what qualifies as a lake or a pond. Considering the border plants, I personally view this water feature as a pond. He says a couple years ago this lake/pond dried up completely like a vernal pool. Go figure. For a prettier picture of Mudhen Lake when it had more water, take a look at the 4th  photo from the local BLM office site.

Mudhen Lake is significant for Dr. Styer and by extension Fort Ord National Monument. When I first met David, he told me how he "inherited" the original plant list from Charles "Chuck" Haugen. It was during a volunteer outing pulling invasive weeds when Chuck was stung several times by yellowjackets. He went into anaphylactic shock and died here at Mudhen Lake. David clearly remembers that day, because he was also pulling weeds and knew Chuck well. There is an interpretive sign in memoriam Chuck and his service, which I just posted. I wonder if Chuck was the last to die in service at Fort Ord. It was a good reminder of the more general meaning of Memorial Day.

tall sock-destroyer ~ 05/28/12 ~ Fort Ord


I'm loving the new common name given to this plant by Jepson eFlora. It's very apropos. To see a decent picture of why it could be called a sock-destroyer, check out this photo from CalPhotos.

After looking at numerous online photos of various hedge parsleys, I'm deciding against what David Styer suggested, even though he likely knows the plants of Fort Ord better than anyone else. He thought these were either knotted hedge parsley, aka short sock-destroyer (Torilis nodosa) or CA hedge parsley, aka false carrot (Yabea microcarpa). I compared online pictures with Jepson eFlora descriptions and decided on the tall sock-destroyer ID, because all the flowers and seeds we found here were at the terminal ends of stems (not along the stems like with T. nodosa) and with rays almost the same length (not unequal like with native Y. microcarpa). Since I needed a visual to decipher carrot family part names (like peduncle, ray, and pedicel), I found a great labeled photo of a carrot family member from UBC Biology 324 Blog.

Obviously, hedge parsleys are not the only plants with seeds that stick to fabrics like Velcro. I'm sure their real purpose is to stick to furry animals with equally annoying results to the carrier such that the seeds will be picked at repeatedly until they drop at a new location. David pointed out the similarly looking and closely related bur chervil (Anthriscus caucalis
) and how its seeds have a little pointy end.

creeping snowberry ~ 05/28/12 ~ Fort Ord

creeping snowberry / Southern California snowberry
Symphoricarpos mollis (formerly S. hesperius)

David Styer said he's never seen these bloom so profusely before. I believe he picked trail 49, because he thought it'd be interesting for me to see the variety of plants he found during his previous day's walk along this trail. Had he not named these pretty pink flowers for me, I would have had a difficult time IDing them. I'm still not sure if I could tell the difference between this sp. and the common snowberry (S. albus var. laevigatus). I had expected the creeping snowberry to be, well, more creeping along the ground. They were fairly short, though, maybe 18-24" tall at the most. I now wonder if my ID for the common snowberry at Garland Ranch back in November is correct. Depending on which name is accepted, various sites have different distribution information, like the USDA Plants Profile for S. mollis vs. its profile for S. hesperius.

hairy pink ~ 05/28/12 ~ Fort Ord

petrorhagia / hairy pink
Petrorhagia dubia

This flower has many common names. It's also known as windmill pink, which I think gets people confused since it's also known as wilding pink. For folks with hearing impairments like me, that could easily sound like windmill pink. Both Jane and David Styer pointed out the very large ovary on this flower from two different trips with each as my field guide. I think this must be important, because the MBC CNPS lists from 2010 matches David's list. However, it got changed back to childing pink (Petrorhagia prolifera) for the 2012 list. Which is correct? Or are both spp. growing in the same areas? It's unfortunate that people have taken up to calling this pink grass, which is also another common name for the 3 spp. of Petrorhagia in CA, all non-natives originating from the Mediterranean region.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

habitat ~ 05/19/12 ~ Fort Ord - Army Lands

Fort Ord National Monument
Fort Ord - Army Lands
May 19, 2012

posted 06/04/12 - We took the same style Nature Walk of Fort Ord Army Lands' Impact Area, like we did last year on May 14, 2011. Once again for the 3rd year running, the U.S. Army's Fort Ord Community Relations Office coordinated this special access tour of publicly closed lands with the U.S. Army Fort Ord Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Field Office folks and their "intern" Bart from CSUMB's Coastal and Watershed Science & Policy M.S. program. They also enlisted several volunteers to help lead this year's very large group, including David Styer, his wife Jane, and Sean McStay, Steward of the Fort Ord Natural Reserve (part of the University of California Natural Reserve System). This year was unusual for last-minute coordination with the dedication ceremony of the Fort Ord National Monument, which was being held at the same time through some of the same access roads. I was very impressed with how Bruce Delgado (BLM) and Melissa Broadston (Community Relations) efficiently directed traffic to each event.

Before I write additional details, I should point out to any Nature ID readers that what is presented here comes from my notes of what I believe I heard (remember, I have a hearing impairment) and my own photos from the tour. For official information, visit the following sites: Former Fort Ord Environmental Cleanup (essentially BRAC), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Hollister Field Office (site currently being updated extensively due to several new land designations), and Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) (to be honest, I don't fully understand what they actually do, but I was eagerly offered a phone number from a fellow responsible for the habitat conservation plan for all non-National Monument areas - it's all being politicized and controversialized, so I'm hesitant to comment on it).

I was pleased to be remembered from last year and to hear from Gail Youngblood, BRAC's Environmental Coordinator, that their online cleanup site visits increased significantly coming from my blog (somehow they can track these kinds of things). She asked me to let people know there will be a free guided bus tour (read: safe and easy) on Saturday, June 23 for folks interested in Fort Ord munitions cleanup. I was also happy to see Chris Duymich, BRAC's Prescribed Burn Manager, who is very knowledgeable about the succession of Fort Ord plant species after fires and mechanical disturbances. She let Jane lead the plant IDs. Jane does not waste time. I also received an invitation from Sean, the local UC Steward, for a personal tour of adjacent land, for which I have yet to take him up on his offer.

types of ordnance found at Fort Ord

I've mentioned several times about UXOs at Fort Ord, both on closed Army Lands (the reason why it's taking so long to make lands available to the public) and BLM trails previously opened to the public (e.g., the last picture from this March 20, 2011 habitat post). I know absolutely nothing about explosive weapons, so I can't figure out how a 3 inch (<8 cm) anti-tank rifle grenade can be so large - my hand span from thumb to forefinger is 6 inches (~16 cm). I regularly see small bullets on the trails (e.g., the last picture from this June 30, 2011 habitat post) most often from the InterGarrison side of the BLM lands. I know some people who like to collect the bullets they find on the trails, which I consider rather peculiar. Seeing these massive weapons on display makes me definitely want to stay on designated open trails. Eh-hem, hello, mountain bike riders?

2006 burn area - Munitions Response Site (MRS) 16

Our tour route was a little different from last year's Nature Walk. The 2011 autumn burns (from home it would have looked like this October 8, 2010 burn) were cancelled due to the discovery of surface 155mm and 8 inch rounds (equivalent to 20 lbs. of ammunition in each - Holy Toledo!... or is that holy torpedo?) in the planned burn area. Obviously, there were safety concerns, especially with the potential travel distance of the thick metal casings of such massive explosives. I'm not sure how they're getting the rounds neutralized. As a result, we didn't tour a previous year fire area. I was slightly bummed, because I wanted to see fire poppies again. Although, David Styer told me that this spring he spotted a few fire poppies in a 2010 burn area, and they were all finished blooming by now.

2003 burn area - Units 43-48

So, after seeing the ordnance display and knowing we were entering the razor fenced area shown in the first picture of this post (a 2008 Unit 18 burn area, which hasn't been completely cleared of UXOs), I was a little nervous about traversing this section of the tour. As you can see we had plenty of guides, including BRAC's munitions safety fellow Lyle. In the distance are the 2003 burn units, some of which are proposed to be made into commercial or residential areas. Like I said last year, this area is very sandy and can't be compared plant-wise with other units, although most of the rarer plants are here.

the bunker

I didn't get a close pic from last year, so here's one. This is not one of the bunkers that is shown on every PDF trail map of Fort Ord. The solar-powered, tall antenna is for GPS, which BRAC and contractors utilize extensively to map Impact Areas.

2009 burn area - Unit 19

In the first pic of this 2009 burn area, the line at the base of the sandy hills used to have train tracks for soldiers to practice shooting at moving targets. The second pic is to show what I believe could be a vernal pool in a transition area from sand to clay, the two predominant soil types found at Fort Ord.

2008 burn area - Unit 22

Here are pics to compare with last year's 2008 burn area (click photos 4, 8, and 9). Considering the lack of rain this winter, it's not as lush green and the vernal pool is completely dried. Interesting thing though, the flowers in bloom were pretty much the same, perhaps just not as many of them.

Sigh, this was a surprisingly difficult post for me to write. I took way too many notes with all my May tours of Fort Ord. Quite frankly, I'm Fort Orded and grouped out to the max. If I can find time and get back into ID mode, I hope to post individual IDs of new flowers (and animals) for Nature ID. Lately, I've simply been enjoying any time outdoors, alone and away from people, without notes, without camera, and without computers.

windmill pink ~ 05/19/12 ~ Fort Ord

Jane pointed out how the petals look like little windmills, hence the name. I hope I'm not showing off my ignorance too much, but I wonder if those round structures on the stem below the flowers are buds or seeds. Which direction do these flowers bloom? From the bottom up, or from the top down? My orchids bloom from the bottom up, and my columbine blooms from the top down - two very different kinds of plants. Caryophyllaceae is a new family on Nature ID. Jepson's calls it the pink family, but the Styers refer to it as the carnation family.

the Spirit of Service ~ 05/19/12 ~ Fort Ord National Monument

Charles "Chuck" Haugen

Mudhen Lake

Fort Ord National Monument
May 19, 2012

I took the opportunity right after this year's Fort Ord Army Lands tour (posts yet to come) to drive down Eucalyptus Road to Jacks Road, which were open to the public due to the dedication ceremony for the Fort Ord National Monument that was being held at the same time. I was too late for the ceremony, but it was nice to drive to a location that I have never hiked from the BLM Creekside entrance to Fort Ord. I talk about Chuck's significance for Dr. David Styer in another post from May 28, 2012.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

oneleaf onion ~ 05/13/12 ~ Fort Ord

oneleaf onion
Allium unifolium
Alliaceae (formerly Liliaceae)

posted 06/09/12 - I think this is one of the prettiest onions around. I particularly like the tapered shape of the filaments (structures that hold the light-yellow, pollen-bearing anthers) and the delicate pink color gradation. Because the flowers reminded me so much of superficial crosses between Triteleia, Brodiaea, and Toxicoscordion, all of which were also once placed in the lily family, I went on a futile search of Themidaceae and Melanthiaceae and totally ignored the onion-like appearance. The next time I'm crying my eyes out as I'm cutting up a cooking onion, I'll try to remember how beautiful the flowers can be.

coast dandelion ~ 05/13/12 ~ Fort Ord


posted 06/09/12 - I don't have an absolutely positive ID on this dandelion, since it was not from one of my three May guided tours of Fort Ord (easy-peasy for IDs) but rather through Andy, my anywhere running cam (as one kind blog reader called him). There are 4 spp./var. of Agoseris listed for Fort Ord, which on the surface look quite similar. The tricky part is the wide, large, serrated, and deeply lobed leaves in the center of the second pic do not belong to the flowers. If you follow the stems down from the flowers, there are small clumps of thin, lobed leaves, hence how I went about this ID.

Friday, May 11, 2012

habitat ~ 05/11/12 ~ Fort Ord National Monument

Fort Ord National Monument
aka on Nature ID as Fort Ord - BLM InterGarrison and Fort Ord - BLM Creekside
and eventually parts of Fort Ord - Army Lands
May 11, 2012

This was a most unusual excursion for me, hence why I'm publishing this habitat post before the specific IDs. The IDs will follow in the coming days and will be linked in the section above or scrolled down to be read below.

On April 20, 2012, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation to designate the Fort Ord BLM and Army Lands (only the areas set for open space) as a National Monument. I've linked to all my location posts above that will be included in this new moniker. Plus, there's already a 3-year-old Fort Ord Dunes State Park, and the local California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) has been around for 17 years on former Army Lands. And as I learned recently, there's a University of California Fort Ord Natural Reserve (UC Natural Reserves) managed by the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). However, the rest of the former Fort Ord Army Lands (almost half; it was a very big place) is set for housing and commercial use across city borders and county lands, which continues to create endless local controversy.

Then, yes, despite my protests over the years, I have finally joined a group - the Monterey Bay Chapter (MBC - my acronym) of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). I've already been to my first monthly meeting and found the people to be very sociable, knowledgeable, and (pardon if I offend anyone) not all as old as I thought they'd be. They threw out scientific names that left my head spinning, but I was surprised at how much I already knew from doing Nature ID. I've thought about why I decided to join this "society" as affable Brian LeNeve pointed out while I proclaimed my hesitation to join any group. Truth be told, thanks to webmaster Chris Hauser, who redesigned the local chapter's website, I easily discovered the calendar of the hikes local CNPS members have, often on private land. Oooh! As you'll notice, about 95% of my locations on Nature ID are from publicly accessible lands. Private access and discount on books convinced me to throw in my $45 for the year. So, there you have it.

As a result, this hike was posted on the calendar as being led by California State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO; there's also a Cal Poly Pomona) professors David Keil and Matt Ritter. I signed up and was told that Bruce Delgado (BLM Botanist and Marina Major - hmm, he'll readily admit that he tries to stay out of conflicts of interest since the city of Marina gets part of the Fort Ord lands) would lead us to the current best vernal pool spots. Little did I suspect that at least 20 Cal Poly undergrads, numerous UCSC grad students, and various other professional folks would also be in attendance. We all rode in a big red fancy bus during the tour with a couple stops here and there. I didn't speak to Dr. Keil (Emeritus Professor), but he is admired by many. Dr. Ritter (Associate Professor) seemed to be absorbing all the information presented as if he were a student. Most of the plant information came from 9-year+ volunteer David Styer, who, in his words, "keeps the official plant list for Fort Ord", which numbers at around 900 species so far. Unfortunately, it is not all included in the official 2012 MBC CNPS Fort Ord BLM Area, Seaside and Marina plant list. I happened to meet Dr. Styer (a former math professor) previously while hiking from the InterGarrison entrance on April 1, 2012 (posts not up on Nature ID, yet).

Matt introduced this tour as the 100th year inaugural phytogeographical excursion of the California Botanical Society (CBS), which are also known as phyto-jogs. There will be 5 phyto-jogs this year across CA. Although, I believe there's already been a joint SoCal chapters' CNPS phyto-jog done down in Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden this past March 10th. I'm still trying to figure out the difference between CBS and CNPS.

Butterfly Valley
the most diverse vernal pool and mima mound area at Fort Ord

I believe this mima mound area of Butterfly Valley is off-limits to the public and is on cleared Army Lands. The trail down to it is covered with branches to keep the mountain bikers out. It's also where they trap wild California pigs. I'd hate to be the volunteer who has to carry the several hundred pound dead pig up the hill over the bramble of branches. I'll post special IDs from this location later.

Engineer Canyon Road

David Styer said through his many years of taking inventory, he's found the north-facing slopes seem to have more diversity. He's separated out Fort Ord into around 70 sectors merely based on divisions by roads, not habitats. According to Dr. Styer, this part of Engineer Canyon Road (which is close to where Andy and I used to access Fort Ord before the Creekside entrance was built) has the most plant diversity than any of his other sectors. One of the grad students is hoping to describe a new Fritillaria sp. from here. I'm going to contact him to see if it's okay to post pictures of a plant he's yet to officially describe. If you click on the picture above, there's a fellow with a large white plastic bag filled with collected plants. While some were picking and pressing plants for additions to herbaria collections, I noticed several students simply making cute little bouquets of rare flowers. Seeing the quickly wilting bouquets disturbed my sensibilities, because I was taught never to pick wildflowers.

view of Toro County Park and Mt. Toro

Several of my Fort Ord habitat posts feature vistas of Toro County Park and Mt. Toro in the distance. I have yet to visit either place. Once or twice a winter, including late this past dry winter, Mt. Toro is dusted with snow, which is quite beautiful. It can best be seen from a boat on the Monterey Bay but also from the Hwy 68 ramp off Hwy 1 towards Salinas and, eh-hem, our kitchen window. My favorite view is during peak spring green, like it was on March 14, 2009.

Um, have you read this far, yet? So, I have a dilemma, and I hope to hear some feedback. We signed up for another Fort Ord Army Lands tour for this next Saturday, like we did last year. Unfortunately, the dedication ceremony for the Fort Ord National Monument will be held within the same time and almost at the same place (map to ceremony, but reservations were needed). This seemed like poor coordination between all the different agencies involved. Oh, did I mention it will also be CSUMB's graduation ceremony day? The traffic will be unusually heavy. Andy and I are undecided about which event to attend. We've done the Army Lands burned area tour already, but it would be nice to see the changes after a year, especially after an unusually dry winter. Then, again, how often is a place designated as a National Monument? The ceremony could be really boring with a bunch of endless speeches without any real information. Your opinion?

fritillary ~ 05/11/12 ~ Fort Ord

possible new to science fritillary
Fritillaria sp.

Master's Student Sean Ryan from California State University, San Diego (aka San Diego State University) believes this may be an undescribed species of Fritillaria. Checker lily (Fritillaria affinis), which I've only seen once at Garland Ranch, tends to have wider leaves and is the only Fritillaria currently recorded from Fort Ord. I received Sean's permission to post these pictures online just in case it does end up being a new species. He said something about this fritillary being dispersed through bulblets, but then my notes got iffy as I was focusing more on taking pictures. Sean took the seed pod back to SDSU for study. I believe he attended this field trip since he did his undergraduate work at Cal Poly SLO and is still in contact with his former professors. I'll be curious to hear back from him with his findings.

vernal pool bent grass ~ 05/11/12 ~ Fort Ord

vernal pool bent grass
Agrostis lacuna-vernalis

I'd offer additional ID links to this newly described species, but it has yet to show up on or the CNPS Inventory of Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Plants of California, which I suspect will be included at some point. As you can tell by the several boots in the background, everyone and their brother were taking pictures of this diminutive grass. Apparently, very few pics have found their way to online search engines. I've been contacted by a SLO CNPS rare plant coordinator to have my pictures of the vernal pool bent grass added to CalPhotos. Phooey, you know I really do not like joining things, but I'm finally giving in after several encouragements from various contacts and will become a CalPhotos contributor... if only I can figure out how to shrink my photos to the size they require.

marsh scorzonella ~ 05/11/12 ~ Fort Ord

According to David Styer, we were about an hour and a half too late to see this rare flower in full bloom. He must be out here quite a bit to know that information. It looks very much like the typical weedy dandelion. While the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is also found at Fort Ord, David said the marsh scorzonella is easily confused with cat's ears (Hypochaeris glabra and Hypochaeris radicata), which are also on his Checklist of Vascular Plants of Fort Ord, California. Geez, I never fully appreciated how many kinds of plants look like dandelions.

popcorn flower ~ 05/11/12 ~ Fort Ord

Hickman's popcorn flower
Plagiobothrys chorisianus var. hickmanii
CNPS 8th Edition Inventory

This post is for Graeme, because he asked about it. I know for certain this is the uncommon Hickman's popcorn flower with 3 of our 4 field guides (people, not books) confirming its ID in Butterfly Valley. Speaking of which, as I was searching for additional information, I know for sure that this spot of land is, in fact, on Army Lands and consists of Mima mounds and 6 vernal pools. Hickman's popcorn flower is not an easy flower to identify to sp., let alone to variety, since many look very similar. According to there are 68 records of spp./var. of Plagiobothrys in CA, and depending on whose list one references (CNPS or David Styer's) there are anywhere from 4 to 7 spp./var. of popcorn flowers found at Fort Ord. I've seen popcorn flowers grow much taller than shown here, but then again, they could have been different spp., or it could have been a result of our unusually dry winter. To see exactly how tiny this flower is, compare it to my dwarf brodiaea pictures.

dwarf brodiaea ~ 05/11/12 ~ Fort Ord

dwarf brodiaea
Brodiaea terrestris ssp. terrestris
2011 online Jepson description
Themidaceae (aka Asparagaceae and formerly Liliaceae)

This was my favorite flower from the entire excursion (even though I keep spelling it incorrectly). It was everywhere in the Butterfly Valley vernal pool. I've seen it before, but never knew what it was. The pic with my finger is to show how tiny and close to the ground these beautiful flowers grow. And of course, I had to include one of the several white versions I found, which I pointed out to several students. One fellow who is into plant genetics said that the white versions of flowers are due to a gene being knocked out (don't really know how that happens, and I didn't hear the rest of his explanation).

For the ssp., I'm using the printed list that David Styer passed around. I'm also now including the new 2011 Jepson online descriptions in my IDs, even though it's linked from my usual embedded links to in the scientific plant names. Plus, as I go through plants, I'll be changing all the family names to the 2011 Jepson version, versus the APG versions that are often used on Wikipedia. Jepson seems to be the bible of CA plants for CNPS.

ps 05/21/12 - As Graeme of Imperfect and tense asked in the comments, the even tinier, white Primula-looking sp. growing with the dwarf brodiaea is Hickman's popcorn flower (Plagiobothrys chorisianus var. hickmanii) in Boraginaceae. Click here to see my other popcorn flower posts.