Friday, February 3, 2012

habitat ~ 02/03/12 ~ Mt. Madonna County Park

Mount Madonna County Park
February 3, 2012

This was an unusual hike in that I rarely go out looking for a specific flower. The last time I did this was July 19, 2010 and July 25, 2010 when we went on hunts for the federally endangered Yadon's piperia. See my fetid adder's tongue post for the cool lily that brought us out to this remote spot at Mt. Madonna.

I wanted redwoods. Andy is much better at maps and GPS coordinates than I am since he's an avid trail runner. We initially hiked up the Ridge Rd. trail because of the Calflora report. There were plenty of oaks and CA bays. After a bit, I didn't think we'd find any FATs, so we backtracked and went on the Sprig trail where there were plenty of redwoods. Bingo! The last picture above is supposedly of Sprig Lake. It looks like a small creek to me, but with the lack of rain we've had this year, it's no wonder. The creek-side willows were just starting to show their fuzzy buds.

Sigh... I have to state that I don't feel comfortable hiking this side of Mt. Madonna by myself. This mountain is known for its drug activity. When we came across a couple eating an orange on the redwood trail, I excitedly asked them if they were into plants. They said, "Sure!" I promptly pulled out my camera to show them my pics of FATs. Their expressions changed. I don't think my plants were the ones they wanted. Recently in the news there was a big pot growing bust with DEA helicopters landing near the Dama dama pens. And thanks to our friendly ranger the first time we camped up here, we know there are also meth labs around. Because I'm nosey and generally inquisitive, I haven't yet decided if I am unobtrusive enough to hike safely through these kinds of areas. This is one of the reasons why I don't hike down in the Big Sur area by myself.

CA bay ~ 02/03/12 ~ Mt. Madonna

California bay / Oregon myrtle
Umbellularia californica

I simply want to document the seasonal changes of the CA bay and show the yellow umbels of this native evergreen tree. To read about my experience of eating ripe bay nuts off the tree, click here. To see all 3 posts about CA bay through the year, click the ca bay label. It's hard for me to believe now, but I never noticed this common tree until I started blogging. Nature ID has served me well for learning about and paying better attention to the local natural world.

fetid adder's tongue ~ 02/03/12 ~ Mt. Madonna

fetid adder's tongue / slink pod
Scoliopus bigelovii
for more information click here and here

Yay! Yay! Yay! It's been a while since I've been this excited about finding a plant in bloom. One of the very cool aspects about following other nature bloggers, especially fairly local ones, is I get turned onto new discoveries. Many thanks to John Wall for his recent post alerting me that fetid adder's tongues are blooming now. In fact, it was one of John's posts this time last year that the name fetid adder's tongue caught my attention for the first time. Then I started seeing other bloggers post about this stunning little lily, and I made a list o' links for my online archive. So, I've been waiting a whole year to see FAT blooms in person. To actually read anything informative about FAT, such as flower parts and its relatively limited distribution, check out the two links in the ID section above "for more information."

I'll continue this post later, but right now I want to get outside to enjoy the beautiful, sunny 64°F!

ps 02/05/11 - For the record, the temperature in Monterey reached 72.3°F on Saturday. I spent most of yesterday morning researching FATs and ran out of time to finish this post. I usually give myself a time limit for creating a post, which hopefully explains why I often feel the need to edit and postscript my crappy writing. However, this time, I got a bit obsessive with finding my own information. I looked at over 240 online pictures (from flickr and CalPhotos, both linked in the common names above). I even created a spreadsheet of the photographic collection data, excluding those without flowers, without location information or specific dates, repeats from the same trip from the same person or from the same hiking group, cultivated plants, and misidentified and potentially incorrectly dated photos. Yep, that's definitely obsessive, and no, I rarely do this for any post on Nature ID.

Perhaps, I should have looked into FATs a little more before heading to Mt. Madonna with the belief that if I didn't get out last week, I would miss my opportunity to see this lily bloom for another year. I truly felt a sense of urgency to get my butt and camera to the nearest redwood grove ASAP. I'm not sure how I got that impression. Come to find out the earliest published record of FAT blooming is December 15 from A California Flora and supplement 1959 & 1973 by Philip A. Munz and David D. Keck. Since I don't have that book as a reference, I found something even better (for me anyways), a flickr photo by G. Dan Mitchell dated December 18, 2009. The latest believable seasonal online reference I found is a flickr photo by Michael Graupe dated March 29, 2008, even though I also found a few photos claiming they were taken at the end of April, May, and even August. While published bloom times vary from January to February or February to March, I found this information to be too vague. From my own photographic survey, I figure the peak bloom period occurs from the last 10 days of January through February and into the first 10 days of March. Well, gee, I guess I didn't need to be in such a rush after all.

For some miscellany...

Several online blogs, photos, and sites commonly state one has to get down on hands and knees to spot this 2" tall lily. Bah! The ones shown in my photos above were easily 6" tall from ground to sepals, with some in the area even taller. I was actually quite surprised by how big they were.

We were undecided between going to Mt. Madonna (Santa Clara Co.) or Nisene Marks (Santa Cruz Co.) for the nearest redwood groves, so I looked at Calflora before we left and discovered they've added a cool new location closeup feature to their site. While redwood forests are the most common habitat, they can also be found in chaparral and other areas, as Katie from PhyteClub shows.

Oh, I included the pic of the banana slug munching on a seed pod above, because I had a good laugh when I found a gardening site state the seed pods are "virtual gastropodic picnic baskets." Unfortunately, I was unable to capture a picture of a tiny fly that checked out several flowers. It didn't look like any of the fungus gnats I've found referenced as pollinators, but it did look like it fit perfectly in the center grooves of the sepals with its head positioned under the anthers. And, no I didn't catch any fetid whiff while I was so close observing the fly.