Thursday, April 10, 2014

bitter root with concrete mite ~ 04/10/14 ~ Pinnacles

Montiaceae (formerly  Portulacaceae)

This gorgeous little bitter root became a running joke, and our proclaimed goal for this hike.  Ken mentioned a while back that I should look for Lewisia at Pinnacles starting the first of April.  I misheard him, and every exchange thereafter became, "Lewisialewisii?  No, LewisiaClarkia lewisii?  No, Lewisia.  I don't think it's found at Pinnacles.  Yes, it is.  Lewis' clarkia?  No, not Clarkia, Lewisia.  It's related to miner's lettuce.  What?  Really?"  That's what you get when multiple plants were named after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.  I would have heard and understood bitter root.  Sigh.  It's also the state flower of Montanta

I wasn't sure what to look for, but the CNPS folks kept their eyes peeled on the scree.  An extra jaunt down another trail, past the Indian warriors, led to success.  Its delicate, girly lilac color positively glows against the mottled, grey rock bits. 

Apparently, little red mites (not the velvet kind) have a thing for bitter root, or at least they do at Pinnacles.  I know very little about mites, except at their mention I tend to think of the Demodex in my forehead.  The split pairs of legs, with two pairs aimed forward and two pairs in back, make me reasonably confident of this ID.  The Balaustium mites are reported to be pollen feeders, which is strange because they're also known as predators and a sucking pest down in Australia.  That's a lot of scleritized mouth specialization for a tiny little animal.  How do they consume the pollen?  Suck on it? 

bitter root leaves

The leaves totally remind me of French green beans.  I held the leaves.  The ones with blooming flowers were actually floppy, which totally surprised me.  These here were still a bit bendy, not super turgid.

bitter root at another location without mites, plus a fly

On the way back down, we found another patch of Lewisia.  We must have overlooked it... but they glow!  These were on the other side of the trail, and the sun hit them differently.  Or, maybe they hadn't been blooming earlier in the day?

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

They really do glow - so pretty. I would never guess in a million years that they're related to miner's lettuce!