Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Spring colors from Clark Fork of the Stanislaus River (in the Other California)

Pride of the Mountain (Penstomen newberryi)

Today's post is a brief collection of the spring wildflowers we saw while we explored Donnell Vista and Clark Fork of the Stanislaus River over Memorial Day weekend. As many of you know well, I'm no botanist, so I freely accept corrections to my identification of particular flower species. I spend weeks in my mineralogy labs trying to get my students to identify their lab specimens by keying them out, but they'll often go right to the book and compare their sample with pictures. So how do I identify wildflowers? Keying them out? Of course not! I go to a wildflower book and flip pages until I find a similar picture....

I've been seeing the bright pink Penstomen species Pride of the Mountain growing in granite roadcuts for years without sitting down and identifying the species (top picture). They must be pretty extraordinary because alpine granite soils must be one of the least fertile growth environments in existence. There isn't much clay to store nutrients, the growing season is very short, and the water can't persist all that long in the small granite crevices, and yet these flowers seem to explode out of the barren rock.
Pussypaws (Calyptridium umbellatum)

Pussypaws are another extraordinary survivor, growing in barren stretches of sandy granitic soil where little else can grow.
Pussypaws (Calyptridium umbellatum)

The flowers are small and the colors muted from a distance, but this trip I got down on my belly and took a closer look. From this perspective, the flowers reveal a world of color and intricate patterns.
Pussypaws (Calyptridium umbellatum)

Spreading Phlox was another flower growing in the harsh environment of granitic soils (which, by the way, is called grus).
Spreading Phlox (Phlox divaricata)

In the deep forests along Clark Fork we saw a lot of Snow Plants (Sarcodes sanguinea). These are strange organisms that have no chlorophyll and must depend on fungus in their root system to make available the nutrients they survive on. They survive off of organic material in the forest soils.
Snow Plants (Sarcodes sanguinea)

Snow Plant (Sarcodes sanguinea)

Iceberg Meadow was covered with what I think were Water Plantain Buttercups (Ranunculus alismifolius).
Water Plantain Buttercup (Ranunculus alismifolius)

And finally, we found what I think is Pacific Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum grande) growing at the margin of Iceberg Meadow. The flowers were small, but the blue color was striking.  
Pacific Hound's Tongue (Cynoglossum grande). Photo by Mrs. Geotripper

1 comment:

Gwen Emens said...

Very nice.............