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Author Topic: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023  (Read 4035 times)

Robert

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Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« on: April 23, 2023, 06:54:50 PM »
Precipitation has been well above average this year and our local, sufficiently intact, viable natural ecosystems are responding with an explosion of wildflowers. The exuberance of wildflowers is quite apparent on our Placerville, California property.



Our Placerville property can be best classified as a Blue Oak (Quercus douglasii) Savannah ecosystem located in the Upper Sonoran Life Zone. It is situated on an east-facing slope with a dominant serpentine-based soil. These factors--together with climate--influence the mix of plants species found on our property.

Pictured above is a typical springtime scene on our property. The grassland is completely dominated by invasive species. Avena fatua hybrids (Wild Oats), Bromus diandrus (Ripgut Brome), Bromus sterilis (Poverty Brome), Hordeum murinum ssp. murinum (Wild Barley), and Poa bulbosa ssp. vivipara are the most prominent of the invasive grass species. Poa bulbosa ssp. vivipara is a relative newcomer and has proven to be especially troublesome. This noxious species was accidentally introduced on my father’s golf shoe cleats back in the 1980’s and has now spread throughout our property and beyond.



Despite the predominance of invasive grasses and dicots, we still have many native wildflowers. Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus is quite common and frequently forms large drifts on our property.



The light blue forms of Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus are most frequently seen on our property.



Although the light blue forms of Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus may be the dominant form on our property, there is a fair amount of genetic variability in the flower color. I found this white form of Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus growing on the back portion of our property. White forms of this species are not uncommon, but still not frequently seen. I also found some deep blue forms of this species on another part of our property. These are less common. Several years ago I observed a bicolored (pink and blue) chimera of this species. Sadly, a gopher ate the bulb before I could dig it from the ground.



On other portions of our property where the soil can be quite wet, there are large drifts of Ranunculus occidentalis var. occidentalis in full bloom.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
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Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2023, 06:58:13 PM »


In some locations Ranunculus occidentalis var. occidentalis and Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus intermingle with each other creating a delightful combination of colors.



The small flowered annual Lupinus bicolor grows abundantly on our property.



In this scene, Common Fiddleneck, Amsinkia menziesii, is intermingling with Lupinus bicolor.



The perennial Sanicula bipinnatifida prefers semi-shade locations. Pictured is the much more common purple flowered form.



Less common is the Yellow form of Sancula bipinnatifida. The yellow form of Sanicula bipinnatifida can be confused with Sanicula graveolens; however I have never observed this particular Sanicula species on our property. Sanicula crassicaulis and Sanicula bipinnata are two other Sanicula species that grow on our property. The foliage of Sanicula bipinnata is scented like Cilantro and is very pleasant.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2023, 06:59:53 PM »


I am not sure how the perennial Eschscholzia californica arrived on our property, as this species is not generally seen in our area. Much more common in our area is the annual Foothill Poppy, Eschschlzia caespitosa. Less common in our immediate area is the annual Frying Pan Poppy, Eschscholzia lobbii.



I will end with this scene with Amsinkia menziesii and Lupinus bicolor.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2023, 05:14:48 PM »


Yesterday, 8 May 2023, I was able to visit part of the Caldor Fire burn scar area. The site was in the Camp Creek watershed, parts of which were severally impacted by the Caldor Fire. I was very successful accessing some key sites that I have been studying since the 1990’s. I have plenty of field notes and photographs to share. I believe much of the information will be of relevant horticultural interest.

Pictured above is Diplacus kelloggii as seen on this field outing.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2023, 09:04:36 PM »


During the summer and autumn of 2021 the Caldor Fire burned 347 square miles (898 sq. km) of forestland in El Dorado, Amador, and Alpine Counties, California. It was the most destructive fire in this region and one of the most destructive fires in California history. Two-thirds of the hamlet of Grizzly Flats was completely destroyed as well as many cabins and historical sites along Highway 50, the major east-west route through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in this region. The watersheds of the South Fork of the American River and Camp Creek, which provide vital drinking and agricultural water to El Dorado County, suffered extensive damage, which will last for decades.

For most of 2022 the majority of the forestland within the burn scar region was far too dangerous for any detailed botanical survey. Extensive “salvage” logging was taking place as well as the removal of badly damaged trees near roadways and popular hiking trails.

On 8 May 2023, I had my first opportunity to do a detailed survey of a portion of the Camp Creek drainage that I have been studying for decades. I started on the northern ridge above Camp Creek at an elevation of 3,767 feet (1,148 meters), well within the Transition Life Zone of this region.

The geology of this area greatly shapes and influences the plant communities at this site. In this area, the Shoo Fly Terrane consists of Greenschists, and slates, with numerous quartz veins. The soils derived from these parent rocks is generally acidic yet quite capable of supporting healthy forest growth. Many of the quartz veins contain gold; thus there are many old abandoned gold mines in this area.

Temperatures at this elevation during the December through March time period averaged 38.75 F (3.75 C), which is 4.88 F (-2.71 C) below the 18-year average. Precipitation for this area was well above average: 48.44 inches (1,230.38 mm) is the 18-year seasonal average for this area; 72.10 inches (1,831.34 mm) have been recorded so far to date for the 2022-23 precipitation season. This is 161.38% of average to date. Snow cover during the winter and early spring months greatly influences the behavior of the plants and plant communities at this site. I recorded over 101 snow cover days in this area during this precipitation season, a number not seen in decades.

My first impression is the forest plant community appears to have benefited greatly from the fire. The complete area at this site that I have studied extensively in the past burned during the Caldor Fire. Despite the fact that this entire site suffered fire damage, the majority of the forest canopy of coniferous trees remained intact and alive. As a result of the fire, most of the under growth of shrubs and young trees was burned to the ground. The lack of dense shrubby competition has lead to the proliferation of both perennial and annual species on the forest floor.

Many shrubby species are capable of stump sprouting after their tops have been burned away by fire. Regrowth of Indian Manzanita (Arctostaphylos mewukka ssp. mewukka) and Deerbrush (Ceanthus integerrimus var. macrothyrsus) were the most commonly observed species showing strong regrowth on this outing; however, many tree species such as Canyon Live Oak (Quercus chrysolepis), and California Black Oak (Querucus kelloggii) showed healthy basal regrowth.



Viola lobata ssp. lobata was one of many perennial species that benefited greatly from the release of nutrients and additional light provided by the fire. Under the intact forest canopy I observed many blooming plants on this outing.



Viola sheltonii grows abundantly at this site. It is a shade loving species that enjoys growing in summer-dry areas under the forest canopy. The lush plants are summer dormant and completely disappear during the dry summer and autumn months. The yellow flowers of this species are very attractive; however this species blooms very early in the season. I found many developing seed capsules, but no developing flower buds or flowers.



Primula (Dodecatheon) hendersonii is quite at home growing under the high open shade of the coniferous forest canopy. Primula hendersonii exhibits considerable phenotype genetic variation throughout its range in our region. Ecotypes are not unusual. The higher elevation forms bloom considerably later in the season--even in cultivation--and have a very distinctive low, squat habit of growth. Cultivated plants grown from seed at this site bloom later than the low elevation forms of this species yet before the higher elevation forms. Both the high elevations forms and Transition Zone forms of this species are very fertile. Lower elevation forms of this species are frequently sterile or nearly so. One hypothesis regarding the sterility of low elevation forms of this species is that they may be derived from triploid hybrids with Primula clevelandii. Additional research is needed.



As I moved down the ridge into shadier sites, colonies of Asarum hartwegii started to appear. The new growth of this evergreen species was well developed at this time and was very attractive. I did not spot any developing flowers. This seemed unusual, so I hope to follow up on this observation.

Along this section of the canyon, there are numerous small seasonal water drainages and small perennial creeks. In past years I have always recorded Trillium angustipetalum at these sites. I put in considerable effort to find them, however they seemed to have all vanished. Are they emerging late this season?  Did the fire somehow adversely impact them? These are all issues that I would like to resolve.

To be continued….
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

MarcR

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2023, 01:35:55 AM »
Robert,

This is a very interesting and informative thread. Thank you for posting :D

Beautiful location!
Marc Rosenblum

Falls City, OR USA

I am in USDA zone 8b where temperatures almost never fall below 15F -9.4C.  Rainfall 50" 110 cm + but none  June-September.  We seldom get snow; but when it comes we get 30" overnight. Soil is sandy loam with a lot of humus. 
Oregon- where Dallas is NNW of Phoenix

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2023, 06:43:19 PM »
Hi Marc,

I am happy that you are enjoying this thread. The last posting is part of a “warm up” to a series of articles for the IRG Journal. Of course, these articles will be much more detailed, in depth and present some of my latest research findings.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

MarcR

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2023, 04:42:39 AM »
Robert,

I look forward to reading them.
Marc Rosenblum

Falls City, OR USA

I am in USDA zone 8b where temperatures almost never fall below 15F -9.4C.  Rainfall 50" 110 cm + but none  June-September.  We seldom get snow; but when it comes we get 30" overnight. Soil is sandy loam with a lot of humus. 
Oregon- where Dallas is NNW of Phoenix

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2023, 06:46:46 PM »


Trail Plant, Adenocaulon bicolor, is a very common species in lower elevation Transition Zone forests. This perennial Asteraceae species forms rosettes of attractive triangular foliage. The inflorescence consists of panicle-like clusters of inconspicuous white disciform flowers.



Cardamine californica is found in seasonally moist shaded forest. Like Galanthus, it is a harbinger of spring, generally the first species seen blooming in the late winter. At lower elevations it is not unusual to see a few plants in bloom in late December or early January. Cardamine californica is a perennial species, with new growth emerging from a tuber-like rhizome once the autumn rains begin. The white flowers are relatively small but can be produced abundantly and be quite attractive.



As I traveled down the trail, most of the Cardamine plants that I observed had set seed and had well developed seed pods. I found this single specimen with some late flowers. This plant is pictured growing with Viola sheltonii (right). The two species are common companions at this elevation.



The annual species, Claytonia parviflora ssp. grandiflora was growing abundantly along my route. This species appears to have benefited greatly from the fire and the reduction of competition from other plants on the forest floor. The plants were blooming profusely and with its relatively large flowers, the large drifts of plants were very impressive.



As I neared the bottom of the canyon and Camp Creek, the forest began to open and transition to a mix of Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis, and chaparral species such as White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida. Many of the exposed rocky ledges were still saturated with water. Such habitats at this elevation are frequently colonized by dense stands of Erythranthe guttata. When in bloom the whole colony of Erythranthe can become a dense carpet of yellow flowers. I have even observed seasonally wet north facing vertical cliff faces densely covered with blooming plants. It can be an amazing sight.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2023, 06:54:53 PM by Robert »
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2023, 06:50:05 PM »


Here Erythranthe guttata is seen growing perched on a moist rock.



Nearby slopes and screes with less moisture were carpeted with Diplacus kelloggii. Diplacus kelloggii is an annual species that can create an impressive display when in bloom.



At this elevation the annual Erythranthe bicolor can frequently share space with Diplacus kelloggii. The light-dark contrast of the two species blooming together is very dramatic.



In drier habitats along this rocky slope Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus was in bloom. These plants are growing near the high elevation limit for this species. I have observed this colony for decades and the population seems quite stable. In these drier habitats they frequently share space with Gilia capitata ssp. pedemontana, and the rock ferns Pellaea mucronata var. mucronata and Pentagramma triangularis ssp. triangularis.



As I descended farther into the canyon I started to enter a forest dominated by Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis. The fire completely skipped this mature climax forest of evergreen trees. Before entering this forest I observed that the fire to various degrees had damaged many of the oaks. Where the tops of the trees had been completely burned out the trees were sprouting vigorously from the base. Such trees will mature into distinctive multi-trunked trees. It is often possible to estimate the date of the last fire through an area by noting this type of growth and estimating the age of the trees.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2023, 06:10:28 PM »


As I moved from under the dense forest canopy to a more open chaparral/oak savannah-like habitat, there were some excellent views of the opposite canyon face. Here the erratic patchwork pattern of fire damage is very apparent. On the right side of this photograph the oak-pine forest was completely burned by the fire. On the far left side of the photograph the same oak-pine forest was still intact with very little fire impact. Generally the crest of the ridge receives the brunt of the fire damage; however in this case there is a range of damage, from very little to almost complete destruction of the forest vegetation. Wildfire behavior can be extremely unpredictable.



In the area I was currently working there was very little fire damage. I encountered this fine vigorous specimen of Eriophyllum lanatum var. grandiflorum on the south facing canyon wall. I use Eriophyllum lanatum as an indicator species. How this species responds to chronic drought, fire, and other environmental variables gives me clues to the stress levels that a whole plant community, or ecosystem may be experiencing. This species frequently expresses characteristics of stress or vitality before expressions of stress appear in the greater ecosystem.



In our region, Pellaea mucronata var. mucronata is a very common rock fern that is found from the lower portions of the Upper Sonoran Life Zone well into the Transition Life Zone. Here it can be seen sharing space with the annual Erythranthe bicolor. Although Pellaea mucronata is extremely drought tolerant and can persist on parched, exposed, rocky, south facing canyon walls where summertime temperatures can easily reach 100 to 110 F (37.8 to 43.3 C), this species is occasionally found persisting in sites with more moisture. This is one example of how detailed field observations can reveal characteristics that can prove invaluable when developing new, resilient, and adaptable garden varieties. The development of resilient new garden plants is something we need to implement quickly as climatic changes quickly alter our gardening environments.



Polystichum imbricans var. imbricans is another rock fern found in dry, shaded parts of lower Transition Zone forests. Here it can be seen with blooming Erythranthe guttata a moisture loving species. Despite the seasonally moist conditions Polystichum imbricans is almost always found in rocky sites that become very dry during the summer and early autumn months.



I found Calochortus monophyllus blooming in abundance at this site. The yellow flowers displayed a whole range of petal markings and patterns to the nectaries. In our region, this species is found in the Upper Sonoran and lower Transition Life Zones. This species prefers growing on open north facing slopes and under the high broken shade of oaks and pines in rocky, seasonally summer dry habitats. Occasionally this species can be found growing with the creamy-white flowering Calochrtus albus. The creamy-white and bright yellow flowers mingling together are a beautiful and pleasant sight.

In this photograph Calochortus monophyllus can be seen sharing space with the annual Hill Lotus, Acmispon parviflorus. When in bud, the flowers of Acmispon parviflorus are pink, however as the flowers open they will quickly turn creamy-white in color. As with most California native Acmispon species, Acmispon parviflorus prefers growing in relatively dry sites.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2023, 06:16:31 PM by Robert »
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

MarcR

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2023, 08:18:05 PM »
Robert,

I appreciate your thorough & methodical approach.  I realize that you can only report what you encounter on your chosen route; but, I cannot help wondering how much more diversity lies far enough off your path for you to miss it.
Marc Rosenblum

Falls City, OR USA

I am in USDA zone 8b where temperatures almost never fall below 15F -9.4C.  Rainfall 50" 110 cm + but none  June-September.  We seldom get snow; but when it comes we get 30" overnight. Soil is sandy loam with a lot of humus. 
Oregon- where Dallas is NNW of Phoenix

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2023, 07:07:17 PM »


As I descended toward Camp Creek, the trail rounded the point of a ridge and entered a cool, dense coniferous forest dominated by Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii.



As the trail descended quickly to Camp Creek, Heuchera micrantha was seen frequently on the steep, rocky slopes. The foliage of this species can be striking with various patterns of cream and pink along with the standard green leaf coloration. At this location all the plants seen had the typical green leaf coloration.



Maianthemum racemosum was also seen in this cool forest environment. Most of the plants were budded and would be displaying their panicles of white flowers later in the spring. In the autumn the bright red fruits are very showy, contrasting beautifully with the green foliage.



I would have enjoyed exploring the riparian habitat along Camp Creek, but there was not adequate time for this survey. So I started back up toward the crest of the ridge. Here I observed many familiar plant species such as Common Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum var. pomeridianum. The small white flowers on the tall, much-branched inflorescence are said to be fragrant at night. I have never detected this fragrance and I even have several blooming age plants in our home garden that I have inspected frequently at night.



I was very surprised to find Wyethia angustifolia growing at this site. This species is much more common in the Upper Sonoran Life Zone in our region. The yellow flowers are fairly large and showy. This specimen is seen growing with Eriophyllum lanatum var. grandiflorum and Acmispon parviflorus on a steep gravely scree.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2023, 07:10:50 PM »


The succulent rosettes of Dudleya cymosa ssp. cymosa are typically seen growing from rock crevices on steep rocky cliff faces or rocky ledges. The bright, yellow to orange flowers of this species are very striking.



I soon reentered the forested slopes well above Camp Creek. Near a small stream I found a number of specimens of Erythranthe cardinalis with advancing new growth. Typical for this species, the plants were growing in hydric or nearly hydric conditions. Frequently this species can become quite large and is very showy when in bloom with their reddish flowers.



Western Columbine, Aquilegia formosa, was also at home in the riparian habitat.



Vaccinium parvifolium is also found in riparian habitats in the lower portions of the Transition Life Zone of our region. The bright green young twigs and stems of this species are very striking. In the autumn the fruit of this species turns bright red.



At the top of the ridge Iris hartwegii ssp. hartwegii grew abundantly under the high open shade of the forest canopy. It was far too early for this species to be flowering; however I did spot this single specimen in bloom. At some sites in our area this species can be found growing in large, dense and extensive stands. When these large colonies are in bloom there are thousands of flowers.

It was not long and I was back at the auto and time to start my trip back home.

Until the next time…
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Leucogenes

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2023, 10:58:48 AM »
Hello Robert

As you know I follow each of your reports with great interest.

Your two described ferns "force" me to express my enthusiasm. Absolutely fantastic.
I am also currently looking into heat resistant ferns from North America. However, they are from more southern states.

You should try cultivating these two ferns in your own garden. After all, these botanical "dinosaurs" hold great appeal.

Thanks for showing and as always, best of health.

 


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