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Author Topic: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023  (Read 4030 times)

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #30 on: September 29, 2023, 07:36:52 PM »


Signs of adverse weather were everywhere. The older needles on a small grove of Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta ssp. murrayana) had been knocked to the ground prematurely. At one point I encountered a backpacker leaving the high country. He reported that there had been an intense hail storm the previous evening.



One of my target species on this trip was Lake Tahoe Lupine, Lupinus argenteus var. meionanthes, known for its silvery foliage and showy racemes of blue to lilac colored flowers. The photograph shown is from a previous trip to this area. Almost all the plants I observed on this outing were battered and partly defoliated by the severe weather.



Signs of severe erosion were everywhere as I continued along the trail.



In protected sites, there were still patches of snow from the previous winter season. Large snowfields still clung to the steep north facing slopes of the high peaks. The larger snowfields would likely persist into the coming snow season.



There was little or no erosion on the grassy slopes and other well vegetated areas. Squirrel Tail Grass (Elymus elymoides var. elymoides) and California Needle Grass (Stipa occidentalis var. californica) were the most common bunch grasses in these open grassy expanses.
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 #31 on: September 29, 2023, 07:40:12 PM »


Sierra Beardtongue (Penstemon heterodoxus var. heteroduxus) was seen frequently along this route. The plants were bashed and battered by the hailstorm yet still retained a few flowers.

This species grows well in our Sacramento garden; however it does not bloom consistently for us, especially during summers with long periods of extreme heat. Our strategy is to grow numerous accessions from seed representing as much genetic variability as possible. Single specimens and inbred plants are avoided. These plants are then allowed to cross breed with each other in our garden and superior adaptable selections are made. This process has been used successfully with other Penstemon species in our garden.



Another species persisting in bloom despite the hail was Bridge’s Gilia, Ipomopsis aggregata ssp. bridgesii. This subspecies is quite showy when seen in full bloom.



A number of specimens of Dinnerplate Thistle, Cirsium scariosum var. americanum, were spotted along the trail. [Jasmin:  Examine carefully; it looks very similar to the starfish, Pycnopodia helianthoides.] I have logged three Cirsium species along this route; the upright and taller growing Anderson’s Thistle, Cirsium andersonii, being the showiest species.



The weather was deteriorating and my botanical prospects seemed poor. I decided to leave the area and visit Monitor Pass to the North.



I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping to revisit sites where a number of Phlox species grow; Phlox hoodii var. canescens and Phlox condensata being two of the prime species I was hoping to revisit again.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2023, 07:45:35 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

Yann

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #32 on: October 01, 2023, 07:45:47 PM »
What's the altitude of the pass? we can still see few snow.
North of France

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #33 on: October 01, 2023, 10:00:03 PM »


My last stop on this outing was at Monitor Pass, 8,314 feet (2,534 meters).  Monitor Pass is situated on a north-south mountain chain between the East Fork of the Carson River to the west and Antelope Valley with the West Walker River to the east. Monitor Pass crosses the mountain divide south of Leviathan Peak, 8,963 feet (2,732 meters) and encompasses many typical Great Basin/Big Sagebrush/East-Side (Sierra Nevada crest) mountainous habitats. Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata) and at least 5 other species and varieties of Artemisa can be found in this area and are the dominant plant species for this region.



Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata var. tridentata) is also a very commonly seen species and is frequently associated with Artemesia tridentata. Many species of Goldenbrush (Ericameria) and Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus) are also regularly seen in this region.



Many plant species that are generally dormant by the end of the hot summer season were still green. Woolly Mule’s Ears (Wyethia mollis), which normally has dried tattered foliage by the end of the summer, was still green.



In the highlands near the summit, Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) is often seen among widely scattered stands of Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi).



Over the last 25 years persistent drought and destructive wildfires have severely altered the ecosystems and plant communities in this area. Even after more than a decade, young seedlings of coniferous trees are rarely seen. In the most damaged areas highly invasive grasses such as Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and Medusa Head (Elymus caput-medusae) have come to dominate many habitats and are instrumental in increasing the risk of catastrophic wildfires into the future.
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 #34 on: October 01, 2023, 10:02:58 PM »


Monitor Pass in approached from the east through Antelope Valley and the West Walker River. Antelope Valley is Cattle Country. Large tracts of irrigated land are devoted to hay crops and pastureland for Beef Cattle. Cattle ranching has dominated the Great Basin region since the mid-1950’s and has highly altered the ecosystems and plant communities of the whole Great Basin region.



Most of the region surrounding Antelope Valley has been livestock rangeland for well over 150 years. The picturesque Slinkard Valley, west of Antelope Valley, is an example of how cattle ranching has altered the ecosystems on the east side of Monitor Pass. The steep terrain surrounding the valley is inaccessible, for the most part, to cattle. Here many of the natural plant communities are still intact.



This scene on high terrain above Antelope Valley looks lush; however range cattle and wildfires have changed the plant communities dramatically. Cheat Grass and other invasive plant species now dominate what was once a native Sagebrush/Perennial bunchgrass plant community.



Fortunately many of the higher elevation plant communities are still intact. Pictured is a typical Single Leaf Pinyon Pine ecosystem.



Single Leaf Pinyon Pine (Pinus monophyllus) is an attractive, squat growing tree. I enjoy this tree immensely, and have a specimen of this species growing in our Sacramento garden from seed I gathered about 10 years ago from this area.
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 #35 on: October 01, 2023, 10:06:42 PM »


Penstemon deustus var. pedicellatus is a mat forming species found growing in volcanic soils on the east side of Monitor Pass. This species, as well as other varieties of this species, have performed well in our Sacramento garden. They form attractive tight buns of evergreen foliage and are quite at home with our intense summertime heat.



Lilium kelleyanum is found in moist riparian habitats on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This species possesses a great deal of genetic diversity. The flower color and markings of this species are quite variable. Fragrance is an added bonus with this species.



Vast areas of forestland have burned on both the east and western approaches to Monitor Pass. The western slopes receive more moisture than the eastern slopes, thus much of the forested areas have denser stands of trees. At the higher elevations significant groves of White Fir (Abies concolor) can be found.



On the western approaches to Monitor Pass many native plant communities are still intact. Here, even late in the season, a few flowers of Prickly Poppy (Argemone corymbosa) were seen.



I arrived at the East Carson River late in the day. I still had a long drive home to Sacramento. There was not enough time for me to stop for photographs; however the dense stands of wild Hairy Leaved Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) filled the moist ditches lining the highway. The large displays of yellow flowers were a memorable sight.
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 #36 on: October 01, 2023, 10:08:40 PM »


From Monitor Pass. 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

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #37 on: October 01, 2023, 10:11:06 PM »
Hi Yann,

Sonora Pass has an altitude of 9,624 feet, 2,933 meters. Many of the peaks in the area approach or exceed 3,500 meters. The north slopes of the high peaks still had large snowfield. Yesterday, 30 September, the first snow of the season fell in the Sonora Pass area. Needless to say, these snowfields will not melt completely this season.

The geology of the Sonora Pass area is complex, thus a large diversity of plants species can be found. There are significant shifts in the vegetation where massive mountainous blocks of andesite give way to plutons of granite. I carry binoculars with me when doing field botany. For me, using binoculars to spot unusual rock formations or geological features is very useful. Some of the most interesting plants are found where there are no trails and where unique features can be spotted with the aid of binoculars.
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 #38 on: October 10, 2023, 05:02:54 PM »


Recently, here in Northern California, we have been experiencing a period of “Indian Summer” weather. Until yesterday, 9 October, temperatures have been running 10 to 15 F (5.6 to 8.3 C) above the 30-year average and the weather has been dry.

During this time period, I had an opportunity to conduct a detailed survey of the upper Lyons Creek Basin in the aftermath of the 2021 Caldor Fire.

Pictured: Lake Sylvia



Large portions of the upper Lyons Creek Basin were severely impacted by the Caldor Fire. The ecology and ecosystems of the burn scar areas were significantly altered from their previous state of equilibrium with many new patterns of vegetation emerging.



Despite the new and highly alter state of the coniferous forest ecosystem, many interesting plants were observed. I currently have other writing projects that I need to complete. So as a result, I will slowly present a full report on this survey over the coming weeks.

Pictured is Castilleja nana in bloom with Calyptridium monospermum and Eriophyllum lanatum var. integrifolium in the background.
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

ian mcdonald

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #39 on: October 10, 2023, 05:36:04 PM »
Thanks for your continued reports on your area Robert. The weather in this part of the UK has been cool and wet since June. The local river is much above the Summer levels just now, following several days of steady rain.  I wonder if you ever meet any of the indigenous people on your travels.

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2023
« Reply #40 on: October 11, 2023, 04:59:58 PM »
Hi Ian,

Thank you for your support and encouraging comment!

Jasmin and I always enjoy and are fascinated by your postings. Jasmin’s comments to me are generally along the lines of “Ian McDonald has a new posting, come take a look!” Your photographs are so detailed and frequently very fascinating.

The relationship between native and colonial people in the U.S.A. can be very sensitive given the appalling treatment colonial people inflicted on native people in the past. Maybe thinking in terms of the Sami in far Northern Europe or the Ianu people of Japan? I just do not know. I believe it is best for native people to speak for themselves and tell their stories in their own words from their perspective.

Recently I read a book entitled “Project 562”. The book is about contemporary Native Americans. There was one chapter about a Native American hiking group in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. They hiked the “John Muir Trail”, however for them it is an ancient ancestral route that pre-dates John Muir by many centuries. I have never knowingly met any of these people when in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Yesterday, 10 October, late in the afternoon and into the evening we received the first significant autumn rainstorm of the season. The smell of the morning air was such a delight and the rain lightly watered the garden.

This summer was the coolest since 2019 with June through September temperatures averaging 73.03 F (22.79 C). This temperature is slightly above the 30 average of 72.87 F (22.71 C). The summertime heat has been so extreme over the last 3-4 years. It was nice to have a relatively cool summer.

Currently, fairly strong El Niño conditions are predominant in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Generally this would translate, in our region, into a wet but very warm winter pattern with very high snow levels in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When the autumn switch over occurs where SSTs (surface sea temperatures) are warmer than land temperatures we will have a better indication, which pattern might prevail this winter. But there are certainly no guarantees, and as stated by many climate scientists, the Earth’s climate is in  “uncharted territory”. 2023, the Earth as a whole, has a good chance of being the warmest on record since the Mid-Holocene warm period ~ 6,000 years ago. Maybe even before this time period. Developing a resilient garden and gardening techniques is a priority in our garden.
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 #41 on: October 15, 2023, 06:54:15 PM »


During the first week of October we experienced a period of ‘Indian Summer’ weather, characterized by warm sunny days and cool nights. This provided the perfect opportunity for me to conduct a survey of the Upper Lyons Creek Basin. This was my first comprehensive survey of the area in the aftermath of the 2021 Caldor Fire, which caused extensive damage to a large portion of the forestland of El Dorado County.

I departed from the trailhead in the pre-dawn twilight. I was a bit disoriented when I arrived at the trailhead, as a portion of the forestland near the trailhead had been cleared of trees to create a firebreak to help contain the Caldor Fire. Other than the initial firebreak, the forest was intact and appeared unchanged from its past stable state.

All seemed normal during the first ¼ mile (.40 km) of my trek. As the trail departed from the flat dry-type meadowland and began to rise toward the next meadow system, the trail had changed dramatically from its former condition. The results of heavy vehicle and fire fighting equipment use had turned the narrow footpath into a primitive dirt road. This track abruptly ended, as a burned landscape appeared before me in the pre-dawn twilight.



To provide some context to my long-term relationship with this area:  My first trip to this area occurred in 1960. When I learned to drive and had an auto during the early 1970’s I would visit this area frequently. It is only an hour drive from our Placerville farm. During the late afternoon after work, I frequently drove here to enjoy the scenery and study the flora. Over many years, I became very familiar with this area during all its seasons and moods, as I felt comfortable trekking here even over the deep snow of winter. In reality, visiting this particular area is more akin to visiting a dear old friend.



Although the trail was still very familiar, the vastly altered landscape was disorienting. The original complex of various meadow ecosystems punctuated by fingers of forestland had been erased, and replaced by new pioneer ecosystems, and the blackened charred remains of the coniferous forest.



As sunrise approached it became apparent that much of the area had become a dense grassland dominated by native perennial bunchgrasses, and a vast variety of native perennial flowering meadow species scattered among the grasses. There were very few open spaces. However, in these open niches young conifer seedlings had germinated quickly after the fire and were making good growth.



The previous winter had been very wet and the release of nutrients from the fire had created very dense stands of vegetation. Other than the conifer seedlings found in the few niche openings in the dense vegetation, I found limited indications of forest regrowth within the dense stands of vegetation.

Within this region the growth and density of meadowland species varies from season-to-season depending on the winter snowpack and summertime thunderstorm/precipitation activity. The renewal of the forest and meadowland ecosystems will depend on these variables, as well as the characteristics of the new surface energy budget created by the loss of the forest canopy, changes in the emissivity of the atmosphere, and other changes in atmospheric conditions cause by anthropomorphic climatic change.

The destruction of forestland due to catastrophic wildfires during the past 15 years has caused large alterations in the ecosystems and landscape of California. Climatic shifts favoring prolonged periods of intense drought have hindered the ability of forest ecosystems to return to their previous state of climax forest equilibrium. This altered state of forest evolution is quite apparent on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where burned-over Pinyon Forest ecosystems have been very slow to recover from wildfire damage. How west slope forest ecosystems, such as the Lyons Creek Basin, respond from the new environmental conditions will be followed closely in the years to come.
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 #42 on: October 18, 2023, 05:03:44 PM »


Before the Caldor Fire, the low elevation portions of the Lyons Creek Basin consisted of repeated successions of both wet and dry meadow ecosystems broken by areas of coniferous forest dominated by Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta ssp. murrayana. A large variety of perennial bunchgrass and perennial grass-like species occupy various habitat niches based on moisture levels, soil types, and exposures unique to each meadow classification. Now that the fire has burned through this area many of these vegetation patterns have been thrown into disarray.

The following are the most common bunchgrasses found in these habitats:

Pictured above, Stipa occidentalis var. californica is found abundantly in dry to mesic meadow habitats throughout the lower portions of the basin.



Trisetum projectum is another commonly found perennial bunchgrass species found in meadows and lightly forested portions of the basin.



Calamagrostis canadensis var. canadensis is a moisture loving species. The species is a strong indicator species signaling the presence of an abundant perennial source of water in the immediate area. At times this species can be found in hydric to near hydric soil conditions.



Greenhead Rush, Juncus chlorocephalus, is a small cespitose species found on the margins of moist meadows and lightly forested areas. This species has the habit of being flattened by the winter snow, creating a distinct rotate pattern of dried foliage, which appears each spring after the snow melts and before the new foliage begins to emerge.



The flower heads of Juncus chlorocephalus have a unique white-green color, which is quite attractive.
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 #43 on: October 23, 2023, 07:02:46 PM »


Meadow Barley, Hordeum brachyantherum ssp. brachyantherum, is yet another common meadow species found in the mesic type meadow systems of the Lyons Creek Basin.

One could easily spend a lifetime examining the diversity of species in each of the various meadow type ecosystems in this area. The diversity of grasses and grass-like plant species in these meadow systems is very large. Each species and associated species fills specific niches in each meadow type ecosystem.

In the aftermath of the Caldor Fire, this ecological balance was thrown into disarray. For example, many Viola species common to the various meadow ecosystems were scarce or not observed at all. The elimination of the coniferous forest canopy allowed grasses and other species to aggressively colonize areas that were once dominated by many other species of plants such as Viola.



California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana, was a fairly common species in the Lyons Creek Basin before the Caldor Fire. However, the release of nutrients, additional sunlight, and other factors after the fire allowed this perennial species to spread aggressively by underground rhizomes. Under these optimal conditions many of the plants I previously observed have expanded rapidly in size, to create large, vigorous colonies.



The additional sunlight allowed many of the deciduous species to display vibrant autumn leaf colors as the nighttime temperatures dropped to freezing. In now sunny locations, Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus, was showing exceptional bright yellow autumn leaf color.



The two-toned leaf colors of green and red on Drymocallis lactea var. austinae were quite striking.



My destination on this day was Lake Sylvia at the base of Pyramid Peak. As I moved into higher terrain Pyramid Peak (peak on right side of the photograph) came into view through the charred standing remains of the burned conifers.
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 #44 on: October 27, 2023, 08:08:57 PM »


I continued on my trek through the transformed alternating meadow/forest ecosystems. At about 7,400 feet (2,256 meters) elevation the terrain and habitat changes dramatically as the trail rises and traverses through an open, sunny, steep rocky slope near the upper end of the Lyons Creek Basin.



Here the vegetation changes dramatically and many alpine and subalpine species appear.

Bridges’ Cliff Brake, Pellaea bridgesii, is quite common nestled among the rocks in this fell field environment.



Although plentiful in the dry meadow habitats in the lower portions of the basin, Frosted Buckwheat, Eriogonum incanum, is quite at home in this alpine/subalpine environment.



Mountain Blue Penstemon, Penstemon laetus var. laetus, is another species that spans several life zones in this region. On rare occasions clear pink forms of this species can be found.



Calyptridium monospermum is found abundantly in this fell field. Many of the plants were triggered into producing a late set of flowers due to the above average precipitation received in this area during August and September. At the forest margin before rising into the fell field, this species was reproducing prolifically in areas now open due the Caldor Fire.
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

 


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