A Guide to Plants of Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

Cover for Plants of Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park

EARLIER THIS YEAR I posted a preliminary checklist of plants in and around Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in northwestern Nye County, Nevada. I’ve expanded that list so that it’s now the first edition of a “guide” to the flora there. It’s intended to help visitors who are curious about plant life in the area recognize some of the rich biodiversity of this park and the central Great Basin region. This is a free PDF you can obtain from my Downloads page.

Native and naturalized plant species are listed by major taxonomic group (Gymnosperms, Dicots, and Monocots), then alphabetically by family and species. Each plant is described very briefly with regard to its habitat and/or location in the park, plus a few prominent identifying characteristics. I also prepared a new map of the area, derived from USGS topographic quadrangles (edited in Adobe Illustrator, with Avenza MAPublisher). Sorry, no illustrations yet. . . perhaps in a future edition.

This is still a work in progress. Some identifications may be incorrect and some are uncertain for plants that should keyed again with better flowering or fruiting material. Additional plants not yet included are to be expected, especially among the grasses and the annual dicots. (Please let me know if you have additions or corrections!)

Penstemon sp.

Penstemon sp.

Not surprisingly, the genus genus Astragalus (Milkvetches or Locoweeds) appears to be the most diverse genus in the area, with at least 7 species. Penstemon (Beardtongues) and Eriogonum (Wild-buckwheats) come in a close second, with at least 5 species in each. The largest plant families include Asteraceae (Sunflower family) with at least 20 species, Brassicaceae (Mustard family) with at least 13 species, and Fabaceae (Pea family) with at least 11 species.

Astragalus newberryi

Stanleya pinnata

Stanleya pinnata

Sources for this list include my own field observations during 2018–2020, observations posted by others on iNaturalist, and specimen records in the Intermountain Regional Herbarium Network. Photographs of the plants, lichens, insect galls, and animals that I and others have observed in the area can be seen on iNaturalist, at https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=129800&subview=grid.

Map of Berlin-Ichthyosaur area


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved. DOWNLOADS

California Biodiversity Day Bioblitz for Mono

Users of iNaturalist in or near the Mono Basin might like to join (and thereby automatically contribute to) the “California Biodiversity Day 2020” Bioblitz for the greater Mono Lake area, including Lee Vining Canyon and Lundy Canyon. The project actually runs for a week, September 5 through 13, 2020. Details are on iNaturalist HERE.

I may not get over to Mono myself during this period, but I’ll be helping to identify observations that others make. Here’s a map showing the area in which observations will be added to the project (orange shading):

Map of the project area

Keep cool and hydrated out there — it’s going to be hot and a bit smoky the next few days.


UPDATE 9/6/2020: Oh well, never mind. Too much smoke from the Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7147/). Air quality is “hazardous” in Lee Vining, with the index over 350. (Up to 460 in Mammoth!) Shelter from the smoke!

Lee Vining WebCam on Sunday morning

Lee Vining WebCam on Sunday morning (https://www.monolake.org/today/lvcam)


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST

Strolling around Panum Crater

Panum Crater in Google Earth

Panum Crater (foreground) and Mono Craters as seen in
Google Earth, looking southeast.

Panum Crater

One frosty morning in late October I walked around the narrow rim of Panum Crater, just south of Mono Lake. This is the youngest volcanic feature in the Mono Basin, so if you love landscapes built by fire and carved by ice, I highly recommend this hike, but do it in cool weather or very early on a summer day.

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Panum Crater is only about 670 ±20 years old (circa 1320s to 1360s AD) (Sieh and Bursik 1986). The initial eruption was of the “Plinian” type, where abundant gases escape from the rising magma, producing a massive plume and rain of volcanic ash that may continue for weeks. (This is the same type of eruption that occurred on a larger scale at Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, burying Pompeii and Herculaneum—witnessed and later described by Pliny the Younger, hence the name “Plinian.”) After the plumes of gas and ash subsided, magma welled up within Panum Crater to form a jagged dome of obsidian and pumice. Some time after the Panum Crater event, more ash fell throughout the area from eruptions several miles farther south in the Inyo Craters area.

Panum Crater

What would it have been like to see, hear, and smell this eruption, to feel the earth shake before and during the eruption? There were certainly Native Americans living here at that time — in the Mono Basin, the Bodie Hills, Bridgeport and Adobe Valleys, and on down to Owens Valley. We don’t know what time of year the eruption occurred, but there could have been groups traveling over Mono Pass and along other routes to trade with neighboring tribes when the eruption began.

Panum Crater

Laylander (1998) speculated on how earlier (ca. 880 AD) and larger Plinian eruptions in the Mono Craters may have affected local witnesses: “Local consequences for human populations from the eruption can be imagined. The event may have directly caused some loss of life or frightened the surviving witnesses into leaving the Mono Basin. The decimation of plant and animal communities may have drastically reduced the resource value of the affected area for humans for some time.” (He goes on to consider whether “an occupational hiatus, followed by a return to pre-event conditions” could be detected in the archaeological record and whether the duration of this hiatus could be estimated archaeologically. He concludes that “a hiatus of as much as a century is not likely to be detectable in the archaeological record” using hydration dating of artifacts, unless the sample size is “very large.”)

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Banded obsidian and pumice atop the dome.

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Panum Crater is not quite the youngest cinder cone in California — that distinction may belong to Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park, which erupted about 300 years later, circa 1650. And Lassen Peak itself erupted last in 1915.

References:
Laylander, D. 1998, Cultural Hiatus and Chronological Resolution: Simulating the Mono Craters Eruption of ca. A.D. 880 in the Archaeological Record, Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology 11:148-154.

Sieh, K. and M. Bursik 1986. Most recent eruption of the Mono Craters, eastern central California. Journal of Geophysical Research, 91(B12): 12,539–12,571.


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST