Does Dune Horsebrush Occur in the Bodie Hills?

Tetradymia tetrameres isn’t normally a hill-dwelling plant. As the common name suggests, it’s found most often in deep sands and old, stabilized sand dunes (foreground and center, in the photo above). Deep sand and old dunes usually occur in valleys and basins, not hills, though sometimes deep sandy soils can be found in canyons or ravines that penetrate hilly uplands.

Dune horsebrush near the mouth of a canyon entering Adobe Valley.

In California this plant found in the north and northeastern Mono Basin, in Adobe Valley (southeast of Mono Basin), and perhaps in Deep Springs Valley (south of the White Mountains). The CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants ranks it as “fairly endangered in California, common elsewhere” but globally it’s “apparently secure, considering populations outside California”.

Outside of California, the “global” range of dune horsebrush encompasses just a handfull of counties in northwest and central Nevada — again, mostly in “sand dunes,” “sandy desert,” “dunes of compacted sand,” “sand in and around small, rather stable dunes,” etc.

Persistent phyllaries and lingering papus bristles give dune horsebrush
a bright appearance during September and October.

But does it occur in the Bodie Hills? Well, there’s an unnumbered collection by the Mariposa-based lawyer/botanist Joseph Whipple Congdon dated Aug 17, 1898. The location is given as “Bodie. Desert road.” Berkeley Mapper places the collection site near Bodie, which is logical based on the label information, but unlikely because there are no deep sands or dunes near Bodie. Having not seen this ancient specimen (DS1815), I thought it might be misidentified, but the specimen bears no annotation labels changing the determination, and Congdon had previously collected Tetradymia canescens, again without subsequent corrections.

His other collection locations on August 17  (“Mono Lake,” and “Desert Road”) shed no further light on the location of the Tetradymia. But on the 13th he was at Mono Pass and Bloody Canyon. On the 14th he was at Walker Lake. On the 15th and 16th he was at “Walker Lake to Mono Lake,” “Below Walker Lake,” and “Near Mono Lake.” So this was the smaller Walker Lake east of Mono Pass, not the larger Walker Lake near Hawthorne in Nevada. I think he may have spent a night or two at Goat Ranch on the south edge of the Bodie Hills, because he collected there on the 18th, then on the 19th he was on his way to Bridgeport. I doubt he even went to Bodie on this trip.

So where did Congdon collect his Tetradymia tetrameres, and was it “in the Bodie Hills”? I think he encountered it in the stabilized dunes he would have passed through if he had traveled the road from the DeChambeau Creek area, past DeChambeau Ranch (on today’s Cemetery Road) to Goat Ranch. Today, these dunes are also crossed by Highway 167, and the practiced eye will easily recognize dune horsebrush there on both sides of the highway north of Black Point. But this is clearly in the Mono Basin, not in the Bodie Hills, and some 9 to 11 air miles from the town of Bodie.

Part of the 1911 USGS 1:125,000 Bridgeport quadrangle, showing
the many roads between Black Point and Goat Ranch.

Dune horsebrush along Highway 167, north of Black Point.

There are, however, at least a few individuals of T. tetrameres actually in the Bodie Hills, just barely, along Cottonwood Canyon Road, near the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon, in sandy soil, but uncharacteristically in pinyon pine woodland. Having also seen dune horsebrush on sandy flats and slopes in a canyon of the southern Adobe Hills, at the northwest end of Adobe Valley, I would not be surprised to see more of it along the southeast edge of the Bodie Hills, where sandy deposits of the northeastern Mono Basin climb into some of the little valleys and canyons west and northeast of Cedar Hill.

Dune horsebrush in marginal habitat at the edge of the Bodie Hills.

Dune horsebrush has a very limited range in California. It has a wider range in Nevada, but is still endemic to the western and central Great Basin. It is easily overlooked and partial to remote, dry, dusty places, so I think a lot more of it could be found with some deliberate searching.

•     •     •

Speaking of “horsebrushes,” what other Tetradymia species occur in the Bodie Hills? Tetradymia canescens, “gray horsebrush,” is common (but rarely if ever abundant) on dry slopes among sagebrush through much of the range. Tetradymia glabrata, “little leaf horsebrush,” was collected somewhere on Rough Creek by Clare Hardham in 1969, and near lower Cottonwood Canyon by Frank Vasek in 1975. I’ve seen it on a low ridge at the west end of Fletcher Valley. Tetradymia spinosa, the (visiously) “spiny horsebrush,” is found in the northern and eastern foothills of the Bodie Hills.

Tetradymia canescens

Tetradymia spinosa

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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6 responses to “Does Dune Horsebrush Occur in the Bodie Hills?

  1. Hi Tim,
    Really interesting article. We have driven and collected in those dunes on the northeast side of Mono Lake. My wife did an analysis of the dune sands and if I remember correctly they were composed of about 20% Ostracod shells. I’ll have to ask her when she gets home. We didn’t spend a lot of time there but found it really interesting. If I remember correctly we found chunks of ice inside the dunes as we dug into them. That would have been in late June or early July I think.
    Keith

  2. Hi Tim,Talked to wife last night and she said she thought it was closer to 60% ostracods in some of the samples. I’ve found the disk she used for her paper but I’m unable to open it right now, will have to wait for her to maybe open it on her computer. It was probably 17-20 years ago, so the memory is a little fuzzy. She also thought the ice we found was in the spring not the summer, though there was no snow on the ground. Hopefully we can access the paper later.

  3. Okay, was finally able to open her paper and it looks like she and I both have lousy memories. Her studies showed a concentration of 8% ostracod carapaces, not the 20 or 60% I mentioned earlier. Still impressive but not quite as much.

    • Thanks to you and your wife for looking up the old research. Do we know if those are “recent” ostrocods or do they date back to when the shoreline was up that high?

  4. No, we never tried to identify the ostracods nor correlated their presence to now or the past. Originally we were trying to locate some extinct snails, Helisoma newberryi, that had been reported back in the 50’s, in a possible stream channel that emptied into Adobe Valley to the east. That was a project I had worked on. We were never able to find the stream outlet. We often collect sand samples when we go out and when we observed the sample more closely when we returned home, turned up the ostracods and initiated my wife’s study.

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