Category Archives: Botany

Chemung Lake

Chemung Lake

Chemung Lake and Masonic Mountain, 2017.

There’s a small, seasonal lake or pond on the west side of Masonic Mountain in the Bodie Hills (Mono County, California). It’s just across the road from the Chemung Mine and has, as far as I can tell, no documented name. No historic map, topographic map, on-line map, or other source I can find puts a name on it.

Chemung Lake

Chemung Lake in 2017.

It’s a wide, shallow basin with a small watershed and no spring or creek feeding into it. Rainfall and snowmelt are the only sources of water. In dry years it may be a little muddy in the spring, but have no standing water. In wet years, like 2017, it may have about 6 to 8 acres of standing water up to maybe 3 feet deep.

Chemung Lake in 2015

Chemung Lake from the mine, during a drought, in 2015.
Sweetwater Mountains in the distance.

Chemung Lake in 1980

Chemung Lake in 1980. Sierra Nevada in the distance.

Chemung Lake in 1980

Chemung Lake in 1980. Chemung Mine ruins are
at the base of Masonic Mountain.

This lake needs a name. Since no one else seems to have done so, I hereby name it Chemung Lake, after the Chemung Mine, which overlooks the lake from a nearby hillside. The mine was discovered by one Stephen Kavanaugh in 1909 and named after his small hometown in Illinois. To many Californians, the name Chemung often “sounds Chinese”, but apparently it’s a Seneca word (pronounced shə-MUNG) meaning “big horn”.  The name Chemung has also been applied to a variety of places in New York state, other northeastern states, and adjacent Canada. There’s a Chemung River and a Chemung County in New York, a Lake Chemung in Michigan and a Chemong Lake in Ontario.

Chemung Lake

Chemung Lake with abundant spike-rush, Eleocharis macrostachya,
in early July, 2017.

Ecologically, this Chemung Lake is not unique. There are dozens of similar seasonal ponds and dry lake basins with small watersheds throughout the hills and mountain ranges just east of the central Sierra Nevada. Many are tucked away in remote, seldom seen valleys. The extreme seasonal and annual water availability makes for challenging conditions for the plants and animals that live here. They must endure years of drought, then grow and reproduce quickly and abundantly when conditions are favorable.

Here’s a partial list of plants seen around the wet perimeter of Chemung Lake (not the adjacent dry upland) during and before a CNPS outing to the area in early July, 2017:

Dicots:
Castilleja tenuis – Hairy owl’s clover (Orobanchaceae)
Elatine sp., probably E. rubella – Waterwort (Elatinaceae)
Limosella aquatica – Water mudwort (Scrophulariaceae)
Mimulus pilosus – Snouted monkey flower (Phrymaceae)
Myosurus minimus – Mousetail (Ranunculaceae)
Montia chamissoi – Toad lily (Montiaceae)
Navarretia breweri-  Brewer’s navarretia (Polemoniaceae)
Plagiobothrys sp., maybe P. hispidulus – Popcorn flower (Boraginaceae)
Polygonum sawatchense – Knotweed (Polygonaceae)
Rumex lacustris – Lake dock (Polygonaceae)
Taraxia tanacetifolia – Tansy leaf evening primrose (Onagraceae)
Trifolium spp., probably both T. cyathiferum and T. longipes – Clover (Fabaceae)

Monocots:
Alopecurus aequalis – Short-awn foxtail (Poaceae)
Cyperus squarrosus – Flat-sedge (Cyperaceae)
Deschampsia elongata – Slender hair grass (Poaceae)
Eleocharis macrostachya – Spikerush (Cyperaceae)
Hordeum brachyantherum – Meadow barley (Poaceae)
Juncus bufonius – Toad rush (Juncaceae)
Juncus sp., another tiny annual, either J. bryoides or J. tiehmii – Rush (Juncaceae)
Muhlenbergia richardsonis, Mat muhly (Poaceae)

Also:
Chara sp. (a green alga in shallow water near the lake margin)
Pseudacris regilla – Pacific tree frog (numerous, hopping all around the lake margins)

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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Juniper Galls in the Bodie Hills

Juniper galls

Back in May, while skittering down a slope of trachyandesitic scree near Travertine Hot Springs, I encountered a Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) with anomalous growths at the ends of a few branchlets. Having recently read up on some galls on oaks at Grover Hot Springs, and galls on sagebrush beside the East Walker River, I thought another wasp or midge might be at work here.

Who did this? Sources I’ve found on the internet suggest it’s a still undescribed species of Juniper gall midge (Walshomyia sp.). See CalPhotos for another image (and another). Gall midges are tiny flies (Order Diptera) in the family Cecidomyiidae, subfamily Cecidomyiinae. Walshomyia includes the Juniper urn gall midge (W. juniperina), whose gall I’ve seen on a juniper at Grover Hot Springs, and the Cypress gall midge (W. cupressi).

At a glance, I can’t tell if these galls are developing on the apical buds of branchlets or on the young seed cones of these trees (normal growth shown below).

Utah juniper fruits

Below: Juniper gall midge habitat on a hill between Travertine Hot Springs and Bridgeport Valley. Buckeye Canyon and Flatiron Ridge in the background.

Junipers on scree


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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CNPS Visits the Bodie Hills

Chemung Lake

On July 8 the Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) took a field trip to the northern Bodie Hills. About 20 of us drove the loop from Bridgeport up to the Masonic Mountain area, then south to the top of Aurora Canyon and back to Bridgeport, with stops along the way, of course, to look at plants. The first stop was at the seasonal pond I’ll henceforth call Chemung Lake (because it’s near Chemung Mine). It had filled nicely during the wet winter and supported a healthy 6 acres of spike-rush (Eleocharis macrostachya).

Lakeview Spring

We proceeded around the north side of Masonic Mountain to Lakeview Spring, with its ring of Nebraska sedge (Carex nebrascensis) within a large grove of aspen (Populus tremuloides).

Inspecting Paeonia

We inspected the population of Brown’s peony (Paeonia brownii) near Lakeview Spring. This may be the southernmost population of this species east of the Sierra Nevada.

Calochortus

We found Leichtlin’s mariposa-lily (Calochortus leichtlinii), near Lakeview Spring (surrounded here by grass leaves).

Lunch at Lower Town

Lunch beside the aspens and meadow at Masonic Lower Town.

Meadow at Lower Town

Meadow at Lower Town

Ann explains a grass.

Caravan

The caravan stops along a drainage southeast of Masonic Mountain.

Pronghorn

Pronghorn crossing the road ahead!

Pronghorn

Ten members of the Bodie Hills herd of Pronghorn.

Thanks to Ann Howald (CNPS) and April Sall (Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership) for arranging and leading this outing, and to all the other participants for their interest in the Bodie Hills!


A few more botanical notes:

Plants seen on this trip that will be added to the next edition of the Plants of the Bodie Hills checklist:
Asteraceae: Tragopogon dubius Scop. Yellow salsify. Near Lakeview Spring, among aspens and with Paeonia brownii.
Asteraceae: Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten. Bull thistle. At Lakeview Spring, and Ann Howald reports having seen it in Rattlesnake Gulch and at Mormon Meadow.
Cyperaceae: Cyperus squarrosus L. Bearded flatsedge. Tiny plants, easily overlooked, near the southwest shore of Chemung Lake.
Juncaceae: Juncus tiehmii Ertter. Tiehm’s rush. Possibly seen at Chemung Lake (confirmation pending), but apparently this tiny annual rush was collected on Dry Lakes Plateau way back in 1983, and so should have been in the checklist from the beginning.


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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