Category Archives: History

Plants Described from the Bodie Hills

Masonic Mountain from the north

Masonic Mountain from the north. Three plant species were described from here.

Four plant species have been described from the Bodie Hills. Some kind of synchronicity must have been in effect, because all four were collected in the summer of 1945. Three of them are mustards (Brassicaceae), and all of those were described by Reed C. Rollins (a professor at Harvard University, and a renowned expert in the taxonomy of the mustard family). Two of the type specimens were collected by Annie Alexander  and Louise Kellogg (ambitious collectors of the California flora from 1939 to 1949); the other two were collected — on the same day in the same location, perhaps only minutes apart — by Ira Wiggins (a professor at Stanford and author of several floras) together with Reed Rollins. All four of these plants have a similar, very limited distribution in northern Mono, southern Lyon, and western Mineral counties, with the majority of known occurrences being in the Bodie Hills.

Published descriptions of these and all other plant species reference a type specimen and a type locality. A type specimen is an individual specimen (or a group of specimens) to which a scientific name is formally attached. For vascular plants, this is usually an 11.5 x 16.5-inch sheet of herbarium paper with a pressed specimen and one or more printed labels glued onto it. The collector’s collection number and the herbarium’s accession number are on the sheet so the exact same specimen can be found and examined again later. A type locality is the geographical location where the type specimen was originally found.

Here are the four plants with type localities in the Bodie Hills:


Boechera bodiensis (Bodie Hills rock-cress) was described by Reed Rollins (in Contributions of the Gray Herbarium 212:113, 1982) from material originally identified (in 1945) as a hybrid of Arabis sparsiflora and A. fernaldiana. Additional specimens collected over the next 4 decades provided the basis for its recognition as a new species in 1982. In the early 2000s, molecular studies showed that Arabis actually consisted of two distantly related clades, with morphological similarities attributed to evolutionary convergence. All the species in the Bodie Hills previously treated as Arabis now belong in Boechera. Boechera species are notoriously difficult to define, key, and identify. The Flora of North America notes that “a rare confluence of hybridization, apomixis, and polyploidy makes this one of the most difficult genera in the North American flora.” Perhaps it’s still an actively evolving group. Boechera bodiensis is still regarded as being of hybrid origin, but with B. falcifructa as one of the parents.

Boechera bodiensis

Boechera bodiensis with sagebrush (Photo © James D. Morefield via Natureserve)

The type specimen is Ira L. Wiggins and Reed C. Rollins #536, collected on August 3, 1945 (UC727326) northwest of Masonic Peak, perhaps between Chemung Mine and Lakeview Spring. Habitats of Bodie Hills rock-cress include dry, open, rocky, high or north-facing slopes, exposed rocky ridges and summits, moisture-accumulating microsites in sagebrush, under shrubs, and disturbed soils of prospector’s diggings.

Boechera bodiensis has been found mostly on and around Masonic Mountain in the Bodie Hills and Glass Mountain, southeast of Mono Lake. A few additional collections are from the Wassuk Range and the southern White Mountains.

Boechera bodiensis

Boechera bodiensis in flower (Photo © James D. Morefield)


Streptanthus oliganthus (Masonic Mountain jewelflower) was described by Reed Rollins (in Contributions of the Dudley Herbarium 3(11):372-373, 1946) from another collection by Wiggins and Rollins on the same day (maybe even the same time and location) as the type specimen for Boechera bodiensis. The type specimen is Ira L. Wiggins and Reed C. Rollins #535, collected on August 3, 1945 (UC727392) (see the specimen here).

Streptanthus oliganthus

Streptanthus oliganthus (Photo © Janel Johnson via iNaturalist, CC BY-NC 4.0)

Streptanthus oliganthus grows in dry, open pinyon pine woodland and sagebrush scrub habitat. Most collections have been around Masonic Mountain and the east side of the Sweetwater Mountains. Collections near Sonora Pass, in the White Mountains near Westgard Pass, and in the Copper Mountain area southwest of Conway Summit have been attributed to S. oliganthus, but may be S. cordatus. Streptanthus cordatus is similar in size and habitat, but is is more prevalent in the eastern Sierra Nevada and Great Basin ranges. The two are  distinguished as follows:

Streptanthus key


Cusickiella quadricostata (Bodie Hills Cusickiella) was described by Reed Rollins (in Contributions of the Dudley Herbarium 3:366, 1946) as Draba quadricostata. Cusickiella (named for W.C. Cusick, an Oregon plant collector, 1842–1922) is a small group of only two species now segregated from Draba. Cusickiella differs from Draba most noticablely in the shape of the fruits. The fruits of Cusickiella have rounded or keeled valves, whereas in Draba the valves are typically cylindric or flat. Also, the fruits of Cusickiella contain only 1–4 ovules or seeds, whereas Draba has 10 or more.

Cusickiella quadricostata

Cusickiella quadricostata (Photo © Tim Messick)

The type specimen of Cusickiella quadricostata is Annie Alexander & Louise Kellogg #4543 (UC694166), collected on July 28, 1945. The type locality is “on the road to Bodie, 2 miles southwest of Masonic Spring, southeast flank of Masonic Mountain, altitude 8600 feet.” They encountered this plant earlier the same day at New York Hill (#4540), and might have found it around the north side of Masonic Mountain too, had they stopped in the right place. This specimen (#4543) appears to be the very last collection the team of Alexander and Kellogg ever made in the Bodie Hills. They collected elsewhere in Mono County in 1946, including in Bridgeport Meadows, but they did not return to the Bodie Hills.

Cusickiella quadricostata is known from quite a few locations in the Bodie Hills, with additional locations in the Sweetwater Mountains, Pine Grove Hills, and southern Wassuk Range of Mono, Mineral, and Lyon counties. Its habitat is usually gravelly slopes, ridges, and flats, associated with scattered low sagebrush or cusion plants. The other species of Cusickiella, C. douglasii, is also found in the Bodie Hills, but it has a much wider range, extending to Nevada, Washington, Idaho, and Utah. They differ as follows:

Cusickiella key


Phacelia monoensis (Mono County phacelia) was described by Richard Halse, of Oregon State University in Corvallis (Madroño 28:124, 1981) from material previously identified as Miltitsia lutea. Miltitzia is a group of yellow-flowered annuals now treated as a section of Phacelia, in the part of Boraginaceae previously treated as Hydrophyllaceae. The type specimen is Annie Alexander & Louise Kellogg #4346 (UC736041), collected on June 30 1945.

Phacelia monoensis

Phacelia monoensis (Photo © Tim Messick)

The type locality, quoted from the specimen label, is “Altitude 7375 feet; in scraped ground of red, caked adobe above road and meadow, Mormon Ranch, 8.5 miles south-west of Bodie.” The label also notes that the plants were “associated with Nemacladus rigidus.” Topographic maps of this area from 1911 to 1958 place “Mormon Ranch” near the east end of Mormon Meadow, about where Clearwater Creek crosses today’s State Route 270. The nearest and most extensive area of clayey red soil is on the low hills on the south side of Mormon Meadow, just east of today’s Coyote Springs Road. Unfortunately, much of this area has been heavily trampled for several decades by sheep concentrated around a sheep herder’s camp.

Phacelia monoensis is known from several other locations in the Bodie Hills, Sweetwater Mountains, Pine Grove Hills, and fer-northern White Mountains in Mono, Mineral, Lyon, and perhaps Esmeralda counties. The “monoensis” epithet is apt, because a majority of the known populations are still to be found in Mono County. It favors dark red or red-brown clayey soils that are loosened by natural shrink-swell processes or by the occasional passing of vehicles along unpaved roads.

Phacelia monoensis

Phacelia monoensis (Photo © Tim Messick)


Bonus: a Mineral, Bodieite
Minerals have type specimens and type localities too. The recently-described mineral Bodieite has one of its two co-type localities in the Bodie Hills near Masonic Mountain.

Bodieite (photos here) is a soft, colorless to yellow or green, crystalline mineral. It is unique in being both a tellurate and a sulfate of bismuth [Bi2(TeO3)2(SO4)]. Bodieite was “named for the Bodie Hills volcanic field, in which the Pittsburg-Liberty mine is located, and for the town of Bodie, California, which is about 19 km SSE of the Pittsburg-Liberty mine.”

Bodieite has two rather widely separated co-type localities: (1) the Pittsburg-Liberty Mine, at New York Hill in the Masonic District of the northern Bodie Hills, and (2) tailings of the North Star Mine (Star Consolidated Mine), on the south side of Mammoth Peak, near Mammoth (but not the Mammoth in Mono County), in the East Tintic Mountains of Juab County, Utah (southwest of Provo and Utah Lake).


Thanks to Jim Morefield and Janel Johnson for their photos of the Boechera and the Streptanthus!


Copyright © Tim Messick 2019. All rights reserved.
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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 axillaris, the longer-spined “cotton-thorn” or “longspine horsebrush” has been collected in northern Owens Valley (Mono Co.), north of Yerington (Lyon Co.), and north of Luning (Mineral Co.), but probably isn’t in the Bodie Hills.

Tetradymia canescens

Tetradymia spinosa

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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Effects of the Earthquake near Bodie

I was in Bodie the first week it was open to the public since the magnitude 5.7 earthquakes near Nine Mile Ranch in Fletcher Valley that caused some damage here and startled people through much of the Eastern Sierra region on December 28, 2016. There is visible damage to the walls or contents of several buildings. There’s also an issue with the water system.

Perhaps most serious is damage to the back wall of the DeChambeau Hotel. Some bricks fell away from the top of the wall and other cracks are visible lower in the wall.

DeChambeau Hotel

Brick Wall


Inside the DeChambeau Hotel, bottles on the bar fell over.

Bar

Next door in the IOOF building, many of the old bottles that were neatly stacked in a display case fell to the floor and broke.

Bottles


In the morgue, an open coffin toppled off the back of the table on which it was resting. The lid came off another one standing to its left.

Morgue

May 2017

Morgue, 2007

October 2007


The Boone Store lost one of the large front windows, now temporarily covered with plywood. Inside, the hat-wearing dress form looks a little worse for her exposure to the elements.

Boone Store

Boone Store

May 2017

Boone Store

June 2013


In the Cain House, bottles toppled from the display shelves inside the front windows.


Over on the northeast side of the Bodie Hills, in Fletcher Valley, the stone walls the historic building at Nine Mile Ranch (the oldest intact building in Mineral County!) were severely damaged. This building is only a mile from the epicenters of the largest quakes.

Nine Mile Nine Mile

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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