Category Archives: Plant Identification

More Great Plants in the Northern Bodie Hills

The previous post focused on some plants that were new or confirmed additions to the Bodie Hills flora. Here are some more wonderful plants, already known to occur in the range, that were a pleasure to see along the northern edge of the Bodie Hills.

Balsamorhiza

Balsamorhiza

This sunny Balsam-root (Balsamorhiza) was in a small gully along Dead Ox Pitch, that steep grade just west of “The Elbow” in the East Walker River. The pinnatifid leaves with crenate margins and the fruity-aromatic, sticky-glandular puberulence all up and down the flower stalks and leaves lead one to B. hirsuta in the Jepson e-Flora key. In the Intermountain Flora, however, Arthur Cronquist argues for including this in the widespread and variable Hooker’s balsamroot, as B. hookeri var. hirsuta.


Allium anceps

Twin leaved onion (Allium anceps) was very common in some areas among scattered low sagebrush along the road heading south to Masonic.


Eriogonum ovalifolium

Cushion wild buckwheat (Eriogonum ovalifolium var. ovalifolium) is scattered among sagebrush throughout the area.


Nama

Ground nama or Purple nama (Nama aretioides) is a small clumping annual with flowers that are under a centimeter across. What the flowers lack in size, they make up for in color saturation.


Cymopterus globosus Cymopterus globosus

Globose cymopterus (Cymopterus globosus) is an odd member of the umbel (or carrot or celery) family, with an inflorescence shaped more like a golf ball than the rays of an umbrella.


Astragalus malacusAstragalus malacus

Astragalus is a large and diverse genus of legumes in which many species are difficult to key out. Woolly milkvetch (Astragalus malacus) is an exception—easily recognized by the long, spreading hairs, especially on its fruits.


Viola purpurea

A violet with bright yellow flowers would seem to be misnamed as Viola purpurea, but the epithet refers to the purplish color on the back sides of all or most petals. One of many subspecies, this is Viola purpurea subsp. aurea, the Golden violet.


Mimulus nanus

The Skunky monkey flower (Mimulus nanus var. mephiticus) emits a slight skunk-like (mephitic) odor, but the flowers are so small, you have to get your nose very close to notice it. These are a couple of very robust plants, growing in sandy soil beside a sagebrush after an unusually wet winter.


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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Plants of Hot Springs Valley: a New Checklist

Phlox diffusa

A couple of years ago, at Grover Hot Springs State Park (in Alpine County, California), I asked if they had a list of plants in the park. “No, but we would sure like one!” So I Googled the topic and found that a botanical survey had been prepared by a group from UC Davis several years earlier, focusing on the flora and plant communities in the meadows and adjacent forest within the park boundaries.

Grover Hot Springs State Park

Near Hot Springs Creek, in the middle of Hot Springs Valley

The field surveys were conducted in 2010 by Ellen Dean and colleagues from the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity. The report was submitted to the California Department of Parks and Recreation in 2011. This survey was very thorough, but it didn’t encompass all of Hot Springs Valley, some of which is outside the park boundaries, within Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Most of the trail to the waterfalls at the west end of the valley (a popular hiking destination) is outside the UC Davis survey area.

Grover Hot Springs State Park

Hot Springs Valley and the alkaline meadows below the springs

I wanted a list for the whole valley—covering as much as possible of the areas commonly seen by visitors throughout Hot Springs Valley. So over the last couple of summers I’ve explored the valley and added a few dozen species to the 278 taxa listed in the UC Davis report. I contacted Ellen Dean, who kindly agreed to review and co-author the combined list, providing some other additions and corrections.

Map of Hot Springs Valley

I also prepared a new map of the area. Elevation contours are from the USGS Markleeville quad; trails, roads, and lower Buck Creek are redrawn from Google Earth.

The printed list is available at the park (unless they run out), or you can download a PDF to print yourself, right here. (It’s also on the Plant Lists and Floras page at the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity—go see what else they have to offer.)

Grover Hot Springs is nearly a two-hour drive from Bodie, but these places are connected: they are the two oldest California State Parks on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, the Friends of Grover Hot Springs is a branch of the Bodie Foundation, and over a period of many years, numerous staff have worked at both parks. Now you can also download plant lists for both areas from the same web page.

Grover Hot Springs State Park

The pools at Grover Hot Springs


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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Buffalo Berries and Russian Olives: Elaeagnaceae in the Bodie Hills

Elaeagnus

Russian olive (Eleagnus angustifolia) along the road from Fletcher to Aurora.

The Oleaster family, Elaeagnaceae (ee-lee-ag-NAY-see-ee) may be one of the less familiar plant families in eastern California and western Nevada, but the two species we find here are easily recognized and ecologically interesting. Both are large shrubs or small trees with silvery-green leaves and thorny branches. Both are riparian plants — found along streams and rivers. But one is a native plant; the other is an alien.

Shepherdia

Silver buffalo berry (Shepherdia argentea) thicket near
Cottonwood Creek at Dobie Meadows Road.

Silver buffalo berry (Shepherdia argentia) is native to the Bodie Hills and occurs from the western Transverse Ranges (north of Ventura) to the Rocky Mountains and upper midwest, as far as Wisconsin and Manitoba. In the Bodie Hills, Shepherdia argentia is common along the East Walker River and lower Bodie Creek, and is scattered along many other creeks and at some springs. Silver buffalo berry can be recognized by its opposite leaves and branchlets, ovate to oblong leaves less than 2.5 inches long, and in in late summer, by it’s bright red, berry-like fruits. Two other species are native to North America: Shepherdia canadensis (Rocky Mountains to Pacific Northwest, across Canada and northernmost counties of the U.S.) and S. rotundifolia (in Utah and Arizona) .

Shepherdia

Opposite leaves and branching in Shepherdia argentea.

Shepherdia

Foliage of Shepherdia argentea.

Shepherdia

Foliage of Shepherdia argentea.

Elaeagnus

Russian olive along the road from Fletcher to Aurora.

Russian olive (Eleagnus angustifolia) (ee-lee-AG-nus) can be recognized by its alternate, oblong to lanceolate leaves (generally longer and narrower than in buffalo berry), 4-lobed yellow flowers, and greenish-yellow, elliptic, olive-like fruits. Russian olive is native to most of western Asia (including parts of Russia), parts of tropical Asia, and southeastern Europe. It was cultivated in Europe as early as the 1630s. Russian olive was introduced to the central and western United States in the late 1800s as an ornamental tree and a windbreak, after which it spread into the wild.

Animals ate the fruits and dispersed the seeds. The plant tolerates drought and salinity, heat and shade, and a wide variety of soils, though it favors floodplains and riparian areas. Today it is naturalized across the American west and mid-west, several eastern states, and southern Canada. In the Bodie Hills, it’s mostly scattered along the lower part of Bodie Creek, the road from Fletcher to Aurora, and the East Walker River.

Elaeagnus

Besides spreading naturally, Russian olive was formerly also planted for restoration of disturbed lands, wildlife forage, windbreaks, erosion control, roadway landscaping, and ornamental use. It is no longer recommended for any of these uses and it’s considered a noxious weed in many areas. Although many birds and mammals eat the fruits, numerous sources suggest that native vegetation supports a greater diversity of wildlife than vegetation dominated by Russian olive. (Once again, Nature seems to do things better with less intervention from us.)

Elaeagnus

Cattle find a little shade under a Russian olive in July.


Copyright © Tim Messick 2016. All rights reserved.
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