Tag Archives: Bodie Hills

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.
DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST

Fun with iNaturalist

I’ve started uploading some observations of plants and occasional other critters to iNaturalist.org. iNaturalist is a project of the California Academy of Sciences that serves as an on-line place “where you can record what you see in nature, meet other nature lovers, and learn about the natural world”.

For me, iNaturalist is one more place (aside from the Consortium of California Herbaria, Intermountain Regional Herbarium Network, and CalFlora) where I can see what others are finding in the Bodie Hills, Hot Springs Valley, and other places I like to visit. It’s also a way to get acquainted with some invertebrates and other organisms that I don’t have the training to identify easily myself. You can also help other people identify what they’ve observed, ask for help identifying some of your observations, create “Places” (like the Bodie Hills) as geographic filters for lists of observations, and follow or communicate with other observers. There’s also an app that lets you record observations in the field.

There are a few drawbacks — photos don’t always capture the characters needed for accurate identification, and an observation may get labeled “research grade” even if two people agree on the same identification that happens to be incorrect. On the whole, though, the community of observers (a mix of amateurs and professionals) seems to get things right, providing a useful and user-friendly addition to the knowledge-base on biodiversity.

The project is still young and it will be interesting to watch it grow in the years ahead. iNaturalist began as a student’s final project in the UC Berkeley School of Information in 2008. It was acquired by Cal Academy in 2014 and has a small staff supporting the project. Do you have photos of identifiable biota in Mono County or anywhere else in the world? Share them on iNaturalist!

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST

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.
DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST