The Nevada side of the Bodie Hills continues to be an area where species previously undocumented in the area are found. Already this spring, three flowering plants new to the flora have turned up. Two were found by avid botanical explorers who shared their observations on iNaturalist; a third by me.
Why on the Nevada side? Probably a combination of factors. The area has been relatively little explored botanically prior to the last decade. Many of the early collectors of plants in the Bodie Hills were from California and focused on the more accessible California side of the range. In the northern perimeter of the Bodie Hills, the elevation is lower, so that temperatures warm up earlier than most of the rest of the Bodie Hills, favoring, in many cases, a different set of plants. The geology is varied, as indicated by the many exposures of colorful (white to red or orange) soils.
The three species new to the Bodie Hills flora so far this year (all in May 2022) are:
Eatonella nivea (Woolly bonnets or White false tickhead): This diminutive annual in the Sunflower family (Asteraceae) is the only species in its genus (https://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/eflora/eflora_display.php?tid=2511). This was encountered independently by separate visitors to shallow sandy washes near NF-028 in Lyon County, west of Red Wash Creek: Chloe and Trevor Van Loon (iNaturalist observation) and David Greenberger (iNaturalist observation).
Before the flower heads open, Eatonella is a small, densely hairy cluster of leaves and buds, and could be mistaken for a member of the Cudweed tribe (Gnaphalieae), which locally includes Stylocline psilocarphoides, Gnaphalium palustre, and Antennaria spp. When the tiny heads open and the small white ray flowers emerge, however, it becomes more obviously a member of the Tarweed tribe (Madieae). Other tarweeds in the Bodie Hills are Madia glomerata, Layia glandulosa, Eriophyllum lanatum, and Arnica spp.
Astragalus platytropis (Broad-keeled milkvetch): This member of the Pea family (Fabaceae) is in the mega-genus Astragalus, which includes 97 species in California, 156 species in the intermountain region, 380 species in North America, and more than 2,500 species worldwide (approximate numbers, not counting varieties).
It was found on Bald Peak (north of Beauty Peak, northeast of Dry Lakes Plateau), again by Chloe and Trevor Van Loon (iNaturalist observation). Broad-keeled milkvetch is well documented in the Sweetwater Mountains just north of here, south to the Charleston Mountains near Las Vegas, on high ranges across the Great Basin to western Utah and northern Nevada, central Idaho, southwest Montana, and even a site west of Cody, Wyoming (map). Nearly all occurrences appear to be on rocky hilltops and ridges, on open slopes and in forest openings at subalpine to alpine elevations, often on limestone (none of this in the Bodie Hills), but also on granitic or volcanic substrates. It’s on rhyolite at Bald Peak.
Glossopetalon spinescens var. aridum (Spiny greasebush): Glossopetalon is a genus of only about 5 species in a family that is also new to the Bodie Hills flora, Crossosomataceae. I encountered Glossopetalon spinescens unexpectedly near the summit of a hill I had not previously climbed (there are still many of these), east of The Elbow, overlooking the East Walker River (iNaturalist observation).
It’s a small, densely branched shrub, with sharp, thorny stem-tips. It lives in dry, rocky places, often on on limestone, but here on a volcanic ridge-top. At first glance, its appearance made me think of Menodora spinescens (Oleaceae), also present in this area, but the flowers were different, with much narrower petals, not fused into a tube.
Three other species have been confirmed in the Bodie Hills that were previously listed as “uncertain or unconfirmed status in the Bodie Hills,” i.e., species likely to be present, but not yet documented, or else reported decades ago, but needing confirmation: Chaenactis macrantha (Mojave pincushion), Arceuthobium divaricatum (Pinyon dwarf-mistletoe), and Festuca octoflora (Sixweeks fescue).
The Chaenactis (Asteraceae) is an annual with much larger flower heads than other pincushion species in the area. It was found in coarse alluvium along Red Wash Creek by Conor Moore (iNaturalist observation).
The Arceuthobium (Viscaceae) is a parasite that occurs only on pinyon pines, though it is sometimes treated as part of Arceuthobium campylopodum (Western dwarf-mistletoe), which is common on Ponderosa and Jeffrey pines. It was found to be locally abundant in a stand of pinyons along the road from Fletcher to Aurora (iNaturalist observation).
The Festuca (Poaceae, formerly in genus Vulpia) is an early-season annual grass found on the same hill as the Glossopetalon (iNaturalist observation), and likely to be common in rocky places around the northern and eastern margins of the Bodie Hills. It dries out and falls apart by early summer, though, so it’s easy to overlook in all but very early-season surveys.
Are still other “new” species out there waiting to be added to the Bodie Hills flora? Almost certainly. Where and when might they be found? I would suggest looking in places that haven’t been thoroughly explored in the past, including the canyons and tributaries of Rough Creek (downstream from the Bodie-Masonic Road) and Bodie Creek (Del Monte Canyon), and the more remote peaks in the range, such as Bald Peak and Mount Hicks. I would also look anywhere with moist soil during the spring of increasingly infrequent “wet” years, after a good amount of winter snow and spring rain.
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