Tag Archives: Lyon County

Spring 2022 Additions to the Bodie Hills Flora

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.

In the northern Bodie Hills.

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.

Eatonella nivea © DavidGreenberger/iNaturalist
Eatonella nivea © Chloe and Trevor Van Loon/iNaturalist

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.

Astragalus platytropis © Chloe and Trevor Van Loon/iNaturalist
Astragalus platytropis © Chloe and Trevor Van Loon/iNaturalist

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.

Glossopetalon spinescens
Glossopetalon spinescens
Overlooking the East Walker River. South end of the Pine Grove Hills across the river at right; Sweetwater Mountains in the distance. Glossopetalon spinescens near the rocks at left.

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).

Chaenactis macrantha (photographed at Fort Churchill, NV)

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).

Arceuthobium divaricatum

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.

Festuca octoflora

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.

Bodie Creek in Del Monte Canyon.

Copyright © Tim Messick 2022. All rights reserved.

Plants of the Bodie Hills, 2022 Edition

Last year I thought there would be few changes or additions needed in this year’s edition of Plants of the Bodie Hills. Surely, after all these years, it should be very nearly finished. Wrong! Local floras like this are never, ever complete or finished, but over time, if there are no deadlines, they can become gradually more complete, even during periods of drought.

Plants of the Bodie Hills, March 2022 Edition, is now available on the Downloads page (a free PDF). It includes quite a few additions, corrections, nomenclatural updates, and refinements to the keys.

  • New or confirmed additions to the flora include Artemisia dracunculus, Tricardia watsonii, Orthocarpus luteus, Erythranthe floribunda, Plantago major, Toxicoscordion venenosum, Danthonia unispicata, and an unidentified Aphyllon. Three more additions that are barely on the edge of the Bodie Hills, since they are in the drawdown zone on the east edge of Bridgeport Reservoir, are Potentilla newberryi, Potentilla rivalis, and Crypsis alopecuroides. I’ve found a few of these myself, but most of these additions are the result of explorations in the field by others, particularly Ann Howald, and others posting observations on iNaturalist.
  • Taxonomy for the Order Boraginales has been updated: instead of the whole order being dumped into one very large and diverse Family Boraginaceae (in the broad sense), a newer 11-family system has been proposed by the Boraginales Working Group, and numerous updates to genera and species in western North America have been made by the Amsinckiinae Working Group. These changes have been adopted by the Jepson eFlora. Three of the 11 families are known to occur in the Bodie Hills: Boraginaceae (in the strict sense), Hydrophyllaceae, and Namaceae. A fourth, Heliotropiaceae, is likely to turn up one of these days.
  • Some of the keys have been improved (hopefully) by the addition of more distinguishing characters, or by the addition of species that are not in the Bodie Hills, but may be familiar to readers and are easily confused with species that do occur here.
  • The table listing Special-Status plants has been updated based on the most recent sources. There is still only one California State-listed Rare plant in the Bodie Hills: Long Valley milkvetch (Astragalus johannis‐howellii). No federally-listed plants occur here.

As before, you have two options for how to use this document: 1) load the PDF onto a mobile device or 2) print the PDF yourself.

  1. Using a mobile device: I’ve found the PDF to be quite readable on my iPhone (in the Books app), although it helps that I’m near-sighted. It’s even easier to read on an iPad, other tablet, or laptop.
  2. Printing the PDF: You can print the PDF yourself or at a local print shop, and I highly recommend printing it 2-sided to conserve paper and reduce bulk and weight in the field. A comb or spiral binding, binder clip, or other binding will hold it together.

Your additions, corrections, comments, or questions are always welcome.

Here are some interesting observations I made in 2021 while roaming the Bodie Hills:

Penstemon palmeri, near Aurora
Aphyllon sp. (fresh material needed to identify), near Aurora
Rhinotropis (=Polygala) intermontana, north of Masonic
Eriogonum nutans var. nutans, north of Masonic
Toxicoscordion venenosum, at a meadow in Bridgeport Canyon
Eriogonum alexanderae, near Red Wash Creek
Eriogonum rupinum, near Red Wash Creek
Asclepias crypyoceras, in Del Monte Canyon
Salvia dorrii, in Del Monte Canyon
Cryptantha pterocarya, in Del Monte Canyon

Copyright © Tim Messick 2022. All rights reserved.

Plants of the Bodie Hills, 2021 Edition!

Cover of the March 2021 edition of Plants of the Bodie Hills

The 2021 edition of Plants of the Bodie Hills is now available as a free PDF on the Downloads page.

This new edition is at last more of a proper “Flora” than an “Annotated Checklist,” because it now includes keys to all of the species. It includes keys to families and genera too, except for two (not so minor) exceptions: the key to dicot families (class Magnoliopsida) and the key to grass genera (family Poaceae) are still in progress. These are both very challenging technically, whether they are built up from scratch or simplified down from existing keys that encompass many more taxa in a much wider area than the Bodie Hills. I hope to add those last two keys in a future edition.

Adding numerous keys and several more species has stretched the document to 116 letter-size pages. Note that you have 2 options for how to use it: 1) load the PDF onto a mobile device or 2) print the PDF yourself.

  • Using a mobile device: I’ve found the PDF to be quite readable on my iPhone 8+ (in the Books app), although it helps that I’m near-sighted. It’s even easier to read on an iPad, other tablet, or laptop. A phone or tablet is pretty easy to carry in the field, but you may want to secure it with a lanyard or wrist strap. (Personally, I like the ones from PodFob.)
  • Printing the PDF: You can print the PDF yourself or at a local print shop, but I highly recommend printing it 2-sided to conserve paper and reduce bulk and weight in the field. A comb or spiral binding, binder clip, or other binding will hold it together.

Your additions, corrections, comments, or questions are always welcome.

Happy botanizing!

Flower field west of Lakeview Spring. Dunderberg Peak and other high Sierran summits in the distance.
Amelanchier utahensis (Utah service berry) on Masonic Mountain.

Copyright © Tim Messick 2022. All rights reserved.