Tag Archives: Masonic Mountain

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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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.
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CNPS Visits the Bodie Hills

Chemung Lake

On July 8 the Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) took a field trip to the northern Bodie Hills. About 20 of us drove the loop from Bridgeport up to the Masonic Mountain area, then south to the top of Aurora Canyon and back to Bridgeport, with stops along the way, of course, to look at plants. The first stop was at the seasonal pond I’ll henceforth call Chemung Lake (because it’s near Chemung Mine). It had filled nicely during the wet winter and supported a healthy 6 acres of spike-rush (Eleocharis macrostachya).

Lakeview Spring

We proceeded around the north side of Masonic Mountain to Lakeview Spring, with its ring of Nebraska sedge (Carex nebrascensis) within a large grove of aspen (Populus tremuloides).

Inspecting Paeonia

We inspected the population of Brown’s peony (Paeonia brownii) near Lakeview Spring. This may be the southernmost population of this species east of the Sierra Nevada.

Calochortus

We found Leichtlin’s mariposa-lily (Calochortus leichtlinii), near Lakeview Spring (surrounded here by grass leaves).

Lunch at Lower Town

Lunch beside the aspens and meadow at Masonic Lower Town.

Meadow at Lower Town

Meadow at Lower Town

Ann explains a grass.

Caravan

The caravan stops along a drainage southeast of Masonic Mountain.

Pronghorn

Pronghorn crossing the road ahead!

Pronghorn

Ten members of the Bodie Hills herd of Pronghorn.

Thanks to Ann Howald (CNPS) and April Sall (Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership) for arranging and leading this outing, and to all the other participants for their interest in the Bodie Hills!


A few more botanical notes:

Plants seen on this trip that will be added to the next edition of the Plants of the Bodie Hills checklist:
Asteraceae: Tragopogon dubius Scop. Yellow salsify. Near Lakeview Spring, among aspens and with Paeonia brownii.
Asteraceae: Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten. Bull thistle. At Lakeview Spring, and Ann Howald reports having seen it in Rattlesnake Gulch and at Mormon Meadow.
Cyperaceae: Cyperus squarrosus L. Bearded flatsedge. Tiny plants, easily overlooked, near the southwest shore of Chemung Lake.
Juncaceae: Juncus tiehmii Ertter. Tiehm’s rush. Possibly seen at Chemung Lake (confirmation pending), but apparently this tiny annual rush was collected on Dry Lakes Plateau way back in 1983, and so should have been in the checklist from the beginning.


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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