Tag Archives: Mineral County

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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Some Additions to the Bodie Hills Flora

The northern Bodie Hills

Last weekend (in mid-May, 2017), I hit the jackpot (appropriately, as this was in Nevada) for interesting plants in one part of the Bodie Hills. It was along the northern perimeter of the Bodie Hills, mostly in Lyon County, along the Sweetwater-Aurora Road (NF-028) and some side roads, ridges, and ravines. The diversity and abundance of native annual and perennial plants in flower was delightful! At least 5 species (and 4 genera) were new additions for the checklist:

Eremothera nevadensis

Nevada suncup (Eremothera nevadensis) was widespread in openings among low sagebrush throughout the low northern foothills of the range. Eremothera was formerly treated as a Section of the widespread evening-primrose or suncup genus Camissonia. Nevada suncup apparently has a somewhat limited distribution in west-central Nevada, and has yet to be found across the state line in California.

Eremothera boothii

Booth’s evening-primrose (Eremothera boothii, subspecies to be determined) was locally common, here and there, in loose sandy soil along the edges of NF-028. Eremothera boothii is  widespread, with several subspecies, throughout the arid southwest.

Amsinckia tessellata

Desert fiddleneck (Amsinckia tessellata var. tessellata) was also found on a disturbed roadside.

Lycium shockleyi

Shockley’s desert-thorn (Lycium shockleyi), a viciously spiny low shrub, was in full bloom (with small, pale flowers) on a ridge on the western edge of Fletcher Valley.

Streptanthella longirostris

Hairy jewelflower (Caulanthus pilosus) was also scattered among low shrubs on this same ridge (near the Bursage and the Lycium). At first I thought this was Longbeak streptanthella (Streptanthella longirostris), which has been reported not far from this location and has similar flowers and growth habit. Nope. The plant I found (reviewing other photos and specimens) has ascending fruits (vs. recurved to reflexed in Streptanthella) and basal leaves that are pinnatifid—deeply divided (vs. entire in Streptanthella).

There may be a few more “new” plants for the list in this area, but I haven’t finished keying my specimens yet. And some Astragalus and Eriogonum plants weren’t mature enough yet to firmly identify.

I also confirmed the presence of one plant that I was unsure whether to include in the checklist:

Artemisia spinosa

Bursage (Artemisia spinosa) on a ridge on the western edge of Fletcher Valley (same place as the Lycium).

And another species previously collected by others in this area, but which I hadn’t seen before:

Cleomella hillmanii

Hillman’s cleomella (Cleomella hillmanii) was locally abundant on a hillside crossed by the road. It looked just like many other hillsides out there, so why did the Cleomella favor this one in particular?

Last, but not least, there was the largest population and the largest individual plants of Mono phacelia (Phacelia monoensis) I’ve ever seen:

Phacelia monoensis

Phacelia monoensis

Phacelia monoensis


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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Another Swarm of Quakes

Late last December, three moderate earthquakes hit Fletcher Valley and rattled much of the eastern Sierra Nevada. An historic stone building at Ninemile Ranch was seriously damaged, and brick walls all around Bodie were tested for their strength. Every day since that event, very small aftershocks have continued to jiggle the valley east of the Bodie Hills.

2017-04-14 Fletcher quakes map

This week, another concentrated swarm of very small quakes (magnitude 0.1 to 2.6) has appeared under Alkali Valley, about 10 miles southeast of the Fletcher Valley epicenters, just east of Mt. Hicks, at the eastern corner of the Bodie Hills. The aftershocks have been tapering off in Fletcher Valley (only 28 in the last 7 days), but Alkali Valley has felt 120 tremors in just the last 2 days. The maps above and below are from the US Geological Survey’s “Latest Earthquakes” web map of the area (to which I’ve added some place names).

2017-04-14 Fletcher quakes context

Will Alkali Valley experience a stronger event soon—one that people in the area could actually feel? Maybe not. We’ll see. The region east of Mono Lake and the Bodie Hills is part of a seismically active region along the west edge of the Great Basin, known as the Walker Lane. Just 4 miles north of the Alkali Valley tremors is the most recent volcanic feature adjacent to the Bodie Hills—the late Pleistocene (less than 100,000 years old) trachyandesite lava dome of Mud Spring. Earlier in the Pleistocene, Lake Russel (the much larger ancestral Mono Lake) actually overflowed northward from what is now Alkali Valley, into Fletcher Valley and the East Walker River. Volcanism and uplift in the Mount Hicks area eventually raised the outlet higher than the fluctuating lake level, and a different spillway developed later, southeastward into Adobe Valley.

This is an actively evolving terrain, even on a human timescale. That’s just one of the reasons I love the Great Basin and eastern Sierra Nevada landscape.

UPDATE a week later: 204 quakes in the Alkali Valley area during the last 7 days. The strongest, magnitude 3.1.


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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