Tag Archives: Natural History

Strolling around Panum Crater

Panum Crater in Google Earth

Panum Crater (foreground) and Mono Craters as seen in
Google Earth, looking southeast.

Panum Crater

One frosty morning in late October I walked around the narrow rim of Panum Crater, just south of Mono Lake. This is the youngest volcanic feature in the Mono Basin, so if you love landscapes built by fire and carved by ice, I highly recommend this hike, but do it in cool weather or very early on a summer day.

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Panum Crater is only about 670 ±20 years old (circa 1320s to 1360s AD) (Sieh and Bursik 1986). The initial eruption was of the “Plinian” type, where abundant gases escape from the rising magma, producing a massive plume and rain of volcanic ash that may continue for weeks. (This is the same type of eruption that occurred on a larger scale at Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, burying Pompeii and Herculaneum—witnessed and later described by Pliny the Younger, hence the name “Plinian.”) After the plumes of gas and ash subsided, magma welled up within Panum Crater to form a jagged dome of obsidian and pumice. Some time after the Panum Crater event, more ash fell throughout the area from eruptions several miles farther south in the Inyo Craters area.

Panum Crater

What would it have been like to see, hear, and smell this eruption, to feel the earth shake before and during the eruption? There were certainly Native Americans living here at that time — in the Mono Basin, the Bodie Hills, Bridgeport and Adobe Valleys, and on down to Owens Valley. We don’t know what time of year the eruption occurred, but there could have been groups traveling over Mono Pass and along other routes to trade with neighboring tribes when the eruption began.

Panum Crater

Laylander (1998) speculated on how earlier (ca. 880 AD) and larger Plinian eruptions in the Mono Craters may have affected local witnesses: “Local consequences for human populations from the eruption can be imagined. The event may have directly caused some loss of life or frightened the surviving witnesses into leaving the Mono Basin. The decimation of plant and animal communities may have drastically reduced the resource value of the affected area for humans for some time.” (He goes on to consider whether “an occupational hiatus, followed by a return to pre-event conditions” could be detected in the archaeological record and whether the duration of this hiatus could be estimated archaeologically. He concludes that “a hiatus of as much as a century is not likely to be detectable in the archaeological record” using hydration dating of artifacts, unless the sample size is “very large.”)

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Banded obsidian and pumice atop the dome.

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Panum Crater is not quite the youngest cinder cone in California — that distinction may belong to Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park, which erupted about 300 years later, circa 1650. And Lassen Peak itself erupted last in 1915.

References:
Laylander, D. 1998, Cultural Hiatus and Chronological Resolution: Simulating the Mono Craters Eruption of ca. A.D. 880 in the Archaeological Record, Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology 11:148-154.

Sieh, K. and M. Bursik 1986. Most recent eruption of the Mono Craters, eastern central California. Journal of Geophysical Research, 91(B12): 12,539–12,571.


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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Plants of the Bodie Hills, 2020 Edition!

Plants of the Bodie Hills, 2020 edition

A new edition of Plants of the Bodie Hills, an Annotated Checklist is now available as a free PDF from the Downloads page. The 2020 edition includes a number of improvements:
• keys to species (and subspecies or variety) are provided for ALL genera that have more than one taxon in the Bodie Hills (keys to families and genera will come in future editions, maybe),
• several species have been added, based on recent field observations and herbarium data,
• lots of typos have been corrected.

One inconvenient result of all the added keys is that the document has grown from 64 pages last year to 92 pages this year. But you now have 3 options for how to use it: 1) load the PDF onto a mobile device, 2) print the PDF yourself, or 3) order a printed copy from MagCloud.

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.

Ordering a print from MagCloud. I’ve made the PDF available for on-demand printing at MagCloud. I’ve ordered one of these myself, and found the print quality to be very good and the 2-staple binding to be adequate (though rough handling and folding could loosen some pages in the middle). Go to the document in the MagCloud Shop, click on the “Buy Print” button, fill out the “Join Us” section if you aren’t already a Magcloud customer, and complete the order. The price is $18.40 (as of March 2020); tax and shipping brings the cost to a little over $25. This is the base price of printing from MagCloud, with no additional mark-up for profit.

As always, your additions, corrections, comments, or questions are welcome.

Happy botanizing!

Beauty Peak from Dry Lakes Plateau

Beauty Peak from Dry Lakes Plateau

Phlox stansburyi

Phlox stansburyi

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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Gooseberries and Currants in the Bodie Hills

Two kinds of the gooseberries and and two kinds of currants — all in the genus Ribes (pronounced RYE-beez) — are found in the Bodie Hills. All are shrubs. The gooseberries have nodal spines on their stems; the currants lack spines. Flowers, fruit color, and leaf shape vary among the species, so all are fairly easy to identify throughout the year. Here’s a key, followed by photos of each:

Key to Ribes in the Bodie Hills


Ribes aureum var. aureum. Golden currant. Locally common beside wet meadows or streams. Nodal spines absent. Sepals yellow, 5–8 mm, spreading. Fruit red, orange, or black. Leaves ± 3-lobed to near middle, the lobes smooth-margined or sparsely crenate (with few smaller rounded lobes), glandular when young.

Ribes aureum

Ribes aureum


Ribes cereum  var. cereum. Wax currant. Common around meadows and along streams; occasionally on dry slopes and talus. Nodal spines absent. Sepals white or white-green to pink, red, or purple, reflexed. Fruit orange to red. Leaves shallowly lobed, with the lobes finely toothed, generally glandular.

Ribes cereum

Ribes cereum


Ribes inerme var. inerme. White stemmed gooseberry. Occasional near springs, streams, or among aspens. Nodal spines present. Sepals reflexed, green-white, sometimes purple at base, petals white. Fruit purple. Leaves ± 3-lobed to near middle and the lobes coarsely toothed, not glandular.

Ribes inerme

Ribes inerme



Ribes velutinum
. Desert gooseberry. Occasional in wet places along streams; sometimes in sagebrush scrub. Nodal spines present. Sepals not reflexed, sepals and petals white to yellow. Fruit yellow, becoming purple. Leaves 3-lobed and the lobe margins crenate (with smaller rounded lobes), glandular.

Ribes velutinum

Ribes velutinum


Ribes is generally recognized today as the sole genus in the Gooseberry family, Grossulariaceae. Since most families are named for a genus, why then not call the family Ribesaceae? In the beginning, the currants and gooseberries were placed in the Saxifrage family (Saxifragaceae). Several genera were recognized, but different authors lumped or split or organized them differently, and relationships were unclear. Ribes and Grossularia were the largest genera. Several attempts to improve their classification appeared over the years. Eventually, all the currants and gooseberries were removed to their own family, Grossulariaceae, named for Grossularia, but in time that genus was declared nomen illegitimum (an illegitimate name) and demoted in rank to Subgenus and/or Section. Grossulariaceae remains in use for the family, however, as nomen conservandum (a conserved name).

Several other Ribes can be found just west of the Bodie Hills in the high elevations and east side of the central Sierra Nevada. These include (among a few others):

CURRANTS (without spines):
Ribes nevadense. Mountain pink currant. A shrub of forest margins, often with spreading stems and an open branching pattern. The inflorescence is a dense raceme of bright pink flowers. The berries are blue-black, but usually glaucous — with a prominent white bloom (coating of yeast).

Ribes viscosissimum. Sticky currant. Another shrub of montane conifer forests, but rarely seen east of the Sierran crest. The leaves are relatively large (3–8 cm), shallowly lobed, and fragrantly sticky-glandular. The flowers are generally pink and white. The berries are black and glaucous.

Ribes nevadense

Ribes nevadense

Ribes viscosissimum

Ribes viscosissimum

GOOSEBERRIES (with spines):
Ribes montigenum. Mountain gooseberry. A low sub-shrub with spreading to decumbent branches. It’s found in subalpine and alpine habitats, and is especially common near the bases of lodgepole pines. The small flowers have green, green-white, or pale yellow sepals, and very short, red petals. The berries are bright orange-red, with sparse, short, glandular bristles.

Ribes roezlii. Sierra gooseberry. Another low shrub with spreading branches. It’s widespread and common in forest, chaparral, woodland habitats up to about 9350 feet, but uncommon east of the Sierran crest. The sepals are reflexed, 7–9 mm long, and purple; the petals are 3–4 mm long, white and sometimes pink-tinged. The berries are much larger than other Ribes in this area: 14–16 mm in diameter, red, with long, stout prickles.

Ribes montigenum

Ribes montigenum

Ribes roeslii

Ribes roeslii


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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