Tag Archives: Natural History

Fun with iNaturalist

I’ve started uploading some observations of plants and occasional other critters to iNaturalist.org. iNaturalist is a project of the California Academy of Sciences that serves as an on-line place “where you can record what you see in nature, meet other nature lovers, and learn about the natural world”.

For me, iNaturalist is one more place (aside from the Consortium of California Herbaria, Intermountain Regional Herbarium Network, and CalFlora) where I can see what others are finding in the Bodie Hills, Hot Springs Valley, and other places I like to visit. It’s also a way to get acquainted with some invertebrates and other organisms that I don’t have the training to identify easily myself. You can also help other people identify what they’ve observed, ask for help identifying some of your observations, create “Places” (like the Bodie Hills) as geographic filters for lists of observations, and follow or communicate with other observers. There’s also an app that lets you record observations in the field.

There are a few drawbacks — photos don’t always capture the characters needed for accurate identification, and an observation may get labeled “research grade” even if two people agree on the same identification that happens to be incorrect. On the whole, though, the community of observers (a mix of amateurs and professionals) seems to get things right, providing a useful and user-friendly addition to the knowledge-base on biodiversity.

The project is still young and it will be interesting to watch it grow in the years ahead. iNaturalist began as a student’s final project in the UC Berkeley School of Information in 2008. It was acquired by Cal Academy in 2014 and has a small staff supporting the project. Do you have photos of identifiable biota in Mono County or anywhere else in the world? Share them on iNaturalist!

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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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

Spiny menodora (Menodora spinescens), a viciously spiny low shrub in the olive family, 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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