Tag Archives: Plants

Botanizing Tonopah Junction

Tonopah Junction simmers in the summer heat of the vast and nearly uninhabited Soda Spring Valley in Mineral County, Nevada. In the southern, lowest part of the valley lies the crusty and mostly glaring-white bed of Rhodes Marsh, which is itself a remnant of Pleistocene Lake Rhodes. US Highway 95 skirts the lake bed, a little north of half-way from Hawthorne to Tonopah.

So, why botanize here? Twice this year I’ve stopped near the intersection of US-95 and NV-360, curious to look at the sand dunes southwest of Rhodes Marsh to see if Dune horsebrush (Tetradymia tetrameres) or other interesting dune endemics might be found here. Neither early April nor late August were botanically optimal times to visit. June might be the time to find the greatest number of plants in bloom.

Greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus). Smoke from fires in the Sierra Nevada are obscuring the Candelaria Hills.

This is not a tall, impressive dune system, though it covers about 1.5 square miles. The dunes are all low and stabilized by vegetation. In spite of (or maybe because of) these characteristics, such dunes can provide habitat for some interesting plants (and invertebrates). The dunes near Tonopah Junction are all anchored beneath greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus); many also have Bush seepweed (Suaeda nigra) on their sides or in swales between the dunes. I believe I saw one Naked spiderflower (Carsonia sparsifolia) seedling in April, but it was far from flowering yet. I would expect to find Nevada wormwood (Euphrosyne nevadensis) here during the summer. In late August, an acre or more of the distinctive skeleton-like remains of Dune evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides) was seen. I’ve yet to find Dune horsebrush there, but remain hopeful.

Bush seepweed (Suaeda nigra)
Bush seepweed (Suaeda nigra)
Dune evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides)
Dune evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides)

Nothing is left of the historic Carson and Colorado Railway and station at Tonopah Junction apart from an eroded roadbed and some debris. The only attraction left here is the ruin of an old stone house, now sadly filled with trash and defaced by graffiti. This was apparently part of Sully’s Tourist Camp, started by C.E. “Sully” Sullivan of Hawthorne in 1937. It looks as though the project was never completed—which is sad, because I think this would be a delightful place to rent a rustic cabin, tepee, or yurt for a few days. There’s hardly any information about Sully’s on the internet, but Tami, at the the Gouge Eye Chronicle blog, has unearthed a few details.

Sully’s Tourist Camp at Tonopah Junction
Sully’s Tourist Camp at Tonopah Junction
Sully’s Tourist Camp at Tonopah Junction

Anyone looking to make useful contributions to the documentation of biodiversity in the Great Basin on iNaturalist might consider an expedition to Rhodes Marsh, Teels Marsh (in the next valley to the west), and the surrounding hills. Very few observations or collections have been made in this area.

Tonopah Junction and Sully’s Tourist Camp (Source: Google Earth, 2021)
Other-worldly patterns in Rhodes Salt Marsh (Source: Google Earth, 2021)

Copyright © Tim Messick 2021. 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 2021. All rights reserved.

Adding Plant Observations to Calflora

One of the best on-line resources for finding information about plants and places of botanical interest in California is Calflora (https://www.calflora.org/). Calflora can help you discover what species occur in a particular area, learn about the ecology and horticultural potential of species, and much more.

Among the many features in Calflora are tools for individuals to add location-specific observations and photos of plants seen in California. A recent email from Calflora on this topic is HERE. Observations can be added by uploading the information and photos directly to Calflora or by assimilating observations previously added to iNaturalist.

Photos added directly to Calflora will be available as reference photos on the “Taxon Report” pages, whereas images imported from iNaturalist will not, and they will appear in the search results on the “Observation Search” page only if you check “iNaturalist” under “Other Sources.”

On the other hand, observations posted first in iNaturalist will be:
– confirmed by at least one other person to become “research grade” before it is eligible for assimilation into the Calflora database, and
– assimilated into the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), which is another aggregator of biodiversity data.
On the iNaturalist site, search areas can cross state and national boundaries and can include other organisms besides plants.

Instructions for how to import your observations from iNaturalist to Calflora are HERE. The “Add Records from iNaturalist” feature is HERE (you will need to register as a contributor to Calflora first). Basically, an application running within the Calflora web site will look at your iNaturalist account, search for observations matching Calflora’s required criteria and any other date or taxon filters you wish to add, and display a list of your qualifying observations and photos.

These search results will include:
– Research Grade records of wild plants made in California (thus excluding “casual” and “needs ID” observations, non-plant organisms, and observations outside California).
– Records with a Creative Commons (CC) license on both the photo and the observation (allowing them to be used by others for non-commercial purposes).
The search results will not include:
– Records of rare plants (those with obscured locations).
– Records already assimilated into Calflora.

Once this table is displayed, you simply click on each “ID” number, then click “add to Calflora” in the fly-out menu (as in the screenshot below). Calflora imports the taxon name, location, your photographs, and some other details, including a link back to your iNaturalist observation.

My search found about 460 iNaturalist observations meeting these criteria, which I then added to Calflora. It took only a few minutes. This can be done a few times a year—as you post new observations to iNaturalist and as more observations have their IDs confirmed so that they become “research grade”.

Once you have finished the import, your observations will be included on the results page of a “What Grows Here” search along with data from other individuals, herbarium databases, and other sources (be sure to click “display” for each of the icons under “Points”). Here’s an example, using the “Simple” display format (plant names only, no photos):

Calflora is a rich resource with an abundance of maps, lists, localized data, and external links for learning about California’s plants and places to see them. Features in Calflora (or accessible through external links) that differ from what iNaturalist provides include:
– mapped locations of georeferenced collections held in California herbaria,
– species range maps,
– ecological and horticultural information (including the suitability of any species for planting in any location),
– links to a wider variety of external sources,
… and probably much more.

Check it out, spend some time exploring its many features, and import your iNaturalist observations to Calflora.

Lupinus breweri var. bryoides, on a hill south of Bodie


Copyright © Tim Messick 2021. All rights reserved.