[fosc] A biome-oriented seed-hike

Karen Paulsell kpaulsell@pacbell.net
Thu, 31 Jul 2003 12:08:12 -0700

Terrell, Kristen, Sue Morgan, Nancy Jones, Karen Paulsell<br><br>
The FoSC restoration committee has lately been looking at the upper
watershed in terms of &quot;plant communities&quot; or
&quot;biomes&quot;, and since Sue is preparing for the educational
program's next season, we decided to plot a route through as many plant
communities as possible.&nbsp; One of the things we've come to appreciate
on our seed-hikes is how many species we find in just one or two spots in
the watershet. Part of the reason that we have 200+ species still hanging
on in such a small, heavily impacted area is that there are a number of
types of biomes or plant communities represented...Martha's thesis
<li>Wet Meadow/Seep 
<li>Coastal Scrub 
<li>Oak Forest, Oak Woodland, Bay Forest, Bay Woodland 
<li>Mixed Hardwood Forest 
<li>(Introduced) Monterey Pine Forest 
<li>Exotic forest (eucs, acacias)
<li>Redwood Forest 
</ul>So we tried to direct some of our attention not just on &quot;what's
ripe&quot; but on the plant communities -- what's the dominant plant or
plants in the overstory, and what else is there.<br><br>
We&nbsp; started from the turnout where the Big Trees Trail comes right
up to Skyline, to visit the Pallid Manzanitas (<i>Arctostaphylos
pallida</i>). It's not really a Chaparral location -- I've heard
repeatedly that these manzanitas are almost certainly planted -- so, OK,
the oldest ones, were planted, but they're reproducing here now -- there
are many&nbsp; young plants. Nevertheless, there are Monterey pines,
Oaks, Madrones -- plus annual grasses, broom, and other junk there to
shade them out, or crowd them out. So, our &quot;federally
threatened&quot; chaparral species, a bit out of its element. We did
collect a few ripe seeds.<br><br>
And there's a bit of <i>Piperia elegans</i>, rein orchid, a native, in
the understory, there. It was in &quot;full bloom&quot;, if you can apply
that term to 1-cm wide greenish-white flowers!<br><br>
 From there, we wandered off into the Redwoods. Nancy knew the route to
the marker for the 30' diameter redwood. We speculated on whether or not
this was one of the fabled redwoods used by mariners trying to find the
Golden Gate. There were two giants on the ridge that were so tall that
the first sight of the SF Bay from out at sea was the tips of these East
Bay Redwoods.&nbsp; Well, no more, they're someone's mudsills, framing
timbers, lintels. These are some of the hottest, driest redwoods -- the
second-growth here is still remarkably small, and it must be, what, 150
years old? As we wandered through it was easy to see the big impact that
overuse by hikers and bikers has -- the duff is worn away in places --
hard ot know where the real trail are, the understory is gone in many
places. We stopped from time to time to note the understory plants:
Huckleberry (<i>Vaccinium ovatum</i>), Blackberry (<i>Rubus ursinus</i>),
Hedge nettle (<i>Stachys ajugoides</i>), small false Solomon's seal
(<i>Smilacena stellata</i>)'; we picked one of the 2 berries on the
Baneberry (<i>Actea rubra</i>) we saw. Tut, tut, 50% of the seeds,
instead of our usual guideline of 5%.<br><br>
We meandered through the redwoods in the direction of the Sequoia Arena.
Along the way, we stopped to show Sue the Scraggly Gooseberry plant, and
to rehearse the &quot;sedges have edges and rushes are round&quot;
incantataion at a <i>Juncus patens</i> plant that provided a few ripe
seeds. (We do have <i>Juncus xiphiodies</i>, Iris-leafed rush, a
not-round rush, but Sue wants something easy for the kids.) There were
<i>Phacelia californica</i> plants along the way with ripe bristly
catepillars of seeds. We got quite a bunch. <br><br>
We stopped to admire another biome --&nbsp; the wet meadow that forms the
headwaters of Fern Creek. It's the only spot where we've got <i>Juncus
effusis</i> -- like <i>Juncus patens</i> in shape and size, but bright
green instead of gray-blue-green. And <i>J. patens</i> shows up in dry
spots as well as wet ones, while <i>J, effusis</i> just hangs out up in
this one wet spot.They're both growing together near the creek below El
We checked on the <i>Baccharis </i>we saw last week -- not quite in bloom
yet; our consensus is that it must be <i>Baccharis douglasi</i>i. Even
though it's common name is &quot;Marsh Baccharis&quot; it seems to be
quite happy along the horse-arena driveway.&nbsp; We engaged in more
confused mumbling about the <i>Gnaphalium </i>there, didn't decide what
it was. Terrell fetched a flower-cluster from a Toyon -- and we all
marveled at the number of insects who inhabited it.&nbsp; A native ant
ran up and down my arm for a while, a cucumber beetle, one critter too
small to be an inchworm, maybe a centimeter worm, very intricate under
10x magnification, purplish spiny looking. I forget, what else did we
find? Terrell will have to do the bug reports!<br><br>
We started collecting bits of <i>Stachys </i>along the way...and kept it
up, all along. <br><br>
I'm trying to learn the difference between <i>Anaphalis </i>(Pearly
everlasting) and <i>Ghaphalium </i>(cudweed).&nbsp; Yeah, one sounds
pretty, the other sort of disgusting, but the flowers are a lot the same,
little aster-like white flowers. One difference is that <i>Anaphalis
</i>is a rhizomatous plant, and tends to occur in spreading colonies,
while <i>Gnaphaliums </i>are more solitary. And Kristen has <i>Anaphalis
</i>in her yard, said that one big colony we stopped to admire in great
detail was exactly like the home plant, making flat-topped umbels. Plus,
it looks just like the Anaphalis pic in <i>Plants of the SF Bay Area</i>
-- OK, even though Martha never listed it, I'll add <i>Anaphalis
margaritacea</i> to our list.<br><br>
We headed down the Sequoia-Bayview trail towards the Chaparral Trail --
really good stretches of natives here. Got a bunch of seed of <i>Heuchera
micrantha</i> -- Alumroot. There are some popular garden-variety
<i>Heucheras </i>(hooookeras) with bigger pink or red flowers, this one
has tiny white blooms. Got some of it's cousin, too, <i>Tellima
grandiflora</i>, aka Fringe cups, from just across the trail. Lots of
other goodies around, like Yerba buena and strawberry, cream bush (seeds
not quite ready). <br><br>
At one spot there's a great patch of the Pink-flowering currant, <i>Ribes
sanguineum var glutinosum</i> -- obligingly making berries for us. I
remember this good stand from a hike here in the spring, it was gorgeous
when in full bloom. <br><br>
We kept seeing plants along the trail and debating whether we were seeing
<i>Gnaphaliums </i>or <i>Anaphalis </i>-- got a little dodgey once the
plants got stretchy in the shade.<br><br>
Oh, to eat, to collect? The Huckleberries are getting ripe. We ate, we
collected seed. <i>Vaccinium ovatum</i>, for those collecting scientific
names. <br><br>
At the intersection of Sequoia-Bayview Trail and Chaparral Trail, the Jim
Bush -- <i>Ceanothus oliganthus var. soriedatus -- </i>had some seeds, so
we got some. <br><br>
We ducked in to say howdy to our Chinquapin -- more huckleberry seeds
collected here. And more snacks! Kristen found one more <i>Sanicula
laciniata</i> with seeds -- great, it's one of those plants that' rare in
the whole area. We found a mystery plant here, in the space that last
year's clearing opened up. It's in the bean/pea family (Fabacaea) a wood
caudex, pinnate leaves with 9 leaflets, the leaves are opposite with tiny
leafy stipules...no flowers...we'll have to go back.<br><br>
After a quick visit to the <i>Dirca</i>, some of our party departed -- we
had been dawdling a lot, looking at bugs, talking about plant
communities. I went off trail to check on the one <i>Trillium
chloropetalum</i> I'd found&nbsp; going to seed in the oak understory up
here. Wow, big fat seed-pod, still bright green, on a withery stalk.
Maybe we should go back to the big patch of <i>T. chloropetalum</i> we
found in the redwoods -- would be really great to get some of these going
from seed, only takes 7 years until they flower. Really nice oak
understory there. <br><br>
The rest of the way down Chaparral trail we got a bit more
<i>Stachys</i>,&nbsp; <i>Ceanothus</i>, and more Pink-flowering currant.
The Goldback Ferns -- <i>Pentagramma triangularis </i>-- are drying up,
curling -- we collected a few fronds, going to try to propagate it,
though it seems to be springing back under the landscaping fabric in the
restoration area, all on its own!<br><br>
If we hadn't dawdled so much, we could have gotten to a few more 
<li>the Sunset grassland -- with a few minutes walk westward on the
Sunset Trail. And pish, anyway, the goats are there now, not sure I can
take more devastation close at hand
<li>the riparian area along Palo Seco creek
<li>the serpentine grassland near the nursery
</ul>We do need to hit the grasslands soon -- the yarrow seeds are
ripe...next time.<br><br>