Calochortus pursuits

Kipp McMichael kimcmich@hotmail.com
Sun, 02 Aug 2015 23:24:42 PDT
Greetings,
  I previously mentioned on the list that I had been focusing this year on catching the native Calochortus of California in-bloom. I also promised to post some images from my trips. Hopefully you won't mind me cluttering up the links to images with my narrative in-between:
  My season began at Pt Reyes National Seashore in late May. On the barren hills and bluffs overlooking the ocean, Calochortus tolmiei grows no higher than 6 inches. That lofty 6 inches is in the shelter of a shrub; these plants grow in large populations on barren rocky spots where the flowers open only an inch above the soil.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/… http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/… http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  After my delightful success at Pt. Reyes, I planned a trip soon after to the grassy prairies of the Santa Cruz Mountains just north of UC Santa Cruz. As with my Pt Reyes trip, this trip was an early morning excursion before I started a late working day at lunch. The meadows where Calochortus uniflorus grows are surrounded by redwood and madrone forests. The delicate purplish pink flowers were heavy with dew on stems as tall as 8 inches. Crowded, but not too much by grass, both the Calochortus and many other geophytes (Brodeia, Dichelostemma) were fairly common here.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  On my way home from Santa Cruz that morning, I stopped in the hills above Woodside, CA to catch the southernmost race of Calochortus tolmiei. Unlike the thickly-hairy blooms of the plants at Pt. Reyes, the flowers in this population are very sparsely haired. Additionally, the plants here grow in the shade of redwoods, madrones and tanoaks along a park trail - thriving even in the packed, gravelly "tailings" of the downhill side of the trail.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
  I am lucky to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, given my interest in Calochortus, as it happens to be the center of diversity for the genus. Just 45 min east of Berkeley is Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County. I went there in mid April to catch Calochortus pulchellus in bloom along the trails in Mt. Diablo State Park. I found a large population spread along a half mile of trailside slopes and ledges with most plants having several flowers each. This was the first example of a Calochortus population that seemed unaware we were in our third and worst year of drought. I would see several more.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
  On a Sunday drive southeast of the Bay Area, I happened to have my first encounter of the season with Calochortus venustus. This plant was 2 feet all and growing on the sunny, boulder-strewn slope of a roadcut. I would encounter  this taxon again and again throughout the season.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
  My first long-distance roadtrip of the season included a friend and started with Figueroa Mountain in San Luis Obispo County. We saw seed pods of Calochortus catalinae (no photos though!) - one of the few Calochortus that can be identified in seed because of its distinctively rounded capsules. Higher up the mountain on a serpentine outcrop, we found a population of Calochortus clavatus. Many of these plants were 10" tall or less but nonetheless had large, yellow blooms 2-3" across.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
  On our way back north from Figueroa Mtn, we stopped in San Luis Obispo, CA to see if we might catch Calochortus obispoensis in bloom in its preferred rocky, serpentine hillside habitat. We were too early for that species, but we did find Calochortus argillosus growing in the moister saddle between serpentine hills. The southern populations of C. argillosus often have a rich magenta outer petal.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
  I wrote previously of the very special bluff north of San Simeon, CA where 4 different species of Calochortus grow side-by-side. Alas, but the plants do no bloom synchronously - so catching them all takes trips across 3 or so months from April to June. My first visit in late April was too late for the bloom of Calochortus uniflorus here, but I did catch a seedpod ripening. Much more common, and just coming into bloom, was a delightful dwarf population of Calochortus luteus. There are tens of thousands of plants along Highway 1 where the discerning eye can pick them out from the more orange poppies and more golden compositae in this coastal grassland.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  In the hills west of Templeton, CA, the population of Calochortus albus produces a range of pink to deeply wine-red blooming plants. The mild climate here allows for a long blooming season we would return to a few times in April and May. Informally called Calocortus albus var rubellus, the darkest colored plants have sumptuous deep wine-colored blooms (a fact not unnoticed by a local winery that boasts of this local lily).  
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
  Lake Berryessa is about an hour north of Berkeley and it was my destination as I headed out for another early morning roadtrip on a Thursday in early May.I was headed for a serpentine meadow north of the Lake where I had seen seed pods of 2 species of Calochortus in 2014. About an hour into the trip along twisting roads in the hills near the Lake, I came to road construction and had to wait 25 minutes for the next escort. I decided to make the best of the wait by exploring the slope above the road. There I was delighted to find Calochortus amabilis growing on a ledge and gully near the road. It was my first unexpected encounter of the day.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
  Once the escort vehicle arrived, it began what turned out to be a 9 mile escort through a seemingless endless workzone. Just before the end of the escort, as we came to a short bridge over an arm of the lake, I caught some beautiful white blooms standing tall in the grass on the roadside. I could not stop, as I was being escorted, but the other side of the bridge was where the construction closure began in the other direction. When I returned later in the morning (the serpentine meadow that was my intended destination was having a fallow year) I asked to wait for the escort at the other end of the bridge to observe this fine example of Calochortus superbus. These 2+ foot tall plants held large 3" across blooms.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
  Having wet my appetite with day trips within a few hours of Berkeley, I lasooed a fellow bulb enthusiast for a full weekend trip to catch species in southern California. We left on a Friday after work and spent the night in Rosamond, CA at the western edge of the Mojave desert. The next morning we got up early to catch Calochortus striatus just east of the town. Having heard it had been a "light" bloom year and that we "might catch a few stragglers" we were delighted to find the population in near-peak bloom in what must certainly have been as good a reason as this colony ever sees. Every visible plant showed multi-bloom stalks and every plant not in active bloom held ripening capsules. I would estimate 5000-10000 plants were blooming or fruiting in this colony.
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  We left the Mojave and headed southwest toward Soledad Canyon in northern LA County to visit an area home to a few dryland-loving Calochortus species. We hoped to catch a large population of Calochortus plummerae, and perhaps see Calochortus kennedyi or C. clavatus var gracilus, along a short section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Unlike the banner year in the Mojave, the population here - which had bloomed and seeded en-mass in 2014 - was virtually fallow. We located a handful of blooming plants of C. plummerae scattered in the area where thousands of plants were undoubtedly dormant. On our way back to the car via a fire road, we also found a very meager bloom of Calochortus clavatus gracilus (and I took a very mediocre photo!).
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/… http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
  From the old cowboy movie set terrain of Soledad Canyon, we headed south toward the hills northeast of Temecula, CA to a colony of Calochortus I had visited long after the blooming season in 2014. Given the area and the herbarium info I could find, I had thought this was a population of Calochortus weedi (either var weedi or var intermedius). We arrived at the access road into the National Forest to discover the gate had been closed to prevent vehicle access while a storm front moved through the area over the weekend. We were left with a decision: Hike the 2.5 miles along the road to the population or give up and move on to our next destination. We stayed true to the cause and headed off on foot to the ridgetop locality. We were still a few feet from the car when we saw the first of the Calochortus davidsonianus. We would see hundreds of these plants, mostly in seed, on our way to the locality. When we arrived, I discovered that what I had thought was a colony of mostly C. 
 weedi was in fact a large colony of Calochortus davidsonianus. Although not a banner year, the plants here were nonetheless quite common and most had maturing capsules.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  We hiked back to the car and headed for Casper's Wilderness Park near San Juan Capistrano. Our hike in Casper's started with another colony of all-but-done Calochortus davidsonianus. As we reached the ridgetop on the east side of the park, we started seeing a few struggling Calochortus weedi var intermedius. Another 1/2 mile of hiking brought us to a much better stand with robust blooms on stems over 2 feet tall. These plants were in fairly dense chaparral on a sandy ridge top growing near Yucca whipplei - a near constant companion of Calochortus species in Southern California.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  We finished at Casper's around 6PM and resolved to shoot for a room for the night near Lebec, CA. We left the Motel 6 early the next morning and headed for Mt.Pinos. This area boasts brilliant red Calochortus venustus as well as the alpine-loving Calochortus invenustus near the summit of the mountain. Alas, we were far too early for either Calochortus - but the plants growing in the alpine meadow of the summit were nonetheless a treat to observe. The grasslike leaves of Calochortus invenustus were common in the alpine meadows and we resolved to return again later in the season to catch them in bloom. As we drove away from Mt. Pinos on Lockwood Valley Road, the brilliant vermillion of Calochortus kennedyi leapt out at me from the roadside. We stopped the car and explored the sage brush hillside to find a handful of plants - many of which had flowers opening at ground level on stems 1/2" tall.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  We headed west toward the most Calochortus-rich county in California - San Luis Obispo County. As passed a roadcut hillside south of Hwy 166, we saw a few big stems of Calochortus clavatus clavatus. Stems 2 feet or taller held aloft the yellow bowls - many of which were blushed a darker rust-orange on the outer petals.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  Our final stop on this weekender was a return to hills west of Templeton to see Calochortus albus var rubellus. We found the colony nearer to peak-bloom than out first visit. Clearly the genetics of color in this taxon is complicated. Growing side by side were plants from nearly pure, greenish white all the way to deeply-wine red - and all shades in-between.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  During the weekender, we had tried and failed to locate Calochortus simulans while we passed through SLO county. Armed with better google map planning, I returned on a solo day trip to the Los Padres Natl Forest east of Arroyo Grande. There I found a few colonies in the peak of their bloom

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  In a return to morning trips close to Berkeley, I set my sites on stands of "Calochortus splendens" growing in serpentine soils in east Lake County. I use the name in quotes because, from my experience in the field, there are 2 different taxa contained with the official species Calochortus splendens. The previously mentioned Calochortus davidsonianus is the distinct morphotype of C. splendens that grows in southern California. (see an example of the "real" C. splendens further below). Intriguingly, the supposed Calochortus splendens that grows in northern California looks much more like Calochortus davidsonianus from southern California than it does the Calochortus splendens from areas between southern California and the Bay Area. I therefor call this taxa Calochortus davidsonianus.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  I then returned to that geophyte-rich bluff north of San Simeon mentioned above,where  there also grows a very rare sub-population of C. clavatus - Calochortus clavatus var recurvifolius. Looking very appropriately like stocky, darkly marked Calochortus clavatus, these plants grow within a few feet of the eroding bluff edge. The exposed plants  I saw were no more than 5 inches tall. This population is extremely small and quite literally grows within spitting distance of the bluff's edge.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  The most geopgraphically confined Calochortus taxa is most likely Calochortus tiburonensis on Ring Mountain in Tiburon, CA. For an ultra-local, federally-protected endemic, the plant is both fairly common and easy to access on the beautiful serpentine mountain top, overlooking San Francisco Bay, that these plants call home. Many trails wind through the serpentine rocks and gravel fields where these intriguing lilies find protection from burrowing rodents. C. tiburonensis flowers are an acquired taste with greens, creams and browns the norm - but the population is highly variable and especially striking plants are not hard to locate. I was especially delighted to find an anthocyanin-free plant in bloom as well - the hairiness of its petals accentuated by the uniformly pale chartreuse of this unusual flower. Given the size of this taxon's entire population, this red-pigment-free variant might be the only plant like that in existence!

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

    The next destination in my season of Calochortus pursuits was a very special population of Calochortus venustus in the central Sierra foothills. On drives in the foothills from Copperopolis to Camp Nelson, you can find mostly white C. venustus populations intermixed with variant individuals of deeper pink, red and fuschia tones. The rarest of these color variants have brilliant petals fully painted inside and out with deep shades from magenta to rust. These flowers were some of the highlights of my season.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  I returned to San Luis Obispo County 7 times this season to catch its rich flora - and such a sample would not be complete without the eponymous Calochortus obispoensis. Growing on rocky serpentine hillsides right in the middle of San Luis Obispo, this distinctively sparse Calochortus is more anthers and brightly colored hairs than it is showy petals. 

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  After enjoying the earliest blooms of C. obsipoensis, we returned to the north-of San Simeon bluff to catch more diminutive Calochortus luteus and, we hoped, more blooms of Calochortus clavatus var recurvifolius. We found more of both and were particularly happy to see more C. clavatus recurvifolius than we had detected on our earlier visits - though the population was still well below 50 individual plants. The buttery-yellow C. luteus were having a good year and just as we left, I found a color variant with petals of palest yellow.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  Having packed-in Calochortus trips in April and May, I slowed the pace in June - more because of the natural waning of the Calochortus season than for any decline in my interest. My next trip was another morning jaunt a few hours from Berkeley along Hwy 88 in El Dorado County. Here in scattered spots, and after fires sometimes in huge stands, grows Calochortus clavatus avius. This geographically disjunct taxon has robust yellow flowers on tall stems. I did not see plants to rival the reports of 6 foot monsters after forest fires - but even so the flowers I did find were certainly the largest of any taxa of Calochortus with blooms 3-4" across.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  We left the relatively towering stands of C. clavatus var avius for a nearby "lava cap" habitat where an ancient volcanic ash deposit had hardened and weathered into a distinctive, nutrient-limited soil type. As is commonly the case in such places, geophytes were common and in addition to Brodia, Bloomeria and Fritillaria we also found a few small plants of Calochortus ceoruleus near the southern limits of its range.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  My final Calochortus trip of the season was another overnight roadtrip returning to Mt. Pinos and the hills north of Santa Barbara. We returned to Mt. Pinos for the beautiful, bright red variant of Calochortus venustus that grows near the base of the mountain. Unlike some of the freely-blooming populations of Calochortus we had seen despite the drought, the red C. venustus were severely affected. We were able to find perhaps 10 plants in an area where thousands of bulbs could be seen in years past. The flowers we did find were beautiful, however.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  We returned as well to the summit of Mt. Pinos to see the flowers of C. invenustus whose leaves we had observed in relative profusion on our earlier visit. It was a good year for C. invenustus and the alpine meadows were liberally sprinkled with its nearly stemless, lightly purple-tinged blooms.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  After Mt. Pinos, we returned to Lockwood Valley road in hopes of catching the real Calochortus splendens in bloom. Although late for the season, we managed to find a few plants flowering and were able to observe the pale pink, conjestedly hairly blooms that were quite distinct from the dark-centered, nearly hairless blooms of Calochortus davidsonianus. In this same location, we again saw C. kennedyi but these plants were all in seed.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…

  Our final destination was the ridge line behind Santa Barbara and Monetcito, CA. On the undulating ridge spine composed of alternating sandstone and granite outcrops grows my personal pick for prettiest Calochortus of them all: Calochortus fimbriatus. These large plants grow 2-3 feet tall with several blooms per stem, each overflowing with brightly colored hairs and mottled with beautiful pinks, reds, and purples. We caught the bloom very early so the true variety of colors and patterns went largely unsampled. Even from such a "sneak peak" however, we found many truly beautiful blossoms.

- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
- http://anexaminedlife.net/calochortus_2015/…
  
Whew! So that was my crazy season of Calochortus travels - and I virtually nelglected the California species at the northernmost portions of the state. You can be sure I am itching to return to these spots next year to see the effects of what may be the rainiest rainy season we've ever had!

Until then...
-|<ipp

  



 		 	   		   		 	   		   		 	   		  





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