Observations of Flowering Plants and the Main Vernal Pools on the Mesa de Colorado, 2/8/03 onward

Chronological Observations

Introduction to this page

earlier observations
2003 February 8
2003 February 14
2003 February 21
2003 February 28
2003 March 6
2003 March 12
2003 March 19
2003 March 24
2003 March 29
2003 April 6
2003 April 15
2003 April 21
2003 April 30
2003 May 7

2003 February 8: Vernal Pool Trail, Ranch Road, S. Trans Preserve Trail. Cool conditions, a high of 63°, with a cool breeze.

I hiked with Nathan, and then Kay joined us at the Adobes after her trailhead duty.

The ground pinks are making a nice display near the Trailhead, but I can hardly believe they can do it. If you lightly touch them, they are nearly wilted from drought. Yet somehow they manage to hold their flowers up high, an especially amazing feat since their flower is as big as the rest of the plant combined.

The yellow carpet, blennosperma, is not as tough. Many of the plants, especially by the Main Pool, are dead.

Although the yellow carpet won't recover from the next rain, it still looks like everything else will make it, if we can get some rain this next week.

There are two excellent displays of blue dicks on the Vernal Pool Trail. Lovely sweet pea blooms accompany one display, but it is hard to see, under the oak to the left of the trail as it drops off the Mesa.

Immediately before the Main Pool, a large robust field of slender tarweed rosettes are present. They will make a beautiful display if we can get some more rain.

I was thrilled to find a blooming foothill needlegrass, Nassella lepida, on the Vernal Pool Trail in the chaparral, since neither Zach or I had managed to locate one at the SRP before. Two nearby large common lomatiums were so much larger and more robust than the ones on the Mesa that I could hardly believe they were the same species. This was dramatic evidence of how hard it is for plants to grow in the heavy clay of the Mesa, resulting in stunted small specimens of some species.

The chocolate lilies have only just now begun to bloom on the Vernal Pool Trail, even though they have been in full bloom for several weeks on the Trans Preserve and Los Santos Trails. The delay on the VP Trail is probably due to its north-facing aspect, keeping them cooler and less sunny, then the east and west-facing aspects of the other two trails.

I was excited to come across an unusual California buttercup that Carole Bell and Charlie Smithson had told me about a week earlier, on the Trans Preserve Trail. When Charlie saw it, the bloom was strikingly different from the typical flower. The bloom had five petals that were normal except four of them had multiple-lobed tips, instead of the normal single curve at the tips. In addition, there were five shorter petals, absent from our usual flowers, and in the center was a large green thing replacing the normal pistils and stamens. I was very interested in finding out what that green thing was, and what happened to the pistils and stamens.

When I saw it, the answer was clear. The green thing had turned into a regular buttercup flower on its own stalk that arose from the center of the multiple-lobed petals. I had occasionally seen this happen before to flowers, where something goes wrong with the flower formation, producing this "flower from a flower" display.

Farther along the Trans Preserve Trail, I hunted for the fringe-pod, and got to see it when it was only in bloom, without any seeds. The bloom is only about a mm (1/25 of an inch) in size. This plant is normally only noticed when it produces its pretty seeds, 5-8 times bigger, which look like little wagon wheels hanging to the sides all along its flower stalk (its close relative is called spoke-pod).

2003 February 14: Vernal Pool Trail, Waterline Road, N. Vista Grande Trail. Cold cloudy conditions, a high of 60°.

The wildflower season is saved! We got 3 inches of rain in Fallbrook and at the Mesa de Burro weather station, and ~5 inches of rain in some locations on the Plateau. The small pools filled again, and the Main Pool is almost half full. It's going to continue to be a good wildflower year, especially when compared to last year.

The Main Pool is a large continuous expanse of water. Up close, it was sheer delight to see the depth of the water, and the seven sets of Western Spadefoot Toad eggs in the water. The frogs and toads under the boardwalk were loudly echoing my joy.

Only a few water-striders, water snails and a few medium-size bugs were visible, but I knew the fairy shrimp, water fleas et al were there, growing as fast as they could to outrun the Pool's eventual demise.

Descending the lip of the Mesa, I enjoyed seeing probably the best display of blue dicks and sweet pea on the Reserve just now, the same one I saw for the first time last week. This display is somewhat hidden, off to the left of the trail past the boulders lining the trail, under the canopy of an oak. I don't know how I've missed this area in the seven years I have hiked this trail. How many new things there are to see even on familiar trails!

It was too muddy to continue through the chaparral, so I drove to the Visitor Center to check out Cole Creek on the Vista Grande Trail. Such a difference from my previous visit there! Instead of a dry, barren creek bed, the creek was full of brown water flowing slowly. What a delight!

I continued past the Creek in order to extend the plant guide I had started a few weeks ago. I was rewarded by seeing the first baby blue eyes in bloom, as well as a cluster of milk maids.

You are guaranteed to make almost anyone envious if you report that you went hiking and saw milk maids and baby blue eyes in bloom. (;-)

2003 February 21: Waterline Road, N. Los Santos Trail, Vernal Pool Trail, Ranch Road, S. Trans Preserve Trail. Sunny pleasant conditions, a high of 71°.

This was a day filled with new sights!

The first part of the day was devoted to checking out some flowers that Kay Madore had seen but not known the species names. I was quite excited to check out a gilia or linanthus she had seen on Waterline Road, since I was not yet familiar with the seven species (other than ground pinks) found here. Essentially none of these had bloomed last year, due to the drought, and I hadn't knowingly seen them in 2001.

Unfortunately, that "gilia" turned out to be a muilla. Kay's guess for the gilia name was quite understandable, since there has been an erroneous identification of muilla as Angel's gilia in all the SRP Identified Photograph Books, apparently for years. I had reported this error last year, which was confirmed by the SRP plant guru, Gordon House, but somehow the books never got fixed. I immediately fixed the two books in the Visitor's Center, but there are still three books that need correction. So don't believe it if someone shows you an Angel's gilia on the Vernal Pool Trail, which I've never seen in several years of intensive botanizing on that Trail. Check it out yourself by simply counting the petals. If it has six petals, not five, it is a muilla.

We then hiked the beginning of the N. Los Santos Trail so I could identify two plants she didn't know there. My first surprise came when the unknown vetch she had found was unknown to me as well. I keyed it out later and it turned out to be common vetch, Vicia sativa, another species not previously found here. This was Kay's first addition to the plant list. A month or so ago, she had found a new species, chaparral currant, Ribes malvaceum, but Zach had previously found it and noted it as an addition to the plant list. Congratulations, Kay!

Checking out the Main Pool was next on our list. We parked at the Vernal Pool Trailhead and were immediately enveloped by clouds of midges. I had been told years ago that these were clouds of male mosquitoes. This was a very reasonable deduction, since they sure looked like mosquitoes and they didn't bite. However, we had subsequently learned that these were more likely midges, and how to tell the difference. Midges hold their wings parallel when at rest, whereas mosquitoes hold their wings at an angle. These insects clearly had parallel wings at rest.

We took another source of pleasure in admiring these midges. Ever since the last Pool formed two years ago, Kay and I have been trying to learn the identity of our wriggly red worms in the Main Pool. Kay's perseverance in asking biologists she met about the red worms eventually paid off in the information that some midges do indeed produce red larvae. It was a bonus to tie them to the clouds of black insects that I used to dive into my car to escape from.

We were hiking with Rick Halsey and his friend Bill, who were photographing the flowers and studying our Vernal Pool. We got seriously sidetracked on the way to the pool, when Rick or Bill began watching two coyotes relatively close to us. Much to the surprise of all of us, the coyotes proceeded to begin mating!

These were apparently two young coyotes, since they were smaller and seemed to have more babyish features than the usual coyotes I see. My guess therefore was that they were only one year old. They also looked and acted a bit clueless as they began mating. After two to three quick mounts and dismounts, the "copulatory tie" was established. By this time, a crowd of 11 people, 4 in my group and 7 in two other groups, had gathered along the trail to watch. They fortunately included two biologists from Cal Poly Pomona University, Joan Leong and John Demboski.

What happened next surprised me and everyone else in the crowd except John, who had seen dogs mating when he was 11 years old: NOTHING! The male returned all his feet to the ground, with the tie still established, and acted like he was completely unclear as to what was supposed to happen next. Amazingly, he turned around, facing away from the female. Everyone in the crowd winced, figuring that this rotation had to be at least a bit uncomfortable for the male!

More "nothing" kept happening. Sometimes the female would take a few steps forward, forcing the male to shuffle backward to avoid unpleasant sensations. After about ten minutes of this, John reported that the dogs he had seen mating took a full hour to consummate the act. This considerably dampened my enthusiasm to continue observations, so after a total of about 20 minutes we continued to the Main Pool. Rick took a lot of pictures with his telephoto lens that should be quite interesting to see.

I still would like to know how this "conjugal tie" gets resolved. I can only speculate that after a while, the male finally decides to become more actively involved in ending the tie, which as a side-effect brings things to a final conclusion. What a funny way to "do it"!

At the Main Pool, Kay and I were delighted to see our old friends, the fairy shrimp, again. We were astonished at how big they were. From past years' experience, I had predicted that the largest shrimp would be 0.20 inches long. Instead, the largest shrimp were at least 50% bigger, just under 3/8 inch. This was an amazing change from just five days earlier, when Kay used her sharp eyes and patience but still couldn't see them. The lack of visibility five days earlier was consistent with previous years' observations, so this truly was a faster growth rate in the last five days.

I was also surprised at the amount of algae that was already in the Pool. The submersed material already had a pretty good coating of algae, and there was even some on the surface. Kay speculated that it was because the Pool was shallower, allowing more sunlight to get through, as well as making the Pool warmer. Perhaps the more abundant algae allowed the shrimp to grow a bit faster this year.

We found plenty of the usual spadefoot toad egg masses, but some unusual egg masses as well. Normal egg masses are sinuous two connected lines of eggs laying on the bottom unattached to anything, or the line wrapped around a vegetation stalk. The unusual egg masses were about 50 normal-looking eggs in a jellied mass with a clear boundary that was stuck to three stalks of vegetation at those boundaries of the mass. Kay found out two days later from another biologist visiting the pool that this was a normal transformation for the eggs. We simply had missed noticing this before since the masses become harder to see after they undergo this transformation.

I was ecstatic when Joan Leong, who does research on the insect pollinators of Vernal Pool plants, asked about some different eggs she and her friend had seen in another part of the Pool. They turned out to be the Western Toad eggs that had eluded me for years! They really do lay long black strands of up to 16,500 eggs at one time!

After we left the Pool, we came across what I thought surely must be a Linanthus species, which looked very similar to pictures I've seen of them, with opposite leaves so deeply lobed that they looked like whorls of leaves. So I was feeling pretty pleased at finding a new-to-me Linanthus after all. However, while attempting to identify it later at home, I realized immediately that this plant was not even in the same family (the Phlox-family) due to a number of contradictions with characteristics of that family. Oddly, though, I couldn't key it out, despite trying both the Jepson Manual and Munz's keys.

Jane Strong was able to come to the rescue, and identified it solely from the description I provided her as spurrey, Spergula arvensis. The identification checked out in every detail. (This is an absolutely-amazing feat, for those unfamiliar with how hard it is at times to identify plants even when one has a specimen in hand.) This species turns out to be the second new species of the day for the SRP plant list!

Spurrey is a non-native species that likes vernally moist sites, so its location near the Main Pool was exactly where it would be found, if it were introduced here. I suspect I will feel the urge to eradicate it before it can become yet another potential pest at the Main Pool. (For those who think, as I used to, that introduced species are no big deal, and that this is simply an example of evolution at work, please read "Unnatural" Competition From Non-Native Plants.)

The rest of our hike was comparatively uneventful. The chocolate lilies were getting close to peak bloom on the Vernal Pool Trail, and were still at peak bloom on the Trans Preserve Trail.

I judged the day an incredible success, despite my disappointment at not finding a gilia or linanthus. (;-)

2003 February 28: Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail. Cold cloudy conditions, a high of only 56°.

The rain of the last three days filled up the Main Pool to the brim - yay! So now the full show is guaranteed to go on. There are many clumps of Western Spadefoot Toad eggs near the boardwalk. Fairy shrimp are 1/4 to 1/2 inch long now, and there are hundreds of them per square foot in some areas right next to the boardwalk. About 1% of them are now sexually mature, showing egg cases. The first Daphnea (water fleas, "gray shrimp"); Cyclops (rotifers, "red shrimp"); and midge fly larvae ("red wriggly worms") are present. It's wonderful to see all these old buddies again!

Due to the very muddy and wet conditions on the lower Vernal Pool Trail, the Trail was closed beyond the loop to the Main Pool, so after spending a fair amount of time at the Pool, I went back to the trailhead. It was too boggy even to check the small pool at the Perc Pit immediately beside the trail near the Los Santos Trail.

I then botanized the beginning of the Granite Loop Trail, and came across the first bloom of the angel's gilia. So I got to see a gilia or linanthus after all, just with a week's delay.

Although the Granite Loop Trail was in good shape, it was quite cold. I wore my heavy coat all the time I did that trail.

2003 March 6: Granite Loop Trail, Vernal Pool Trail. Sunny pleasant conditions from noon to 4 pm on the Granite Loop Trail; cool then cold conditions on the Vernal Pool Trail 4:30 to 6:30 pm; with a high of 65° at 2 pm.

I spent most of the afternoon botanizing on the Granite Loop Trail. I was pleased to see the angel's gilia again, and especially excited to run across its sister who I hadn't seen at the SRP before, globe gilia, just a bit farther along the trail. I came across Jurupa Hills suncup and Bishop's lotus in bloom, and was able to identify them later. This was especially pleasing, since two years ago I had no clue how to identify these species, and just left them as suncup species or lotus species.

The baby blue eyes was making a good display along the trail. There were even patches of blue in the distance at one spot from them.

Near the end of the trail, where I knew I had seen mustang mint before, I touched some of the leaves and immediately recognized my old friend. I love the scent of that plant! I'll be able to enjoy that scent over a long period of time since I now can recognize that plant when it has only a few leaves on it.

Previously in the day, I had the good fortune to run into Carole Bell, and she showed me her awesome pictures of Cole Creek in flood from the last two rainstorms. Cole Creek flooded all the way from the old entrance gate to the junction of Tenaja and Ranch Roads. She was cut off from the outside world by car for almost two days each time, and she loved it.

Carole asked me to check whether the Vernal Pool Trail was dry enough to be reopened, and to reopen it if it was.

The "mudpit" section of that Trail in the chaparral below the Mesa was amazingly dry, with only one or two portions that required any care in placing one's feet. But the section between the end of the chaparral and the bench at the final big turn in the trail was still moist in three sections, and definitely required watching where one put one's feet in those spots.

I had to think about whether to open the trail or not, but in the end decided that the few muddy sections were no worse than on many other trails, and that the trail was good enough that people will not be forging new trails around the muddy sections. So on the way back, I took down the closure signs.

It was clear that the closure was the right thing to do until just about now, since the trail really was pretty unpassable before, and the few people on it before it was closed had already cut a bypass trail around the worst section. Of course, this trampled all the plants growing on that bypass trail, and compacted the soil there which would harm plants for years to come. It is especially damaging to compact the soil when it is wet, since it is much harder for the soil to recover. (All gardeners know that one never works garden soil when it is too wet, for the same reason.)

At the Main Pool, Western Toad were mating and laying their string of ~10,000 black eggs at the far end of the boardwalk. In the decade I've been watching the Pool, I had never seen them doing this before, and never even seen any Western Toad eggs prior to this year. Curiously, on the previous weekend, and I later found out, on the next weekend, Kay Madore had seen a number of toads mating without laying eggs. Curious behavior!

The Western Spadefoot Toad eggs were hatching. The clumps of eggs were still mostly intact, but the little tadpoles were beginning to struggle to get out of the clump. A few were free; one was surprising large, perhaps almost a half inch in length. The Daphnea and Cyclops were easily visible today, along with the midge fly larvae, the "red wriggly worms", which were about 1/4 inch in length.

2003 March 12: Granite Loop Trail, Vernal Pool Trail. Sunny pleasant conditions from noon to 4 pm on the Granite Loop Trail; then cool conditions on the Vernal Pool Trail 4:30 to 7:00 pm; with a high of 72° at 2 pm.

Kay Madore joined me to botanize the Granite Loop Trail, and to study the creatures at the Main Pool.

The Granite Loop Trail continues to have many floral treasures. For the past month, I had been keeping my eye on some little prostrate plants, and they turned out to be another new species for the plant list, combseed, Pectocarya penicillata.

I also had my eye on a much more robust plant that was coming up all over the trail and yet I had no idea what it was. Kay had observed it in bloom earlier in the day, and was extremely frustrated that she couldn't find it in bloom again in the early afternoon with me, not realizing that the bloom was apparently only open in the early morning. I was able to identify the species from the closed flower, and was totally blown away that this mystery plant was silver puffs!

Last year, all the silver puffs held their flowers within inches of the ground. These plants were several feet tall, large robust things! Only Jane Strong had been able to guess what they might turn out to be. I had considered this id as well, but rejected it, because, according to the floras, silver puffs are supposed to bloom with their flower stems coming up from the base of the plant without any leaves attached, or at most only a few. But to paraphrase a remark by Steve Boyd: "Plants don't read floras. They grow the way they want to, not necessarily the way the floras say they grow". (;-)

Hundreds of angel's gilia almost lined the trail. We kept finding it in bloom in patch after patch.

What really took our breath away was the baby blue eyes. It formed patches of blue in three spots, much better than the few plants I had seen in past years.

We smelled the pineapple weed, but this year the smell is horrible! Kay had found this out earlier this year as well. Normally, the crushed blooms indeed smell like pineapples. (This species is a non-native weed, so if you can positively identify them, feel free to crush any blooms you see and smell them. But beware!)

On the Vernal Pool Trail, we both had independently come to the conclusion in the last month that the buttercup simply was not putting on a very good display this year, as compared to past years. This, of course, is contrary to virtually every other species, which are looking much better this year than last. In fact, even during the overall-pathetic-bloom year last year, the buttercup put on a much better display. Go figure!

It was near dusk when we arrived at the Main Pool, so our time there was limited. We saw all our usual friends, as well as seed shrimp today for the first time, making the roster of creatures complete. Interestingly, there were more midges along the far end of the pool loop trail than I had ever seen before. There were 20 to 50 clouds, with each clouds containing hundreds or thousands of midges. I ended up breathing a few midges as I walked through them!

Kay and I parted company at the Pool, because I was intent on checking how the chocolate lilies were doing on the lower Vernal Pool Trail, primarily for the bloom status report and for the Theodore Payne wildflower hotline. It was getting pretty dark when I turned around. As I hiked back, occasionally fairly large creatures would move across the trail, which I guessed were Western Toads or Western Spadefoot Toads.

As the last light was retreating from the sky, it was replaced by the songs of frogs and toads, which filled the night. Those songs prompted me to remember two things. First, that Zach had told me that no one had sighted Western Spadefoot Toads themselves for years. Second, that a biologist had told me that the ostracods in those pools were bioluminescent and flashed when mating. These were two good reasons to make a detour to the boardwalk, despite the lateness of the hour.

As I slowly approached the pool with small flashlight in hand, I saw that Pacific chorus frogs were numerous along the boardwalk. I slowly walked around the boardwalk, looking for the elusive Western Spadefoot Toad. I saw some very large "toad prints" across the boardwalk, but no toads.

Checking the shrimp with flashlight, I saw that nearly every Santa Rosa shrimp was mating, with two sets of two red eyes traveling together. I then remembered I had noticed this two years ago, too, that this species of fairy shrimp seemed to prefer mating at dusk. (They do mate during the day as well.)

With flashlight off, and eyes adapted to the moonlight, I searched for bioluminescence. Unfortunately, I was not able to see any light other than reflections of moonlight in the water. The moonlight was split into a hundred or so dots over a patch of several feet on a side, which definitely handicapped a search for small flashes of bioluminescence.

Although I was 0 for 2 for my immediate objectives, I felt richly rewarded anyway. It was magical being out in the moonlight on the boardwalk, sharing the shimmering moonlight and starry sky with the pond residents, and enjoying the symphony of the frog and toad calls.

On my walk out, I saw about seven western toads and seven Pacific chorus frogs fairly well evenly spaced along the trail. I had no idea that this people trail became a frog and toad trail in the evening!

2003 March 19: Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail. Sunny conditions with a cool stiff breeze from noon to 4 pm on the Vernal Pool Trail; then cold conditions on the Granite Loop Trail 4:30 to 6:00 pm; with a high of 62° at 1 pm.

Hiked with Jane Strong. Unfortunately, I failed to write this up in a timely manner.

2003 March 24: Vernal Pool Trail, Ranch Road, S. Trans Preserve Trail, Granite Loop Trail. Cold moist conditions, with a heavy fog on the Vernal Pool Trail from noon to ~ 2 pm, lifting slightly for the rest of the afternoon; with a high of 53° from 11 am to 4 pm.

Hiked with Valerie Soza. Unfortunately, I failed to write this up in a timely manner.

2003 March 29: Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail. Sunny, Santa-Ana-strong-windy conditions from ~11 am to noon on the Vernal Pool Trail; then the wind died down, making the hiking conditions much more pleasant for the rest of the day; with a high of 72° at 2 pm.

I led a Rancho Santa Ana Herbarium-sponsored plant tour for six botanists attending the Monocots III conference. Three were from Australia; the other three were from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Czechoslovakia. This was a perfect-sized tour; much better than if the maximum of 15 had shown up.

Despite a brisk Santa Ana wind, we managed to have an enjoyable tour, seeing nearly all of the 100 species in bloom on both of those trails.

It was very interesting that the Australians had to fight the urge to pull up the lupines we saw, since lupines are non-native weeds there! They also were surprised to see that we weren't spraying our native prickly pears with round-up to kill them. (;-)

One of the main interests for some of the tour participants was to see each of our non-native grass species!

2003 April 6: Vernal Pool Trail, Granite Loop Trail.

I led a second tour for the botanists attending the Monocots III conference. It was another good group of interested botanists. This time, their interest concentrated on wetland plants such as sedges and rushes. I was amazed at how many I had missed along the trails! These people had very sharp eyes for the small hard-to-notice species.

Again, a good time was had by all, especially me. It is always a great experience to hike with people with expertise in different areas, and learn from them, too.

2003 April 15: Granite Loop Trail.

We had the first meeting to form a non-profit Santa Rosa Plateau Foundation, in order to raise money to support the educational programs of the Plateau, which are now threatened by the loss of MWD funding. I got there early enough to do a quick one hour walk along the Granite Loop Trail before the meeting, and work on its plant list.

2003 April 21: Tovishal, Torino, and Granite Loop Trails.

Kay had hiked the Tovishal / Torino Trail last week, and told me what a wonderland of flowers they were. So we did a plant list for that trail this week. And boy was Kay right! That trail was stunning! We found 35 different species in just the first 50 feet of the trail, with most of them in bloom.

I was especially excited to do this trail, since Kay had found rattlesnake weed, Chamaesyce albomarginata, on it. I've seen about a zillion look-alike plants, but they all turned out to be small-seeded spurge, Chamaesyce polycarpa. Nearly every beginning botanist identifies that latter plant erroneously as rattlesnake weed, including myself up until a year ago, because flower picture books only contain pictures of rattlesnake weed. I was very surprised when I first learned that small-seeded spurge looks almost exactly the same, and that microscopic examination of the leaf stipules was needed to tell them apart.

We really enjoyed seeing all the many lovely species, including the Chinese Houses, purple Clarkias, rockroses, the fringed Indian pinks and the twining snapdragons on this trail. We did a portion of the Granite Loop Trail afterward, and both species were now blooming on it, too. The fringed Indian pink is such a lovely big bloom, that it is hard to realize it is a sister species to the tiny bloom of windmill pin.

The twining snapdragon is a very unusual plant. It has a normal snapdragon flower, but it twines to other bushes with its flower stalk! That would be like us twining around something using our neck.

2003 April 30: Vernal Pool Trail, Ranch Road, S. Trans Preserve Trail.

Zach and Kay joined me to botanize the Vernal Pool Trail. I hadn't noticed the several deerweed plants near the trailhead blooming this year, so went in search for them. To my surprise, they were now dead. Zach reminded me that they were short-lived, but it still surprised me that both have died, with no replacements anywhere close to them. Perhaps these were plants from the last burn, and no other deerweeds will be present there until the next burn.

Zach's sharp eyes found two clovers along the trail today that I hadn't seen yet. It really is a fantastic year, with nearly every species making an appearance.

At the pool, some tadpoles had fully developed rear legs, but still had their tail. Zach told us these were called metamorphs. Some of these will be emerging from the pool within days.

Zach went off to work on one of his transects, where he records all the species present at regular intervals along a fixed line, and Kay and I went in search of the fairy lanterns. We had learned they were blooming from a group of people who asked us a number of questions about the flowers, so we were quite excited to see them for the first time in two years. They lived up to our expectations and more, since they were in full bloom in the chaparral section I call fairy lane. About 100 blooms lined that section, giving us much pleasure. And I'm sure the fairies are happy about having "street" lighting at night for a while! (;-)

On the way back, we did a plant list for the S. Trans Preserve Trail beginning at Hidden Valley Road. Much to our surprise, it didn't take us very long at all to cover the beginning of the trail, since there were two to three times fewer species in the first hundred feet than there were on the Tovashal Trail. Worse, nearly all the species were non-natives, primarily reflecting what has happened to most of the native grasslands of California in the last two centuries.

Doing a plant list, at a very slow pace, allows one to see all sorts of plants that might be missed while hiking at a normal pace. We found a very interesting little plant that I had never seen before, showy plectritis. We thought it was a little clover at first, but it was a member of a little-seen plant family, the Valerianaceae family. It has very tiny flowers arranged in whorls, like a miniature Chinese House but with miniature toadflax flowers.

I was very pleased to finally find a microseris, which was obvious with its flower buds recurved 180° before becoming erect in bloom. I had been hunting for one of this species for almost two years. There are five very similar species in this complex, and it really helps to have seen each of them to tell them apart reliably.

2003 May 7: Waterline Road, beginning of Vernal Pool Trail.

Kay and I went off first in pursuit of her mystery flower she had found two weeks ago while helping Tina place her ant traps. Kay was able to find it quickly, and it later turned out to be Zach's recent addition to the plant list, small-flowered morning glory, Convolvulus simulans.

Rob joined us to work on the plant list for the S. Los Santos Trail. Kay spotted a species I had been hunting for some time, an annual locoweed. Bob Muns had observed this species, and added it to the plant list, but I had never spotted it before. It was nothing like I expected, since it hardly resembles a normal locoweed at all! Instead, it just looked like a funny small vetch.

But soon after we started, it began to rain fairly steadily. Fortunately, when one is doing a plant list, one is never far from the trailhead for an hour or so, so we quickly made it back to our cars.

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Copyright © 2002-2003 by Tom Chester.
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Updated 9 May 2003.