I started this month with the final day of the City Nature Challenge. My friend Roxanne and I went up into El Dorado County and drove up Ice House Road looking for more species to add to our lists. We were VERY surprised to find that the majority of the wildflowers we were hoping to see were still under several feet of snow!
The snowmelt, however made the south fork of the American River look like it was roaring by, and the little Bridal Veil waterfall on Highway 50 looked much more robust than we’ve ever seen it.
At the falls, we found that there had been rockslides and landslides there which changed the shape and texture of the cliffs surrounding the falls. We did get to see the Dog Pelt lichen, stonecrop, and Powerhorn/Pixie Cup lichen on the rocks that we often see there. And we also saw some Chaparral Currant just starting to flower. All in all, though, the area looked oddly much “drier” than we’d seen it in the past. [For the identification information, click on an image.]
At the very beginning of our trip, we saw quite a few wildflowers, including the lovely North Californian Indian Pink and the new-to-me Shy Monkeyflower. We thought those bode well for the rest of our day. Unfortunately, no. The snow covered everything along the roadsides at the higher elevations. [For the identification information, click on an image.]
To find more flowers, we had to go back down to the lower elevations at the end of our trip. Once again we were able to see quite a few, including some Baby Blue Eyes at the exit from the Sly Park parking lot on Jenkinson Lake. [For the identification information, click on an image.]
Most, if not all, of the mountains we saw in the distance are part of the Sierra Nevada range.
“…The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in the Western United States, between the Central Valley of California and the Great Basin. The vast majority of the range lies in the state of California, although the Carson Range spur lies primarily in Nevada…” Wikipedia
You can see in the photos below, that the higher we went up on Ice House Road, the more dense the roadside snow became — even though the road was clear and mostly dry.
All along the road, as far as the trees went, we were seeing the usual suspects seen in other mixed pine forest regions. Lots of Incense Cedar, Douglas Firs, Ponderosa Pines, Sugar Pines and aspens. There were also Bigleaf Maple Trees, Canyon Live Oaks, and Dogwood trees, and several different species of manzanita. At the lower elevations, the Pacific Madrone trees were in bloom. [For the identification information, click on an image.]
On the manzanita trees, we saw evidence of galls of the Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Tamalia coweni. The galls on the flowers are made in reaction to wingless female aphids, and the galls on the leaves are made by multiple stem mothers. Stem mothers produce female nymphs without mating (parthenogenetic reproduction).
“…As a specialist, Tamalia species are closely associated with rare and endangered manzanita host plants across California landscapes including isolated mountains in the Mojave desert, along coastal chaparral and woodlands, and inland mountains and valleys… As an herbivorous habitat engineer found across California’s ecoregions, this species contributes broadly to diversity and allows insight into variation in response to climatic gradients. Its dependence on rare and endangered host species will show how local adaptation occurs and how herbivores can serve as indicators of habitat quality, providing insight into the vulnerability of higher trophic levels to disturbance…” California Conservation Genomic Project.
Another interesting gall-former is a plant: various kinds of dwarf mistletoe. The mistletoe is a parasite that robs the tree of water and nutrition. Some of the specimens we found were larger than I had ever seen.
We could hear birds in the trees around us, including some Steller’s Jays, but they were mostly hidden by the forest so I couldn’t get photos of them. I watched as a Black-Capped Chickadee landed on a branch right behind Roxanne. I told her, “Don’t move. Don’t move,” as I tried in vain to get a photograph of it… but it bounced up and up into the higher branches until it was out of sight. *Sigh*
The only bird I got halfway decent photos of was a large Raven. We saw it going through trash on the side of the road, but then it jumped up onto a branch and posed for a little while. They’re such handsome birds.
I was very happy to see small groups of Columbian Black-Tailed deer on the edges of the forest in several places. And we seemed to see Western Fence Lizards darting allover the place.
We also found some new-to-me insects when we were studying the manzanita trees: a very tiny Predatory Thrip and a Cherry Plum Mining Bee.
But, even though it was lovely outside and some of the views were wow-inspiring, the snow still kept us from seeing all we wanted to see, and our species count for the day was lower than I had hoped. It might be June before we can see more wildflowers up here.
This was outing #24 of my #52HikeChallenge for the year.
Right now, here’s where Roxanne and I are in the City Nature Challenge ratings. Our positions may change as more people add their observations to the database.
- Alder, White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
- Alumroot, Alpine Alumroot, Heuchera glabra
- Alumroot, Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
- Alumroot, Pink Alumroot, Heuchera rubescens
- Annual Honesty, Lunaria annua [purple-pink flowers on tall stalk]
- Ant, Californicus-Group Harvester Ants, Complex Pogonomyrmex californicus
- Aspen Tree, Trembling Aspen, Populus tremuloides
- Baby Blue Eyes, Menzies’ Baby Blue Eyes, Nemophila menziesii
- Bees, Cherry Plum Mining Bee, Andrena cerasifolii
- Bees, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
- Black Capped Chickadee, Poecile atricapillus
- Blue Dicks, Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus
- Brittle Bladderfern, Cystopteris fragilis
- Broom, French Broom, Genista monspessulana
- Broom, Scotch Broom, Cytisus scoparius
- Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
- Buttercup, Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis
- California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
- California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
- California Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
- Chaparral Currant, Ribes malvaceum [pink flowers]
- Cherry Laurel, Prunus laurocerasus
- Chinquapin, Bush Chinquapin, Chrysolepis sempervirens
- Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
- Common Button Lichen, Buellia erubescens [black eyes on white or alone]
- Common Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
- Crane Fly, Giant Western Crane Fly, Holorusia hespera
- Creek Plum Trees, Prunus rivularis
- Cutleaf Burnweed, Senecio glomeratus
- Deerbrush Ceanothus, Ceanothus integerrimus
- Dog Pelt Lichen, Peltigera canina
- Dogwood, Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii
- Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii
- Elegant Clarkia, Clarkia unguiculata [red line on leaves when young]
- Erodium, Redstem Stork’s-Bill, Erodium cicutarium
- Fern, Bird’s Foot Cliffbrake, Pellaea mucronata
- Fern, Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
- Fringed Shield Lichen, Parmelina coleae
- Giraffe’s Head, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
- Gooseberry, Sierra Gooseberry, Ribes roezlii
- Grasses, Early Hair Grass, Aira praecox
- Grasses, Pine Bluegrass, Poa secunda
- Ithuriel’s Spears, Triteleia laxa
- Lupine, Silvery Lupine, Lupinus argenteus
- Madrone, Pacific Madrone, Arbutus menziesii
- Mahala Mat, Ceanothus prostratus
- Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Tamalia coweni [multiple stem mothers, galls on leaves]
- Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Tamalia coweni [wingless females, galls on flowers]
- Manzanita, Greenleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos patula
- Manzanita, Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
- Maple, Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum
- Mealy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora strobilina [green tint]
- Mistletoe, Juniper Mistletoe, Phoradendron juniperinum [yellow-orange]
- Mistletoe, Western Dwarf-Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
- Monkeyflower, Kellogg’s Monkeyflower, Diplacus kelloggii [pink]
- Monkeyflower, Shy Monkeyflower, Erythranthe nasuta
- Mosses, Lyell’s Bristle-Moss, Pulvigera lyellii
- Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa
- Mountain Whitethorn, Ceanothus cordulatus
- Mule’s Ears, Gray Mule-Ears, Wyethia helenioides
- Netted Crust Fungus, Byssomerulius corium
- North Californian Indian Pink, Silene laciniata californica [look like red catchfly]
- Oak, Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
- Oak, California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
- Oak, Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis
- Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
- Paintbrush, Wavyleaf Paintbrush, Castilleja applegatei
- Palmer Ceanothus, Ceanothus palmeri
- Pebbled Pixie Cup Lichen, Cladonia pyxidata
- Periwinkle, Greater Periwinkle, Vinca major
- Phacelia, Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata [white]
- Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
- Poppy, California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
- Powder-Tipped Rosette Lichen, Physcia dubia
- Purple Sanicle, Sanicula bipinnatifida
- Rosemary, Salvia rosmarinus
- Shining Netvein Barberry, Berberis dictyota
- Small-Leaved Blinks, Montia parvifolia
- Steller’s Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri
- Stonecrop, Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
- Sugar Pine, Pinus lambertiana
- Thistle, Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
- Thistle, Italian Thistle, Carduus pycnocephalus
- Thrips, Predatory Thrip, Aeolothrips sp.
- Trumpet Lichen, Cladonia fimbriata
- Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
- Western Fence Lizard, Blue Belly, Sceloporus occidentalis
- Western Gall Rust, Cronartium harknessii [on pine trees]
- White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
- Willow, Red Willow, Salix laevigata
- Willow, Sitka Willow, Salix sitchensis
- Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpina
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