Eastern Sierras – One Last Stop

First of all kudos, props and a thunderous round of applause for the Divine Miss Termondt for identifying last week’s mystery plant.  Armed with nothing but an out of focus, poorly lit picture and the entire interwebs worth of California native plants she was able to identify this subtle beauty:

Piperia cooperi

The chaparral rein orchid, stumped even the Lanster who had me hunting through the figwort family… Heck I’ve never seen an orchid around here besides the ones they sell at Trader Joe’s.  That’s just top notch work by you Sarah.  She mentioned that the crucial hint was 3 petals and 3 sepals, a characteristic of most orchids.  Wikipedia agrees with her so it’s gotta be right.  How she got that from my photo is the real mystery.

This weekend’s event calendar is barren as the Gobi, the July doldrums writ large.  Perhaps we’ll get some more monsoonal hilarity, sweet rainbow this morning.  Nopalito Nursery will be having it’s closing sale on Saturday, 75% off anything left (and as much gravel as you can scoop for free!).  I was there today, plenty of succulents and some of the most amazing yerba santas you will ever see in a nursery.  For 3 bucks how could you go wrong.

Yerba santa

One final followup to our trip to the Sierras last month.  Upon the recommendation of our forest guru Heidi Anderson I contacted Kathleen Nelson, botanist and photographer extraordinaire of the Bishop ranger district.  She was nice enough to endure my questions

1.  Your favorite local native Tree/Shrub/Wildflower

I’m going to cheat, because it’s impossible to narrow it down to one with all the amazing things we have here!   Some of the top contenders:

Desert mariposa lily – (Calochortus kennedyi), Woody-fruited evening primrose (Oenothera xylocarpa),  Evening snow (Linanthus dichotomous ssp. dicohtomous), elephant’s heads (Pedicularis attollens, Pedicularis groenlandica).

Calochortus kennedyi

Oenothera xylocarpa

2.  Favorite local hiking trails (no need to give away any secret ones…)

For summertime flowers, it’s hard to beat the Little Lakes Valley trail, but you will have a lot of company.  Nearby McGee Creek also has some great displays.  Though not a hiking trail specifically, Coyote Flat above Bishop, accessible by four wheel drive, has some beautiful displays.

Little Lakes Valley trail viewed from Mono Pass

3.  Most despised invasive non-native

Cheatgrass, I suppose because of its ubiquity, and its potential to really change an entire landscape.
4.  Important local “green” organizations that you support or work with?

Eastern Sierra Land Trust, California Native Plant Society Bristlecone Chapter

Elephant’s heads

5.  Rare plants/blooms to be on the lookout for?

The Eastern Sierra abounds with unique species, but here are a few:

Charlotte’s phacelia (Phacelia nashiana) in the desert habitats south of the Owens Valley; Mono Lake lupine (Lupinus duranii) and Mono milkvetch (Astragalus monoensis) in the pumice flats of the Mammoth – Mono area; Father Crowley’s lupine (Lupinus padre-crowleyi) in the Big Pine Creek/Coyote Flat area; Inyo County star tulip (Calochortus excavatus) in alkali meadows.

Phacelia nashiana

Mono lake lupine

6.  Native plants that are slowly disappearing

Hmm, don’t really know of any that are actually disappearing; we keep an eye on the rare ones; particularly watching out for high elevation species now with predicted climate change.  Fortunately we still have relatively intact habitats, without a lot of development occurring compared to many areas.

Father Crowley’s.. pic by Kathleen!

7.  Biggest threat to local ecosystems and plant habitats

I would have to say that non-native species are probably the biggest single threat to local native plants and ecosystems.

Inyo County star tulip

8.  So many different “vegetative zones” in the Eastern Sierra, have a favorite?

Pretty hard to beat a nice subalpine meadow in late July.

Thank you so much Kathleen…  If you happen to be heading up there this summer be sure to check out this great handout provided by the forest service complete with wildflower checklists for a bunch of trails in the area (and many of the pictures by Kathleen)

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2 Responses to Eastern Sierras – One Last Stop

  1. Sarah says:

    My friend Matt should get the credit! Where did you see the rein orchid btw?

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