THANKS (Experimental Success!)… and a report on my Northern California and Southern Oregon trip to sympatric Claytonia sites

IMG_7744Above, two members of the genus Claytonia from different Sections — C. “serpenticola” (an undescribed species in Section Claytonia) on the left, and C. rubra (Section Limnia) on the right. The two occur in close sympatry in the Lassic Mountain Wilderness, practically high-fiving their cauline leaves. This was a highly productive trip to the north, but before I get to that…

 

I want to say THANKS to all who supported my recent fundraising endeavor with Dr. Ingrid Jordon-Thaden on Experiment.com — we are going to be able to do some much needed fieldwork and conduct fundamental biodiversity research with the money you have all helped us to raise! Thanks so very much, and stay tuned for updates (Lab Notes and Blog Posts) on this ‘open access’ alpine research.

 

OK, back to talking about my recent trip to Oregon and California — I was on the hunt to find locations where multiple Claytonia occur in close sympatry, particularly areas where species may be hybridizing. I am interested in knowing just how well species can maintain their identities in these situations…

IMG_6819I started the trip by meeting up with Larry Crawford for some botanizing in the Sierra Nevada — we found Claytonia sessilifolia (Torrey) Henshaw(pictured above) flowering profusely near Carson Pass in an area that Larry had previously scouted. This plant was featured in the recent Spring Beauty Pageant hosted on my website — it isn’t too late for you to cast a vote for your favorite(s)! In this population it seems like there is only one species present (C. sessilifolia), but this taxon occurs in an interesting habitat (pictured below, with Diana Jolles and Larry Crawford). It also occurs next to some other fantastic spring ephemerals, such as Dicentra uniflora (pictured below) — the hike was well worth it!

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Larry Crawford and Diana Jolles enjoying the habitat on Meiss Ridge

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Following some rest and recovery at Larry’s house (thanks, Larry and Suzanne!), my colleagues and I continued north to Lassen Volcanic National Park, catching a wonderful view of Mt. Lassen (pictured below) — this was my first time taking in such a beautiful sight. I also have never (knowingly) been this close to a stratovolcano. I can’t say that I was nervous that the mountain might erupt, but it actually hasn’t been long since something like that happened (click here to read more about the geologically recent eruption of Lassen Peak). Unfortunately we didn’t find any Claytonia in this area, but we might have also been a tad on the early side for the area we looked — several feet of snow in some drifts. It has been a bit of a whacky weather year…

IMG_6885Having been thwarted by a lack of Claytonia at Lassen Volcanic National Park and lower elevation sites in Lassen National Forest, I decided to book it northward to Crater Lake National Park in an attempt to catch up with a rapidly fading spring. Many of the areas in California where Claytonia have previously been reported as abundant are looking quite parched — the Spring Beauties are apparently less than pleased about it. At Crater Lake, though, we found C. sessilifolia plants blooming where else but in the parking lot (pictured below)!Snagging a few quick pictures of the cinder cone “Wizard Island” (pictured below) in the middle of Crater Lake was just a bonus of doing fieldwork in the area. 😉IMG_6959

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We found some more plants a few miles north of Crater Lake NP on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, and I also happened to snap a quick picture of the BEAUTIFUL Mt. Thielsen (pictured below) on my way out of Crater Lake National Park — this is another place I’ve got my eye on visiting. I’ve heard the Claytonia on Mt. Thielsen are quite interesting… IMG_7019

Next was Abbott Butte (west of Crater Lake National Park) — I ABSOLUTELY had to visit that area this year, as it is the type locality for Claytonia obovata Rydberg. Ray Davis chose to sink this taxon into synonymy in the 1960’s — it has been treated as C. lanceolata since that time. Ray mentioned in his 1966 North American Perennial Species of Claytonia that he collected plants answering the original descriptions of C. obovata, C. multicaulis, and C. chrysantha, as well as C. lanceolata at Abbott Butte. Although he didn’t recognize C. obovata, tubers he collected of that taxon from around the type locality that he grew in a ‘common garden’ retained their rounded leaf shape. What did I find at Abbott Butte? Claytonia lanceolata (pictured below, lacking bifid petals), but not any C. obovata — did it not come up this year? I’ve certainly observed this happening before with C. “peirsonii” in southern California… at least Julian (pictured below) found some delicous black morels (Morchella elata-M. angusticeps-M. conica complex). = YUMMY.IMG_7177

Julian enjoys yummy morels...

Julian enjoys yummy morels…

What do you do when you can’t find a species at its type locality? You write a paper about it  — look for Stoughton et al. (in prep.) coming to a Madroño near you. Fortunately, I have seen C. obovata previously with Heath Bartosh at Hull Mountain — this area is also mentioned in the protologue for C. obovata Rydberg. I did find C. obovata with Diana Jolles and Julian Roberts later during our trip near Cory Peak and Mount Eddy on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in the Klamath Region of California, but I want to tell you first about the next stop on our road trip at the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon — Observation Peak (pictured below) is an area where C. “serpenticola” (pictured below, and at the beginning of this post) is known to occur.IMG_7263

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After seeing C. “serpenticola” (pictured above) more or less ‘alone’ in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon on serpentinite and peridotite, we next saw C. obovata (pictured below) similarly secluded in the Scott Mountains of California near Cory Peak — I now had my search images for a hike that was a major part of the trip. The two species occur in sympatry at Deadfall Lakes just below Mount Eddy, which is where we were headed next. I REALLY want to measure levels of hybridization in this population on Mount Eddy — obvious intermediates exist in the area in seemingly marginal habitats.

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What do hybrids between C. obovata and C. “serpenticola” look like? They probably look something like the pictures below — the two species occur in very close proximity in this area…IMG_7574

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SUCH A COOL SPOT — I will revisit this area next year when there is hopefully a bit better snow pack (which generally = many happy Claytonia). Who is coming with me?! I’m climbing up to the top again for sure. Claytonia “serpenticola” (pictured below) grows very near to the summit, and the view of Mount Shasta (pictured below) from atop Mount Eddy is SPECTACULAR.IMG_7698

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After poking around Mount Eddy with Dana York and Julie Nelson, and a much needed night of rest (Thanks, Dana and Eva!), Diana and Julian headed with me south to the Lassic Mountain Wilderness (Six Rivers National Forest) and Anthony Peak (Mendocino National Forest) to see C. “serpenticola” (pictured below) and C. obovata (pictured below) at additional areas where they occur in allopatry — plants were pretty crispy in northern California, but they were still identifiable!

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I am VERY excited to see how things shake out in the molecular phylogeny I am developing for this group… Stay Tuned!!!

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Here today, gone tomorrow — Doyle and Doyle get a taste of the Desert Southwest Claytonia

IMG_5134IMG_5178Remember the above, beautiful plants photographed flowering a little over two weeks ago in Nevada? If not, see my previous blog post, ¡Holy frijoles!

Well, almost two weeks later Claytonia umbellata is apparently no longer flowering atop Peavine Peak outside of Reno — more snow has come (see below). These poor little guys are now packing on the pounds (and buds) getting very little exercise while they sit and wait for the warmth of a spring (beauty) day. It will come soon. In fact, I’d wager those little monsters are blooming now, as I’m writing from the comfort of my home in southern California. After all, the photographs below are from April 2nd, 2014, and these plants (desert Claytonia) are über-ephemeral. IMG_5739I’m so cold, I couldn’t possibly think of flowering right now…

Dr. Jeff Doyle, Cornell University, searching for the elusive flowering Claytonia.

Dr. Jeff Doyle (Cornell University) trying to stay warm while searching for the elusive flowering Claytonia.

Well, this disappointment came AFTER a morning of heartbreak — searching seemingly suitable habitat without finding plants. Do I really have a good idea of what suitable habitat is? Are they even capable of dispersing here? Let’s back up for a second…

IMG_5221Above is a picture of a location where I collected another population of Claytonia umbellata in the Pine Nut Mountains at Minnehaha Canyon on my spring break trip nearly two weeks ago — the talus I know and love, seemingly characteristic of the Desert Southwest Claytonia. Bearing that in mind, when I see a habitat like the one above, or the one pictured below, and I am very near the type locality of Claytonia umbellata in the area of Mt. Davidson Pass (Nevada), I have to stop and take a look, right? IMG_5724WRONG! There aren’t any Claytonia there (above), not even a C. rubra or C. parviflora ssp. viridis to cheer me up for making a bad call — Nothing! But it looks so good, and the rocks are the same as at Minnehaha Canyon… sample size of one strikes again with these guys. Ever heard the phrase, to each his own? Well, I’m beginning to think these Claytonia take that to the extreme. They are not very good at getting around (dispersal), or they have very picky palettes… or both.

We have just GOT to find some flowering Claytonia, I promised Jeff and Jane! The Doyles joined me for this trip (and to give a seminar at RSABG later), flying all the way out from New York. The Doyles have A LOT of experience with eastern Claytonia, but this western stuff was pretty new for them. We sat in the car on top of Peavine Peak thinking (and not eating) — what were we going to do? That’s it! I know another place we can try, but its further north…

IMG_5772Pictured above, a talus slope of volcanic rocks in the Pah Rah Range near Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Oh no! The sun will be setting in a few hours! We can try to climb that slide and run the risk of not finding any plants, or we can try to race up the canyon to get to a known locality before dark sets in… Jeff and Jane agree, it’ll be worth giving this hillside a good look over before we continue up the canyon.

IMG_5763And thank goodness we did — this area of talus was rich with numerous plants of Claytonia umbellata! We found a new locality for Claytonia umbellata, approximately one mile away from another known locality in the Pah Rah Range AND it was the large-leaved plants, like those seen in the Pine Nut Mountains at Minnehaha Canyon. Compare those to the plants from Peavine Peak (top of page), which happen to grow on different volcanic rocks!

Déjà vu — a feeling of having already experienced the present situation, independent of whether you have or have not experienced the situation or something like it… No idea what I’m talking about? See my “Claytonia rocks!”post — click here for more background information.

I still was unable, though, to fulfill my promise to Jeff and Jane Doyle — we had not yet found flowering Claytonia. There was one more chance to find flowering plants while in Nevada looking for Claytonia umbellata.This was a revisit for me, to a site in the Pine Nut Mountains where I was unable to locate a population on my previous visit. This population is near Bismark Peak, and as far as I can tell, it has not been documented by any herbarium specimen. I found out about the population by scouting CalPhotos for pictures of Claytonia — this population had been photo documented but never vouchered. I want to give a shout out to Larry Crawford, for giving me enough information to find some plants! I was not able to relocate Larry’s ‘secret patch’ of Claytonia umbellata atop Bismark Peak, but the Doyles and I were able to find a new population along the same ridgeline!

IMG_5782Believe it or not, and I’m sure to Larry’s delight, the plants here occur in a really unique habitat — I’m still working on the rock identification (volcanic, or sedimentary?). Crazy thing is, this Claytonia umbellata population consists of only a few plants scattered about in the cracks of the vertically oriented rocks (presumably oriented as such due to frost heaving) — they don’t seem to occur with the other rocks oriented horizontally.

IMG_5786Isn’t that just bizarre! but there were STILL no flowering Claytonia to be found… I was running out of options — a revisit to the population near the Devil’s Punchbowl County Park on Saturday before Jeff and Jane’s departure seemed the most obvious choice. Rather than visiting the Devil’s Backbone (where recent snows may have set plants back from flowering), I decided we should visit a lower elevation site. Would there be flowering Claytonia hanging on at the Devil’s Punchbowl, where I observed plants flowering on February 15th, 2014? (click here to see post, “Yep, it’s Claytonia time…”)

IMG_5816NOPE, it’s not Claytonia time here, at least not really anymore. There were some plants around with buds, but most of the C. lanceolata var. peirsonii here has dispersed its seeds and are beginning to wither back to their underground tubers. We did not find any flowering — I guess the Doyles will have to come back again next year, or meet me somewhere northward in a few more weeks!

We did at least find some flowering Claytonia rubra there, just in the nick of time. It was time to send Jeff and Jane back to New York. Although they may not have gotten to see (much) flowering Claytonia, at least they got to see some flowering California!

Spectacular desert wildflower bloom in the Mojave desert near Piñon Hills, highway 138.

Spectacular wildflower bloom in the Mojave Desert near Piñon Hills, highway 138.

 

 

¡Holy frijoles! You are just too cute, and too close to home…

OK, so I might just have a new favorite Claytonia after my most recent trip into the desert in northwestern Nevada. Let me just tell you something — in the Desert Southwest, spring has sprung! Just like my collaborator at Eastern Washington University (Dr. Robin O’Quinn), I think I am falling in love with the tuberous perennial ‘Great Basin Spring Beauty’ (C. umbellata) — photographed here on March 21st, 2014.

IMG_5178IMG_5195IMG_5134As Stevie Wonder might say, isn’t she lovely?!

It gets better… Also photographed on March 21, 2014, below are some pictures of plants from another population of C. umbellata that occurs on a different substrate in another mountain range nearby in Nevada.

IMG_5221IMG_5227IMG_5230There’s something funny going on here, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it…

Question for readers out there: Who thinks the above plants look similar to the below plants from southern California? Just wonderin’ about evolutionary relationships 😉

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Claytonia Rocks!

So these plants are considered to be ‘geophytes’ because they have underground storage organs, but I find this so-called classification to be much more meaningful than that for the tuberous perennial Claytonia. In order to better understand this, let me break it down a little bit.

Phyte – Greek, generally referring to a plant.

Geo – Greek, generally referring to anything of or relating to the Earth.

2013-05-30 11.44.33Pictured here is the habitat of the typical variety for the Claytonia lanceolata complex, C. lanceolata sensu stricto. At least in northern California, this taxon is known only from soils derived from granitic rocks. The suggestion has been that as a generalist, C. lanceolata (as currently circumscribed) occurs in a variety of habitat types across its range and thus is highly polymorphic morphologically. Well, there are some interesting substrates in southern California within very close proximity where one can find members of C. “peirsonii” complex occurring in nearly equivalent niche space across different substrates… Wait a second, am I studying geology or botany?!

2013-04-20 09.57.32Because bragging about how awesome the San Bernardino Mountains are is my favorite thing in the world to do, I’d like to take this opportunity to point to some interesting Claytonia there that occur on sedimentary carbonate rocks on the north slope of Bertha Ridge. This is the ridge that separates Big Bear Valley to the south from Holcomb Valley to the north. This is where I first encountered plants that match the description of Claytonia lanceolata var. peirsonii Munz&Johnston, or any plant treated as Claytonia lanceolata in the Jepson Manual or Flora of North America, while I was working as a Rare Plant Technician for the USDA Forest Service on the San Bernardino National Forest. More pictures of these plants can be found on CalPhotos.

IMG_9508These plants, as mentioned previously, are ridiculously cute (see related articles below and cast your vote!). More importantly for this story, these plants occur on dolomite, which is a particular type of carbonate rock containing the mineral dolomite.

2013-04-20 12.17.49And boy-howdy are these rocky hills STEEP! Unfortunately, this is an aspect of the habitat that many of the tuberous perennial species of Claytonia appear to have conserved across lineages, making field work incredibly physically demanding when sites are remote. But what is my point, exactly?

2013-04-20 14.20.56Pictured here, approximately 7 air-km to the north, there exists another population of tuberous perennial Claytonia that is primarily associated with the same species (Pinus flexilis, P. monophylla and Juniperus) but otherwise occurs on a different kind of carbonate rock than the population at Bertha Ridge. This becomes significant when you look at the morphology of the plants here, which is inconsistent with the plants at the Bertha Ridge population just 7 air-km away.

2013-04-20 14.21.55Not only do the plants at this more northern locality on gray dolomite have pink nectary guides, in contrast to the yellow spots at the base of the petals on plants from Bertha Ridge, but cauline leaf shape appears also to be strikingly different between these two populations. This interesting case of inconsistency in overall morphology, coupled with signs of genetic divergence among these populations (see my most recent phylogeny here), has gotten me very excited about patterns of evolution in this group that is already well known for complex histories of hybridization and polyploidy

ClaytoniaRocksAlthough it is all C. lanceolata for now, soon enough we’ll make some sense out of it!