Is it Spring (Beauty) time already?! pt. III

Oh yes, I think it is finally here… Spring Beauty time!!!

2014-02-22 10.47.31Pictured above is an emerging¬†Claytonia “yorkii” plant, found growing in the southern Sierra Nevada at Cross Mountain (Jawbone Canyon) in Kern County almost two weeks ago.

2014-02-22 12.27.47Unfortunately, I didn’t find any plants flowering on this windswept ridge (all were emerging or in bud), so I tried my best not to disturb the ones I did find as I proceeded to dig up a few tubers. I managed to safely transport a few plants to their new homes at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (where I am conducting my research). To my surprise (I don’t have a green thumb by any means), the buds continued to develop and the first flowers are just beginning to open!

2014-03-05 09.46.18Now if I can just manage to get a few more species into the greenhouse in the near future, I might be able to try a crossing study or two. What I’m really interested in is whether or not these ‘strongly out-crossing’ tuberous perennials are capable of self-pollinating like many of their close relatives (such as in the Claytonia perfoliata complex).

2014-03-03 15.59.52So why should you care, exactly, whether or not it is Claytonia time?!

2014-03-04 12.56.14 Well… you can help me study something really fascinating about Claytonia, that’s why! Send me your pictures so we can get to the bottom of this — How much variation is typical in terms of petal shape, size, and color for a given population of Claytonia?! My collaborators and I have noticed quite a bit of variation among populations of different species, but what may be even more interesting is the amount of variation in petal morphology within populations of a species. It might bend your brain the next time you kneel down and take a look around at the Claytonia blooming in your area. Better yet, take a picture of 50-100 flowers from directly facing the flowers (trying to center the gynoecium in the flower as best as possible), and then compare them (or send them my way). Crazy, right?

2014-03-05 09.43.25This could turn out to be a very interesting experiment indeed ūüėČ

…but only if you can get out into the field, and remember to send me your pictures of Claytonia!!! Eastern or Western species of North America, Northeastern Asian species, it doesn’t matter — show off your Spring Beauties!

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Yep, it’s Claytonia time…

That’s right! Below are my first pictures of the 2014 Field Season of¬†Claytonia “peirsonii”,¬†collected just¬†west of Devil’s Punchbowl County Park (Feb 15th, 2014). This population was documented for the first time today, now the westernmost occurrence of C. “peirsonii”¬†that I know.

2014-02-15 14.12.46How many Claytonia do you see in the image below? I’ve counted about 100 individuals… wowza!

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Off to see the southern Sierra Nevada¬†C. “yorkii”¬†next weekend! Jawbone, here we come ūüėČ

Which is the cutest?

You’re really going to ask me which¬†Claytonia I think¬†is the cutest?! I find the¬†entire genus to be cute… It’s a really tough choice!

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This one from the Southern Sierra is a real crowd pleaser, being found growing in talus of volcanic rocks (Tuff). It appears to be in the C. parviflora complex (C. perfoliata sensu lato), putatively a local endemic based upon evidence from morphology and patterns in tuberous perennial Claytonia in the area. Although not my all-time favorite Claytonia, this cute little annual always makes for an entertaining photo shoot.

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This member of the¬†C. virginica complex is also quite stunning, being found on nearly every flood plain of the major rivers draining toward the U.S. Eastern seaboard (this one photographed in North Carolina). The reason it isn’t my favorite? Well, poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) also grows on nearly every flood plain draining toward the Eastern seaboard. What is the significance of this distribution you ask? Well, when I go collecting¬†Claytonia¬†and nearly everything else is un-identifiable due to the extremely early flowering season of¬†Claytonia, I end up getting exposed to¬†Toxicodendron¬†a LOT! I now have a systemic reaction whenever I get exposed to¬†Toxicodendron¬†or any other member of the Anacardiaceae… so also¬†when I eat mangos or cashews. I (used to) love mangos!!! Dang…

IMG_2674OK, now we are talking cute here… This thing took my breath away the first time I saw it in the North Coast Ranges of northern California, where it can be found on Franciscan Graywacke¬†(a type of sedimentary rock). Formerly treated as¬†C. obovata¬†Rydb., this taxon is¬†currently¬†treated as¬†C. lanceolata¬†despite its morphological dissimilarity with the latter taxon. And You’re saying this isn’t the cutest?! Why not? Well, I think this little guy was ruined for me when some hooligans decided to start shooting various guns in the air very close to where I was. It was a bit scary, and I think it spoiled the good time I was having at the time ripping these beauties out of the ground (for the sake of science, of course).

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Now this one absolutely has to be the cutest, right? Wrong! It is cute, oh yes, but not the cutest. This beauty is just another narrow endemic that is not currently recognized (but hopefully will be soon!)… Levels of cuteness approach the maximum score, but this little beauty (only a few centimeters tall) just isn’t the cream of the crop. It grows in a crummy habitat (steep, loose talus of volcanic rocks), for one, and it also lives behind a locked gate in an area that is proposed for wind energy development. Until I find populations of this unique taxon outside of the Jawbone Canyon in the southern Sierra Nevada, it sits in the same category as¬†the¬†C. virginica¬†complex because it comes with too much baggage… NEXT!

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Oh yeah! If you’re cute and you know it, be super small… This is the first member of the¬†C. lanceolata¬†complex I ever found (in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California on white dolomite). You might say it is the reason I got into this mess in the first place, and thus it holds a special place in my heart. It is amongst the smallest members of what I am calling the¬†C. “peirsonii”¬†complex, a southern California species complex nested within the¬†C. lanceolata¬†complex (which truly is summarized as the ENTIRE clade of tuberous perennial¬†Claytonia,¬†e.g.¬†Claytonia¬†sect.¬†Claytonia). It is very VERY cute, but still not the absolute cutest. Tough competition, right?! This is very close to my all-time favorite¬†Claytonia, but there is one species that takes the cake…

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Wow! What a show-stopper!¬†Claytonia¬†saxosa is indeed the cutest¬†Claytonia¬†I have seen to date, but there may just be some species out there that are even cuter than this one, including yellow and pink-flowered tuberous perennial¬†Claytonia¬†that I hope to see in 2014. Until then, this is the cream of the crop, king of the hill, or whatever you want to call it. It is just dang CUTE! Also growing on Franciscan Graywacke in northern California (in close sympatry with C. obovata), this annual species is said to occur on serpentine rocks as well. I’m interested to see if the serpentine plants are really the same taxon, given what patterns have been observed in the tuberous perennials, but until I can get the material I must consider it the same species across its range. I guess I’ll just have to get out there and see it elsewhere… I recommend you get out there and see it too! Anthony Peak (Mendocino National Forest) in the North Coast Ranges of California has a healthy population that is ripe and ready for photographs in the month of May.

In order to get to the bottom of this, I encourage you to cast your vote! Cast your vote for more than one, whatever, but you can only vote once! I want to know if you agree, that¬†C. saxosa¬†is indeed the cutest of all¬†Claytonia-land…

My first targeted Claytonia hike: Eastern San Gabriel Mountains

I was dropped off at the base of the ski lifts for Mt. Baldy Ski resort as the sun was rising over a gorgeous day in May of 2012.¬†It happened to be a shuttle hike approximately 17.5 miles end to end in the Cucamonga Wilderness of the Angeles National Forest; another solo hike… I hope I’ll be able to find this little thing!

I climbed up as quickly as I could towards the ski runs under Thunder Mountain, where what was once treated as¬†Claytonia lanceolata¬†var. peirsonii¬†is reported from the steep, forested ridges between the runs. I hadn’t seen these plants in the San Gabriel Mountains just yet, but by this time I had stumbled across a¬†Claytonia¬†in the San Bernardino Mountains two years prior that answered to the rather vague description of this taxon (var.¬†peirsonii) while working for the USDA Forest Service.

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That’s it! North-facing slopes! It can be found blooming next to melting patches of snow in areas where there is also heavy accumulation of conifer litter, often with associated species such as¬†Pinus lambertiana, Abies concolor,¬†Pyrola dentata¬†and¬†Fritillaria pinetorum.¬†I don’t see any snow over there, but it fits the bill otherwise!

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OK, not quite flowering, but it’ll do. I’ve got two more peaks to ‘bag’ before this day is done if I am to see more¬†Claytonia¬†on this hike. I set off toward Telegraph Peak, where I had to shimmy a bit off trail right over the edge of the north slope down to another historically collected locality for this rare local endemic.

photo copy 10A bit of snow around here, this is more like it! Now I’ve just got to find the little buggers flowering…

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What a beauty! Spring Beauty that is… now I just had to get back up to the top of Telegraph to grab the trail over toward Timber Mountain to complete the ‘Three T’s Hike’ I’ve heard so much about.

photo copy 23The north slope of Timber Mountain seemed to be the most ‘typical’ habitat based upon reports for¬†Claytonia lanceolata¬†var.¬†peirsonii,¬†with persistent snow patches as I had just seen over at Telegraph Peak. Sure enough, I was not disappointed by the beauties there!

photo copy 31I made it down to the trailhead around 6pm at Ice House Canyon, where my car had been hanging out all day waiting to hear the news about my big adventure.

“You’ll never believe me, WaSaabi, but I accidentally stepped right onto a rattlesnake’s head this morning. He didn’t seem too thrilled about it.”