Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mom, meet Kiavah

Saturday April 27th 2013, my mom, Erma Gardner, joined me in the field. For the past couple of weeks I have been showing my mom pictures of the Kiavah Wilderness and my collections.  Last week she mentioned that she was interested in going to the field with me. I took her up on her offer and we headed out to the Wilderness.
It was a nice drive up the 395. We listened to talk radio, stopped at Stater Brothers in Adelanto and chatted most of the way.
For this trip I wanted to venture into Cow Haven Canyon to collect species I haven't documented yet. The road into Cow Haven Canyon was surprisingly smooth. Smoother than Sage Canyon and Horse Canyon.
As we drove into the canyon and reached the Wilderness boundary I was mentioning to my mom that all of the Joshua trees were blooming this year. When we got to the Joshua trees they were all fruiting. Even though she did not get to see the epic bloom, she did admire the gigantic fruit pods.
Driving into the canyon a little farther, my mom said "Oh! There's a cactus blooming!" We stopped the truck, geared up, put sunblock on and headed over to the many blooming beaver tail cacti (Opuntia basilaris). I'm so glad we got to see the cacti blooming! It must be the first days of the bloom. Each Opuntia had one flower each, with many more to follow.

Beaver tail in action
My mom is a great mom and field assistant. She kept reminding me to take pictures of everything and to wear leather gloves when collecting cacti pads. If she wasn't there I would probably have glochids galore in my hands. Thanks for the advice! She even found tiny plants that I walked right over. After we collected the beaver tail cactus she was adamant to get the beetles off. She smacked the paper bag around, telling the beetles to get out.

Beetle shaking
There were lots of lizards out, which made me a little nervous. I was pretty sure that we would run into rattlesnakes. Fortunately we didn't see a single one. We did see a beautiful leopard lizard. It scurried out from under a shrub and posed for pictures.

Leopard lizard!
We decided we had spent enough time at our first stop and drove up the canyon some more. I spotted tons of Nama demissum and decided it was a good spot to park the truck. There was not a lot going on at this stop but we scoured a wash and came upon a nice population of Peirson's lessingia (Lessingia lemmonii var. personii).

Peirson's lessingia
Mom botanizing the desert floor
It was a beautiful day, a little on the warmer side with nice breezes in-between. My mom kept admiring how clear the clean the air was and the blue skies. She said that she was having difficulty breathing such clean air, we're not used that kind of freshness in the Inland Empire. I think she really admired the clarity and fresh air. We got back in the truck and drove to the end of the road in Cow Haven Canyon. We parked the truck and followed a trail up the canyon. Again not too many plants were flowering. We made some collections and the trail seemed to have vanished. We went down a sandy steep slope into a wash. I'm proud to say my mom did a fantastic job navigating the steep terrain. She seemed a little hesitant at first but I said, "if cows can do it, so can we." Her quick witted reply was, "they have four legs!" Nonetheless we successfully made it down without anyone taking a tumble. We ventured up the wash a little ways, but we encountered biting flies. That was our sign to turn back.

At the end of the canyon
Down in the wash
As we drove back down the canyon, there was a patch of burned Joshua trees that I wanted to get a good look at. We stopped at a primitive campsite and I got out to poke around. A lot of Phacelia sp. were growing at this location.

Death of a Joshua tree
Leaving Cow Haven Canyon we had time to go over to Sage Canyon. I really wanted to show her Sage Canyon because it is my favorite canyon so far. I made a collection of Savia dorrii and drove to the end of the canyon to take a look at the Dudleya sp. to see if it was flowering. My mom is seriously a trooper. We hiked up a steep hillside to get to the rock outcrop. She sat and waited at the top while I went down the other side of the hill to check-in on the Dudleya. I found the Dudleya but they were still not blooming! I snagged a little piece of the clump, hoping that the flowers will open up if I let the plant sit on my porch.

Dudleya still not flowering
Heading back to the truck
We hiked down the hill and decided it was time to head back home. However, we could not pass through Inyokern without stopping at Bernardino's restaurant. It was a perfect way to end our adventure before driving back down the 395.

Mmmm mmmm :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The best little botanist

April 20th 2013 was another fun day in the field. My tried and true field assistant, Chul, was unable to accompany me in the field this round. However, I was able to gather three amazing members of the Alba family. Phillip, Millie and Preston Alba joined me in one of the most memorable excursions yet. Phillip is an old friend of mine. This was my first time meeting his daughter Millie and younger brother Preston. I was very excited to hear that the three of them would be going to the Kiavah Wilderness with me.
Phillip and Millie at the county line
Millie is seven years old. The perfect age to be introduced to the botany world. I was a little scared that Mille would not be into the pulling plants business, but boy was I wrong. The moment we got our feet on the ground and found flowers, I promptly showed Millie how to collect. I must say, she is a natural! She made some of the best specimens I have ever seen. She also had a great eye for identifying each species. We collected Suncups (Camissonia sp.), Blazing Stars (Mentzelia veatchiana), Golden Linantus (Leptosiphon aureus) and Lupins (Lupinus sp.)! The best specimen of all was a single Wild Hyacinth (Dichelostemma capitatum). The Dichelostemma was the first corm plant of my study.

Collecting 101 tutorial
Millie's first collections! Sun cups
A sea of Golden Linanthus with Millie and Preston
Up close and personal with a Sun Cup

After spending some time on the exposed dry hot desert floor, I figured it was time to reward my crew with some shade. We headed up Horse Canyon to the top of the ridge. As we drove up the switchbacks, Mille was pointing out flowers and asking if we could collect them. If it was a calm weekday I would have stopped the truck in a heartbeat. The only problem with the Kiavah Wilderness on the weekends is the off-roaders on their "too fast, too furious" OHV's. Mille spotted the Desert Dandelions (Malacothrix glabrata) and was very insistent that we make a collection of it. I was pretty sure we would see it at the top of the ridge, but when we reached the top and parked the truck we didn't see any. Millie did find a bunch of cute ittty-bitty Polemoniaceae plants and Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia parviflora spp. parviflora). After we collected those, we decided it was time to eat lunch under the Pinyons before embarking on a one mile downhill hike to Yellow Jacket Springs.

On our way to the springs
On our hike down to Yellow Jacket Springs, Preston kept pointing out awesome rocks to Millie. I quickly learned that Millie is quite the rockhound. If she could she would probably take every single rock we encountered home with her. Even though the wilderness is mostly granite, there are very pretty rocks all around. I should have followed suit in Millies collection of geologic specimens. I'm pretty sure we came across a metamorphic outcrop. Time to buy that rock-hammer and get collecting. 
As we descended the trail we finally found the spring. It was pretty interesting and very green. We made a collection of Alkali Buttercups (Ranunculus cymbalaria) and a sedge (Carex sp.). Then we decided it was time to turn back and hike back to the truck.

Yellow Jacket Spring
Doing what botanists do best

Did I mention the hike was one mile downhill? That means that the hike back was one mile uphill! Millie hiked a total of two miles. For some of us this expedition was a cakewalk (Preston!) for the rest of us it was a little tiresome. We made it back to the truck, turned on the air conditioner and let the car cool before heading to Hesperia for some In-N-Out.

I throughly enjoyed my time in the wilderness with the Alba crew. They really know how to have a good time and they were great sports in the field. Millie's identification and collecting skills were phenomenal!  Phillip's photographs really captured the moments and Preston's presence was a delight! I would be happy to venture back to the field with them! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ridgecrest Wildflower Show

These past two weeks have been a whirlwind of events. All positive and school related. It all started after my April 7th collecting trip to the Wilderness. Then a trip to Ridgecrest to meet a very fabulous group of docents and volunteers from the Maturango Museum. After that, four days with classmates and colleagues in Berkeley, CA to give my very first presentation at the 24th Graduate Student Meeting. Once the meetings ended it was back to work and school. Topping it off with another collecting trip to the Kiavah Wilderenss this weekend. This is the first time since my last entry that I have been able to sit down and blog.

A nice warm spring day at the Museum
I have decided to reflect on my trip to the Maturango Museum, Thursday April 11th, because of the great people I met and my first adventure to Ridgecrest.
Naomi Fraga and I drove up to Ridgecrest on Thursday for a day trip. Our original plan was to drive up Wednesday and stay with Kathy LaShure. Our plans were deflated due to preparing for the Graduate Student Meeting in Berkeley. Naomi and I had to work on fine-tuning our presentations. I'm so glad we were able to make it up to Ridgecrest despite the unforeseen roadblocks.

Garden art at the museum
When we first arrived at the Maturango Museum, Naomi introduced me to Judy and Charlotte. These ladies have been putting on the spring wildflower show at the museum for many years. After our greeting Naomi put me straight to work. The two of us grabbed plants in jars and placed them in the appropriate families.
I thought, oh boy this is going to be difficult, especially since I don't know too many plants from the region. Funny, because I'm doing a floristic study in the area. But that was the reason for me joining Naomi. I was to get familiar with the flora by helping at the wildflower show and to meet the tried and true botanists of Ridgecrest.
At first I felt over whelmed by all of the plants but since this was a bad rain year there really wasn't a lot of diversity.
My first triumph of the day was when I correctly keyed Amsinkia tessellata! This trip was such a great confidence booster. I'm ready to key it all!
After keying most of the morning our stomachs were calling for attention.

We had a wonderful lunch group, Judy, (Judy's daughter), Charlotte and Kathy. We ate at a local pizza parlor, outdoors on the patio. It was a perfect day. No wind and lots of sunshine. I could have spent the rest of the day on that patio talking botany. However, Naomi and I had a job to do, and that was to key plants. We finished lunch and headed back to the museum. Charlotte gave me a tour of the new under-construction museum. It looks like very nice and it will be very spacious. I cannot wait to see it when it is complete.

Since it is a bad rain year, not too many plants came into the museum during the afternoon. There was quite a bit of down time. I took (not so good) photos of some of the plants that I have not yet collected from the Kiavah Wilderness. Two of the three pictures below are from my study site... which means I need to get out to Cow Haven Canyon, immediately!
The Eriogonum kennedyi var. purposii has not been documented from my study site but Naomi said I should keep an eye out for it.


Unfortunately we could not stay for long because the museum closed at 5:15 p.m. It was an exciting day and if we could, we would have stayed through the weekend. I had a great time getting familiar with the flora and meeting the wonderful women of Ridgecrest. I cannot wait for next year, I hope we get more rain and my identification skills get better. I will be sure to be in contact with the fabulous volunteers of the Maturango museum. Thank you for the wonderful time in Ridgecrest!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, Bot-woman!

A complete bot-woman's utility belt!
My lovely field assistant, Chul Paik, has furnished my collecting efforts with some of the best utility belt supplies one could ever need. The Felco Pruners are fantastic and the leather sheath is nicely worn in. Whereas my field sword and GPS holster have some time before it looks weathered. It will be nice to take an after shot of the leather when my flora is nearing completion (some time to wait till then). This utility belt kind of makes me feel like...Batman (or more like Botwoman).

Entering Sage Canyon
This past weekend I returned to the Wilderness. I found this trip to be one of my favorites thus far. We ventured to Sage Canyon, a place where minimal collections have been made. This canyon is amazing! I am obsessed with it. There are cottonwoods, willows, sagebrush, Joshua trees, Pinyons and more! We drove to the end of the road in Sage Canyon, parked the car and seriously spent all day in one rock outcrop. One rock outcrop! I thought we were going to get farther up the canyon, maybe summit the plateau, but that didn't happen. We were captivated by the Dudleya growing all over the granite boulders, and an interesting desert spring.

Again we were too early to collect. Many plants are still in their budding phase. This seems to be my reoccurring theme. However, the Joshua trees are now open and some are starting to fruit. Collecting a Joshua tree was a bit of a challenge, but I pulled it off.

Not yet collected in the Wilderness

Bad cone!
This time the weather was a little unkind. All day Saturday the wind was howling and nudging us, as if to let us know we were not welcome. A couple of strong gusts had me worried. The wind carried on through most of the night. The rain-fly was flapping against the tent but I seemed to sleep right through it. Poor Chul did not rest well. In fact this trip was not kind to Chul at all. A large Pinus sabiniana cone tore his knuckle open and a Cholla fiercely pierced the back of his hand. 

Over all I made more collections and found the south facing canyons to be more productive. We ventured over to Bird Springs Pass to see what the condition was like on the west side of the Wilderness. Interestingly the west side is a lot drier but it's where I continue to stumble across neat belly-flowers. 

Chaenactis sp. only one seen

Friday, April 5, 2013

Kiavah Club

Today I have been a busy bee, preparing my presentation for the California Botanical Society graduate student meeting. The meeting is in a week and I am kind of freaking out. After creating this pie chart I feel a little better.

This pie chart will be featured in my presentation, along with other charts and graphs. I have been waiting a long time (probably my whole life) for an opportunity to make one of these pies.

I'm including myself in the Club because in order to qualify to be in the Kiavah Club one must collect 10 or more specimens from the Kiavah Wilderness. I'm glad I made it into my made-up club.