Thursday, April 24, 2014

We found her! We found Charlotte's Phacelia

April 15th-17th, Jessica Orozco and I went to the Kiavah Wilderness. Jessica is also a second year M.S. student. She is conducting a floristic project in the South Fork of the Tule River Indian Reservation. The Tule River Indian Reservation is located on the west side of the Sierra Nevada. It is very lush this time of year and the soil is rich and moist. Quite different from the Scodie Mountains. Her floristic project is seriously amazing. She is one of the first botanists to gain access of the reservation and explore it in full detail. A couple of weeks ago I joined Jessica in her study site. It was so great to finally see her site. In fact Jessica has a blog too! She posted about our adventure here.

We were sent on a mission to collect wildflowers for the annual Wildflower Show at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. It was a great opportunity to get back into the Kiavah Wilderness. We left on a Tuesday and returned Thursday.

Day 1
Tuesday, April 15th

In the morning we had class. After class ended we jumped into Jessica's Jeep and high tailed it to the Wilderness. Since we got to the Wilderness late in the day we only had time to scout areas and get a feel for what we should collect. I was super excited to see that the Allium that I have been watching was finally in bloom. I'm still in shock that the Wilderness is doing so well considering the little amount of rain the area received.

Horse Canyon. Tons of Wildflowers
I still can't believe this is a desert
We drove to the top of Horse Canyon road to set up camp. Unfortunately, I bottomed out on a little rock. Jessica wanted me to make sure the under carriage of her Jeep was okay. I pulled over and jumped out of the car to find that I almost stepped on a snake. It was a beautiful gopher snake, or so I think. It's head was down a hole and it didn't have a rattle.
Trowel for scale
No rattle in sight, what a relief
After assessing the underside of the Jeep we found no harm done and continued up the road to where we were going to camp. We set up camp, ate dinner and then the temperature dropped dramatically. At that point we decided to call it a night.

Camping in comfort
Day 2
Wednesday, April 16th

We ate breakfast and started our collecting adventures. The weather was amazing. I could not believe that we were not being pummeled by wind. It was absolutely wonderful. We explored a nice portion of the PCT and the abandoned quartz mine. Is was spectacular. The flora is on fire! 

Jessica on the PCT. Little tiny Gilia too 
An Astragalus on the side of the PCT
The old quartz mine
We ventured down Horse Canyon Road and it was popping with color.

Astragalus lentiginosus 
Jessica blown away by the strong grape soda scent
We ventured down the road some more and found some really cute dinkophtye. Jessica was especially excited to find our version of "Wooly buddies."

Eriogonum nudum with a friend
We had a full day exploring the Wilderness and the sun was about to set on us. We headed down to the end of Horse Canyon and set up camp. Surprisingly the night was warm and the wind did not last long to be annoyed by it. 

Day 3
Thursday, April 17th

In the morning we headed over to Cow Haven Canyon. I was in search of a Phacelia. I have been watching it bud over the past couple of weeks and had a feeling it would be flowering. After torturing Jessica in the heat and almost ready to throw in the towel, we found it! We found Phacelia nashiana!  It was amazing! I have never seen anything so blue in my life. It was out of control.

Phacelia nashiana shaded by Leptosyne bigelovii 
Pure beauty
Habitat for Charlotte's Phacelia
It was an amazing feeling to find this rare plant ranked as a 1B.2. It is considered fairly endangered in California. Jessica and I estimated over 200+ plants in this population. It was spectacular. We were in the right place at the right time to find this treasure. The entire slope was covered with wildflowers. The last time I was in this canyon about half of the slope was covered. I wish I had more time at this location. I would have summited the ridge if I could. Time was running out and we had to return to RSABG to deposit our specimens for the Wildflower Show.

This was a truly a rewarding experience. Each time I visit the Wilderness I discover new things about the flora. I am extremely glad I decided to work in the Scodie Mountains. There is so much to learn and so little time. 

Watching the sunrise in the East

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