Monday, January 24, 2011

Evergreen Valley Oak (Quercus lobata)

Quercus lobata is the signature oak of the Great Valley of California and adjacent areas. These trees are notable for they are amongst the largest in the genus (Jepson 1910). Quercus lobata is placed in Section Quercus (Nixon & Muller 1997) which includes both evergreen and deciduous members. Nixon (2002) considered Q. lobata most closely related to two other deciduous species: Q. garryana and Q. douglasii. However, there are evergreen members of Section Quercus: hybrids with Q. pacifica (which Nixon & Muller 1997 term "subevergreen", implying retention of some leaves year-round) are known.

Canopy retention into the very late fall or early winter in Q. lobata can be observed throughout its geographic range. Here I report a seedling that has essentially retained its leaves year-round for the past three winters.

This particular seedling originated from acorns gathered in John Muir's house in Martinez, California. This tree is growing essentially in a frost free coastal setting (Aptos, CA where frost over the past 3 yr has occurred only for 4 hours total). The essentially evergreen character of this seeding suggests a juvenile feature, which might be expected to change with maturity. The photograph is of the sapling (now about 6 feet tall) on Jan 24, 2011

Nixon, K.C. and C.H. Muller. 1997. Quercus Section Quercus. Flora North America, Vol. 3.

Nixon, K.C. 2002. The Oak (Quercus) Biodiversity of California and Adjacent Regions, pp. 3-20 in Standiford, Richard B.; McCreary, Douglas; Purcell, Kathryn L.; technical coordinators; Proceedings of the fifth symposium on oak woodlands: oaks in California's changing landscape. 2001 October 22-25; San Diego, CA. USDA Forest Service Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-184.

Jepson, W.L. 1910. Silva of California. Memoirs University of California, Berkeley.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Germination of Bolander's woodreed (Cinna bolanderi)

Cinna bolanderi is a grass endemic to the central Sierra Nevada: its overall distribution is closely tied to that of Sequoiadendron groves. Cinna bolanderi grows in moist to wet but not overly saturated meadows at mid-elevation settings. Cinna bolanderi is a CNPS List 1B rare plant in California.

This past summer, Cinna bolanderi was recollected at the type location in the Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, where the type was collected in 1866 (144 years between reports is about the normal speed for botany under sloth). On September 21, 2010 Cinna bolanderi inflorescences in the Mariposa Grove were about 95% finished for the year (defined by complete drying of the glumes, which were straw colored, a few florets could be found with photosynthetic tissue)

At the time of collection, the ripe florets were easily dislodged: after taking several specimens, a nice tidy little pile of florets remained in my collecting bag, so I planted them. Inspection of these showed a high proportion has filled seed. A subset of florets were set outdoors in a pot on October 1st. By November 12, 2010 seedlings began to appear. The germination behavior observed suggests rapid, very high germination. Similarly, mature florets were planted in pots of potting mix, moistened, and kept cool in the refrigerator for 60 days. Removed on December 1st, germination was observed within two weeks. Again, germination was rapid and a at very high proportion.

Both of these little germination vignettes suggest that C. bolanderi fecundity is high, and that its overall distributional rarity is due to factors other than a reproductive barrier related to seed output. Cultivation for restoration seems a relatively straightforward horticultural exercise?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Crooked Foot Lily: aka Foetid adders tongue, later Slink Pods

Scoliopus bigelovii

In flower, the common name Fetid Adders tongue is used, whereas in fruit Slink Pod applies, one of the very few plants who changes its common name through the year. This coastal lily is endemic to California, ranging from Humboldt County southward. Etymology: Greek skolios (crooked) and pous (foot). Sciopolis bigelovii flowers very early in coastal central California. The photograph shown is at Aptos, Nisene Marks SP, January 14, 2011.

One of the interesting aspects of flowering progression through the season in S. bigelovii is the delayed development of leaf area, and the sequential, progressive production of flowers from within a basal vase formed by the developing leaves. At flowering, the vase is often filled with water.

The southerly distributional record for this lily is uncertain: there is no CCH specimen record for Monterey County. Moreover, both Matthews (1997) and Yadon (1995) fail to list it for their region. Ostensible, the southerly limit thus may be the large colony along Aptos Creek in the Forest of Nisene Marks state park. However, one CCH specimen is labeled from San Luis Obispo, but this lily was not known to Hoover (1970). Field verification of any record south of Santa Cruz County along the Big Sur Coast and southward is thus worthy of mention.

Hoover, R.F. 1970. Vascular Plants of San Luis Obispo County, California. UC Press.

Matthews, M.A. 1997. An illustrated field key to the Flowering Plants of Monterey County. CNPS, 401 p.

Yadon, V. 1995. A Checklist of the vascular plants of Monterey County, California. Monterey Bay Chapter, CNPS. 85 pp.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Maytennus magellanica in California?

This post pertains to UC1755439, my number 21,098, collected 28 October 2010. The report may be the first detection of a second non-native Maytenus for California.

Maytenus magellanica (Lam.) Hook. f. (Celastraceae) is a large shrub native to the southern portion of South America (Argentina and Chile). Enciclopedia de la Flora Chilena (2010) attributes it to south of 36oS. The genus Maytenus consists of about 225 species, according to Maberly, topical to warm Old World and Australasian distribution, with only Maytenus phyllanthoides Benth. being native to the se U.S.

I have had this putative taxon of Maytenus under observation for many years. A small colony, consisting of multiple age cohort plants, grows in Aptos, Santa Cruz County. The plants are tall shrubs to ca. 4 meters tall and with multiple branched stems to ca. 15 cm basal diameter.

Photographs of authentic Chilean material show a taxon with bright red flowers, whereas the plants under discussion here have greenish and less showy flowers. In this respect, the Aptos plants of Maytenus are more similar in appearance to the USDA Plants database photo of Maytenus cymosa Krug & Urb., which is native to the Caribbean. Maytenus boaria Molina is a commonly seen plant in coastal California gardens, known for its distinctive pendant branches; it is now sparingly naturalized in California. Clearly, our plant is not this taxon.

The taxonomic assignment of UC1755439 DWT#21098 requires assessment of a monographer, and awaits treatment of Celastraceae for FNA. Regardless, the report herein is an early detection and requires monitoring and assessment for invasibility.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What is the magnitude of introduction of non-native plants in California?

here is the calculus I use:


1. there are on the order of 450,000 species of vascular plants


2. perhaps half of those are adapted to places that are too warm or too cold to grow in California, that leaves 225,000


3. let us for sake of sanity, cut 225,000 in half and we will sleep better


4. in California we have ca. 2000 non native plants and 7000 natives, total ca. 9000


5. Subtract 9000 from 125,000 and we get 116,000 plants that might some day come hither


6. the challenge of introductions is daunting. Which become invasive, if only 1% of those might be invasive, that is far too many: amongst the 1160 of the 1% there are going to be a host of horror stories. Halloween and botany do not mix well (except for the requirement of fully ripe pepos). Early detection and eradication is the most economical solution to the problem. Detect the zebra mussel early – after all it had stripes – and you save a bundle. Fail to provide botanists whom can make detections, fail to allow the detection botanists to roam, and you guarantee the next star-thistle will be on our doorstep.


The problem seems daunting but daunting problems are a fun element of challenge.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Red Berries coastal California, winter it is not, coincidence neither

An obvious feature of coastal central California settings at the turn of the new year is the presence of both native and introduced shrubs and trees with fully ripe, red fruits. Red fruit = bird dispersal. At this time of year in coastal central California it is hardly winter for many vascular plants, as temperature is suitable for growth and moisture is no longer limiting. In the Santa Cruz Mountains we have toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) as the sole native red berried shrub. Close by one finds madrone (Arbutus menziesii) which in some regions this year are very heavily laden with ripe pendant clusters of fruit. One of the common names of toyon is Christmas berry.

Non-native shrubs, largely Rosaceae, are juxtaposed against the natives: cotoneaster (C. franchetii and C. pannosa) and pyrracantha (P. angustifolia). Often one can see mixed stands of both native and non-native red berried shrubs. One can, and I do, also point to a non-rosaceous, but relatively rarely encountered red fruited shrub, Ilex aquifolium, English holly (Aquifoliaceae), an asterid eudicot contrasts to the others, which are rosids. Coincidence of red fruits? No. Clearly selection for bird dispersal which has produced this syndrome in unrelated lineages.

Interesting, there are known genetic variants of both native and non-native rosaceae with orange rather than red fruit. The photo is such a variant of pyrracantha, perhaps P. fortuneana. A named race of toyon, H. arbutifolia var. cerina (Jepson) E. Murry with yellow fruits is a similar genetic variant. In the case of the pyrracantha in the photo, the variant is orange vs. red

Plant taxonomists are a wishy-washy bunch, as if they do not want to be ever caught with their names in parenthesis, so the yellow variant of toyon is not considered a 'taxon'. Get real folks, it is genetically based, is it not? Ought names be coined to facilitate our use, and ought not those names, when used, be taken to refer to specific genome features? Taxonomists: recognize H. arbutifolia var. cerina please, and get over species denial.