This post is a continuation of my previous post about a recent visit to the Modini Mayacamas Preserves in Sonoma County, for the purpose of exploring for wildflowers. It was a docent-led visit, and we saw so many wildflowers that I decided to create two posts.
As mentioned in my previous post the entire group of visitors basically caravanned up Pine Flat Rd into the preserves, stopping at various locations for either quick explorations or short hikes away from the road.
Around the middle of the visit we walked along a dirt fire road, basically a side road from paved Pine Flat Rd. We saw quite a few wildflowers during this excursion. One of the wildflowers was hayfield tarweed (Hemizonia congesta); in fact, we saw quite a few of these tarweeds during the visit. This particular individual flower was being visited by a native moth as we approached. The moth kindly remained in place long enough for me to get a few quick pictures. The blossom is about 1/2 inch in diameter, and the moth had pretty markings.
Another interesting find was some long-rayed brodiaea (Triteleia peduncularis). It is similar in appearance to wild hyacinth (Triteleia hyacinthia), which I have seen elsewhere, but has longer stalks; in addition, the ribs are less prominent on the long-rayed brodiaea.
Along this dirt road we saw other related flowers: ookow (Dicholestemma congestum), harvest brodiaea (Brodiaea elegans), and Ithuriel’s spear (Triteleia laxa). In addition we saw some winecup clarkia (Clarkia purpurea) and checkerblooms (Sidalcea diploscypha). Actually, there are many checkerbloom species in the region and they are said to be difficult to distinguish; this is the identification provided by our docent.
A pretty flower we would see in several locations was slender centaury (Centaurium tenuiflorum). Each main stem supports at least a dozen small flowers, which are just 3mm or 1/8 inch in diameter. Take special note of the yellow tops of the stamens.
In a shady area one of the group spotted a few rein orchids (Piperia sp.). These pretty flowers come in several varieties, which I have yet to learn to distinguish.
In a sunny spot there were a few cream sacs (Castilleja rubicundula). These interesting flowers are in the same genus as paintbrush and owl’s clover.
As the day warmed up, in sunny areas we could virtually smell before seeing both hayfield tarweed and turpentine weed (Trichostema laxum), both of which have been named for their fragrance. The turpentine weed flowers have an unusual structure in which very long stamens form a dramatic arch over the main part of the blossom. I’m sure the stamens dangle just the right height over the entrance to the nectar source to ensure that the pollinator – I assume one or more species of bee – successfully pollinates!
Our last find along the side road was California skullcap (Scutellaria californica). The blossoms are reminiscent of snapdragons. California skullcap is endemic to California, with a range extending from approximately San Francisco to Trinity Lake in low-elevation mountains (i.e., not in the Central Valley). Our docent was familiar with the flower but told us he had seen it only once before in the Modini Mayacamas Preserves. So it was a lucky find.
One of the targets of the hike on the side road was mariposa lilies. A few days prior to our visit there had been 3 or 4 still blooming in an area along the road. We all looked very carefully but were unable to find any. Our docent knew one other location to look, so we proceeded to drive there after returning to the cars. The area was another grassy hillside. Our initial survey did not turn up any mariposa lilies, but it did reveal a larger species of centaury: charming centaury (Zeltnera venusta). The species name means beautiful, graceful, charming, and handsome, and seems to be an apt description of this flower. In contrast to the slender centaury, which is a non-native, the charming centaury is a California native. The charming centaury is a big larger: about 1/2 inch in diameter. The stamens are quite distinctive, very long and corkscrew-shaped.
While the group examined the charming centaury our docent continued a hundred yards or so over a small rise, and suddenly we heard him exclaim “Aha! I found one!” As we hurried over, he found a second coast range mariposa lily (Calochortus vestae) nearby. At least, we think they were coast range rather than superb mariposa lilies (C. superbus). These two species are a little tricky to differentiate, as the definitive distinguishing characteristic seems to be the shape of the hairy area near the base of the petal. I tried to get a good picture including the hairs in order to revisit later if needed. In either case, it was a new species of mariposa lily for me, and that is always exciting. Apparently this is the end of the 2017 blooming season for them.
The finding of the mariposa lilies essentially ended our exploration up Pine Flat Rd, and we then began to descend back to our meeting point. As we passed a sign for one of the pullouts, labelled MM 7.3, I realized that we had traveled at least 8 miles up the road, perhaps farther. We made a few more stops on the way down.
At one of the stops – I think we stopped to check out some possible frying-pan poppies – we found a tiny pink primrose with petals so deeply lobed that the 4 petals look more like 8. I think it is a spike primrose (Epilobium sp.) or possibly called willow herb or boisduvalia; there may be several possibilities. In any case, it is a pretty flower.
Another stop, which I specifically requested, was to appreciate a clear view of Mount St Helena, roughly 10 miles away. Previously I’ve only seen Mt St Helena from the other side – and it is always a treat to have a clear view of a well-known peak from a different perspective!
We needed to walk up the road for the view from the closest pullout. As we returned to the car we noticed some turkey mullein (Croton setiger), also called dove weed. It often grows in mounds or clusters – the cluster we found was 2 or 3 feet across. The leaves are fuzzy, and the flowers feature tall stamens that rise above the rest of the blossom.
At the edge of the pullout, on a nearly vertical hillside, we found a single plant of a dark purple jewel flower. I happen to think jewel flowers are pretty special, so this was another exciting find. It was difficult to see, since it was several feet up the hillside and conditions were unsafe to try to get closer. This was my best picture, a bit over-zoomed and grainy. I think it is a bristly jewel flower (Streptanthus glandulosus), based on prevalence in Sonoma county as reported on the Calflora web site, though it could be Brewer’s jewel flower (S. breweri).
Later on we stopped for something else and found some sedge and some tall cyperus (Cyperus eragrostis), also called tall flatsedge. So far I haven’t tried to learn sedges, but I thought the structure was distinctive and interesting. Also, I think many sedges are brown, so it was interesting to find a green one.
After this exploration we made it back to the meeting point without further stops.
My first visit to the Modini Mayacamas Preserves had been very interesting – and productive, in terms of getting introduced to many new wildflowers. I look forward to a future visit, perhaps earlier in the spring when a different collection of wildflowers will be blooming.