CALIFORNIA-FLORA of CONTRASTSCALIFORNIA-FLORA of CONTRASTSBy Gwen & Phil PhillipsBy Gwen & Phil PhillipsCalifornia is a state of contrasts; contrast the northern coast bathed in brilliant spring sunshine with…
…the same coast shrouded in a blanket of fog in mid-summer.
The highest peak in the southern Sierra Nevada reaches almost 14,500ft, yet…
……only 100 miles away, in Death Valley, is the lowest point in the USA at 282ft below sea level. Herethe average annual precipitation is less than 2 inches, whereas…
…in the northern hills and mountains it can exceed 100 inches.
The Pacific Ocean forms the whole of thewestern boundary.Next to the coast are the Coastal MountainRanges -- North & South -- and San FranciscoBay separates the two.To the east are the Central Valleys -- nowintensely cultivated.Further to the east is the high Sierra Nevada-Cascade axis. The Great Basin Desert on theextreme east has a continental climate, cold anddry in winter and hot and dry in summer.To the south there are extensive deserts and tothe north a complex of mountains with highprecipitation.To the west of the Sierra Cascade axis(excluding the southern deserts and the northernmountains), the climate is typicallyMediterranean, mild winters with most of theprecipitation, and away from the coast, hot anddry summers.It is in these contrasting geographic and climaticconditions that the Californian flora is found. Ourobjective is to illustrate a few of our favouriteplants, proceeding very loosely from early Marchthrough to late July, remembering that floweringtimes will vary according to elevation and fromyear to year, as no two seasons are alike.
Initially we shall be searching for early floweringbulbs in:1. The North Coastal Range.2. The western foothills of the Sierra Nevada.3. The southern end of the Sierra Nevada in theGreenhorn Mts.1 22w23
California is well known for its abundance of bulbous species, many flowering in March and earlyApril. Here on a serpentine outcrop in the foothills of the North Coast Range was a small colony ofthe rare Californian endemic, Fritillaria purdyi..
One of many species that is now endangered dueto over collecting in the early 20thcentury.
.Serpentine rocks and soils, high in toxic elements, are widespread in northern California, and will onlysupport the relatively few species that will tolerate these conditions
On the same serpentine vein was Erythronium helenae. Whereas Fritillaria purdyi isserpentine tolerant, E. helenae is one of California’s 200 or so serpentine endemics.
Flowering some six weeks later on this outcrop was the non-bulbous Lewisia rediviva. Known asthe Bitterroot, this species was first collected on the Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Far West in1805-6; the genus being named for Meriwether Lewis.
Back to March but still in these foothills, an adobe clay pasture that could be very wet in spring andbake hard and dry with six inch cracks by mid-summer is the habitat of Fritillaria pluriflora.
This rare and endangered Californian endemic may often be seenflowering in a couple of inches of water after a wet winter andspring. Attractive as a plant and….
…also as a close-up. Fritillaria pluriflora known as the Adobe Lily.
.Eastwards almost into the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, and growing on old lava rubble is atiny form of Dodecatheon clevelandii var. patulum.
One distinctive feature of var. patulum is a yellow or white spot at the base ofeach filament, clearly visible in these flowers.
Into the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada and close to the historic gold rush town of Columbia.Drifts of Erythronium tuolumnense coloured the slopes above a tributary of the Stanislaus Riverwhere placer miners were panning for gold as we photographed.
This California endemic was once thought to be rare. It has now been found in large numbers, butonly within its restricted range -- it is locally very common in the county of Tuolumne.
Erythronium tuolumnense is well known to gardeners, either as aspecies or as one of its hybrids (‘Pagoda’ being one) which leads to….
Erythronium californicum which flowers slightly later and to the north-west, particularly in the NorthCoastal Range. A selected form of this species is the other parent of ‘Pagoda’.
The selected form being E. californicum ‘White Beauty’, seen here in our garden inLincolnshire, England.
A closer shot of E. californicum ‘White Beauty’ with the pink E. revolutum in the background.Photo – Mike Ireland
Back to the Sierra Nevada and into Mariposa County, which is immediately to the south of TuolumneCounty and a typical habitat of Fritillaria agrestis…….
…another rare and endangered species; most populations are small and threatened by development.
At the southern end of the Sierra Nevada are the Greenhorn Mountains. Flowering in this adobe hillpasture was the rare and endangered Fritillaria striata.
This endemic is probably now restricted to about twelve sites; simply ploughing the pasturecould easily jeopardise this colony. The term ‘rare and endangered’ applies to many ofCalifornia’s bulbous species not only due to change of land use, but gross over-collecting in the past.
llThe striations of the Striped Adobe Lily are often only evident when the interior of the bell isexamined.All the plants illustrated so far were growing in a Mediterranean climate, and would be subject tosummer drought.
• oNext there will be a very brief reference to theCalifornia Coast Redwoods, followed byspring colour south-east of Santa Barbara.Colour will still be evident as we illustrate theflora to be found in the vast areas of the semi-desert and deserts of southern California. Theonly location that needs to be marked on thismap is Death Valley, which is indicated by thewhite arrow. The others should be apparentfrom the text.
Dependent on the high humidity provided by summer coastal fog, groves of the endemic CoastRedwoods, Sequioa sempervirens, extend intermittently along the coast from San Francisco to theOregon border. They are claimed to be the tallest of all living trees, reaching a height of 360 feet. Thereis often an extensive fern flora beneath the canopy but few flowering plants, however…
…Trillium ovatum, photographed in but not confined to the Coast Redwoods, is a typical earlyflowering species that enjoys the shade of these trees, the winter rainfall, and the fog drip of summer.
Another shade-lover and a close relative of the Trilliums is this west coast endemic,Scoliopus bigelovii.
This unpleasant smelling California endemic is hardly attractive, but is sometimes seen on theshow bench. Very heavily lined sepals with erect and very narrow petals - Scoliopus bigelovii.
California is famous for its spring colour, which should be at its best in April providing winter rainshave been sufficient. The massed yellow of the ubiquitous Lasthenia californica is punctuated by aspecies of Malacothrix, one of the desert dandelions.
If blue is your preferred colour, a sea of the variable Lupinus nanus should be to your liking.From the wide open spaces to….
…..the edge of woodland with an emerging gentle stream;suitable for spring flowers that prefer a habitat that is dampand cool before the heat and drought of summer. Ideal
…pale yellow. Cultivated varieties often escape androadsides are seeded; these both hybridise with wildstrains, leading to complete confusion.
Oenothera deltoides is a very common plant of the south-western semi-desert areas where theaverage annual precipitation is about 12 inches. The Joshua Tree again indicates that we are in theMojave Desert.
If the Joshua Tree is a good indicator of the Mojave Desert, Opuntia basilaris, the Beaver Tail, is themost common cactus.
This species is typically spineless, but has instead many tufts of glochids – hair like barbed bristles,often almost invisible, that easily pierce clothing and skin.
The desert areas of the Southwest support numerous colourful shrubs, of which Senna armatais one, seen here with ‘cholla woodland’ in the background.
The green stems of this legume are leafless for most of theyear, the leaves having dropped shortly after emerging.
Another legume of this area is Psorothamnus fremontii, with a stand of Larrea tridentata, avery common shrub that can cover hundreds of square miles of the south-western deserts.
Here are the flowers of the Psorothamnus, sometimes called the indigo bush.
The foliage and flowers of Larrea tridentata, which can recover from extreme drought stress evenwhen the leaves appear to be desiccated.
On the eastern side (i.e. the far side) of Death Valley…
…..growing in crevices on a cliff in Echo Canyon was …
…the very rare Mimulus rupicola. Described as growing in shaded limestone crevices – crevice,yes, but shaded, hardly – these would be in direct sunlight for a number of hours each day.
Mimulus rupicola – endemic to the northern Mohave Desert in eastern California.
This slope In the Grapevine Mountains on the eastern side of Death Valley is the habitat of anotherrarity of this arid region -- the white bear-poppy. Those on the skyline are just visible.
Arctomecon merriamii is found in small populations in scattered colonies from Death Valley tosouth-eastern Nevada. The relatively ordinary poppy flowers are not spectacular, but look at thefoliage, which is ideally suited to conserve moisture in this hot dry desert climate.
Arctomecon californica was once a native of California, but sadly no more. These are growing inadjacent Nevada; Lake Mead is just over the brow and Las Vegas is 60 miles to the southwest.
Another rare and endangered species, which like the last species is confined to small scatteredcolonies, this time in areas around Las Vegas and Lake Mead in Nevada, and a small area inextreme north-western Arizona, also near Lake Mead.
It is amazing that seemingly delicate plants can survive in these harsh conditions, where it can freezein winter and bake in the desiccating heat of summer when the temperature can exceed 40°C.
Before we leave the south, here are three species of Calochortus, a favourite genus of ours. Scatteredacross the top of this slope on Mt. Pinos (some 40 miles south of Bakersfield) were plants ofCalochortus invenustus. Not one of the most spectacular species but attractive in a quiet way.
On another slope the more colourful Calochortus venustus found a suitable habitat. The groupwithin the genus Calochortus with open campanulate flowers are often referred to as Mariposa Lilies– Mariposa meaning ‘butterfly’.
A third species found these hot dry slopes to its liking – it is Calochortus kennedyi var.kennedyi . The Mariposas, having comparatively large flowers on very slender stems, often useshrubs for support as you see here. ‘Calochortus’ means beautiful grass.
The flora of the semi-desert and desertareas of the south will now give way tothose plants that are at home in the hillsand mountains that straddle thewestern section of the northernCalifornia-southern Oregon borderwhere the annual precipitation canreach 100”.These will be followed by a briefselection from the North Coast Range,and as the year progresses thechaparral of the south-western foothillsof the Sierra Nevada will be illustrated.
Nearing the northern border - Viola beckwithii growing in sagebrush scrub in the eastern foothills ofthe northern Sierra Nevada.
It is known as the Great Basin Violet -- the Great Basin being, a high cold desert stretching from hereeastwards to the Rocky Mountains. Although this sandy soil was damp from snow melt at the time offlowering, it would bake hard and dry in summer, and reduce the violet to a dormant undergroundrhizome.
The hills and mountains of the western California-Oregon border, an area of high precipitation,support a fine selection of Pacific Coast Native Irises and Erythronium species that flower inApril and into May. Wild plants pay no respect to an artificial state border, we too have paid littleregard to its strict location.
.Iris innominata is locally abundant in the Klamath Mountain eco-region. Of the eleven species ofPacific Coast Native Irises (all native in California) this is one of the most attractive.
The flowers are typically bright golden-yellow although other colours occur within the species. Inaddition, hybridisation with the next species, where their ranges overlap, also produces flowers ofvarying attractive colours.
Iris douglasiana, a coastal species with a range extending from southern California to central Oregon…
… is a vigorous species and is widely used by horticulturists for hybridisation.
Iris bracteata Iris chrysophyllaTwo further examples of species found in this small area.Natural hybrids only occur where the species’ ranges overlap, whereas in cultivation…
…there is not the restriction of geographical origin. These are examples of Pacific Coast NativeIris hybrids bred by Jeff Wilson of Lincolnshire.
The majority of the world’s Erythronium species are native in North America, with the greatestconcentration found in this area of northern California and southern Oregon.
Although Erythronium citrinum is endemic to a very small area on this border, it can be foundin large numbers. This picture illustrates the heavy mottling of the leaves evident in some
The closer images illustrate the extremely short lobed stigma of E. citrinum, a useful guide in thefield to differentiate it from the very similar species…
..Erythronium oregonum which has curved and much longer lobes. Their ranges just overlap.
Erythronium hendersonii is another species endemic to a very small area in this region.
At the time of flowering, these plants will be in partial shade which increases as the deciduous oakscome into leaf. The average rainfall here will be about 100 inches.
Erythronium revolutum has a wider range. It is frequent along the coast in damp and shaded areasfrom Mendocino Co., California to southern British Columbia.
Various colour forms exist, but gardeners seem to select those with rich rose-coloured tepals forcultivation…
…although this plant with just a hint of pink is still most attractive.
And here is a darker form in our garden in England (top left) …
A closer shot of Erythronium revolutum adapting wellto cultivation.
In that same bed were two species of Trillium that are virtually confined to this border area.
Trillium kurabayashii, the sessile species, is restricted to a relativelysmall area straddling the border, and to another in the Sierra Nevada.Some plants have heavily mottled leaves whereas…
….others are scarcely marked. We have nopictures of T. kurabayashii in the wild.
The other trillium in that picture is the pedicellate Trillium rivale,which is restricted to an even smaller area on the California-Oregonborder.
The colour of the petals of this western North American endemic is basically white, often withmadder-purple markings of varying degrees of intensity. Compare these markings with …
…these. Unlike the previous species we do have photographs of Trillium rivale in the wild…
…seen here growing in a very wet habitat in the extreme north-west of California. Trillium rivale isa plant of wet or damp habitats – the specific epithet meaning ‘growing by streams’.
Here are the wild flowers that have much fainter markings than those just seen.
Darlingtonia californica is native to northern California and the western counties of Oregon, where itforms relatively large colonies in fens, wet meadows, acid bogs, seepage slopes or shallow streams.
Even a plant growing in such numbers can be threatened, in the case of Darlingtoniacalifornica by logging and drainage of land for agriculture.
This carnivorous plant, usually associated with serpentine soils deficient in necessary nutrients,has adapted to supplement its nitrogen requirements by capturing and digesting small prey. Theunique flowers often emerge with or before the pitchers that may be slightly suffused with red or…
…be uniformly pale green in colour. Pitchers, responsible for capturing prey, have evolved over time fromsimple leaves, and these western North American pitcher plants differ from those in the south-east byhaving rather exaggerated hoods and prominent fish-tail appendages. Cobra lily is an apt common name.
Another pitcher plant fen with last season’s pitchers still evident, and in the foreground California’s mostattractive orchid – Cypripedium californicum. It was not surprising to see these plants growingtogether as they both appreciate these damp conditions, often in gently flowing or seeping water.
The range of this rare Lady’s Slipper Orchid is restricted to northern California and south-western Oregon. Although loss of habitat often results in species such as this becoming rareand endangered, these attractive orchids have also suffered from long-term over collecting.
But it was surprising to see plants here. There is a Darlingtonia fen immediately above the road andrains have brought soil and its contents, namely Cypripedium californica, down.
Far too attractive to survive in this spot for long.
From the California-Oregon border wereturn to the North Coast Range, this time toMendocino County which is approximatelymid-way between the border and SanFrancisco.Next, a rather more extensive reference tothe species Calochortus, followed byexamples of chaparral in the south-westernfoothills of the Sierra Nevada.We have been through May – with a coupleof deviations - running into June –stressing once again that no two seasonsare alike.
Fritillaria recurva, another plant of northern California and southern Oregon, can be seenfrequently by the roadside from the border to Mendocino County, which is almost as far south as itgrows. Silhouetted against the shadow of the shrubs, it is not impressive, but…
…from this distance it becomes an attractive species. The chequered flowers of the scarlet fritillary, withits strongly recurved tips of the conjoined tepals, grace the tops of slender plants which often grow withthe flowers emerging through supporting dwarf shrubs but can grow unaided as you can see.
A south-west facing slope at about 5,000ft, very close to the Mendocino Pass, supported a fritillarywhich is as short as the previous species is tall!! This is the Siskiyou fritillary…
…Fritillaria glauca, which has roughly the same geographical range as the last species. There weretwo colour forms in this colony, the majority were yellow…
…and a few were this purplish colour. In some colonies, the colour proportions are reversed.
Phlox diffusa, the spreading phlox, was growing on the same slope. Here is a picture of thiscommon phlox of the American West.
At lower elevations in this area, many roadside verges and banks were covered with masses ofCalochortus amabilis, a species with a range restricted to a dozen or so western counties of
Calochortus species may be divided loosely into two groups, those with globe-shaped pendantflowers that you see here and those with open upward facing campanulate flowers, which weillustrated earlier.
The genus is restricted to western North and Central America, with the greatest concentration ofspecies found in California (a good excuse for including rather more than is warranted). Here isanother species with globe-shaped flowers – the coastal form of C. albus.
A colour variety of C. albus often known as var. rubellus.
And now the group with open upward facing flowers, of which there are far more species thanthose with flowers that are globe-shaped. These are…
…the flowers of C. vestae. The name for the section containing open upward-facing flowers is‘Mariposa’ meaning ‘butterfly’. A personal reason for including all of these Calochortus flowers is thatuntil recently, Gwen was able to cultivate many species, and the next slide illustrates some of her results.
Calochortus argillosus C. clavatus C. kennedyi C. luteusC. striatus C. venustus red form C. superbus C. venustus.Seven species photographed in our greenhouse in Lincolnshire, England – all grown from seed.
Chaparral is a name given to scrub vegetation or shrub communities, often forming dense stands ofbrush, which in various forms covers approximately one-tenth of the state. Here in the S.W. foothills ofthe Sierra most of the shrubs are evergreen, drought tolerant, and adapted to flourish in thisMediterranean climate. Elsewhere, where other conditions prevail, different genera will be present.
Fremontodendron californicum is one of the spectacular shrubs of these Sierran foothills,whole hillsides becoming yellow in May and June.
There are no petals; the flowers are formed bysepals and bracts.
Dendromecon rigida is another shrub found in the chaparral, seen here growing with a speciesof Ceanothus.
It is often referred to as the poppy bush or tree – theflowers certainly resemble those of poppies.
Ceanothus and Arctostaphylos, two very common genera of the Sierran chaparral, form densethickets across these foothills. In California there are some 60 taxa of Ceanothus and about 80Arctostaphylos. Unfortunately we find identification of species very difficult, consequently, we donot feel confident enough to name the plants illustrated.
The colour of Ceanothus flowers vary from the most gorgeous blue (unfortunately we have no picture)through this rather drab colour …
…..to white. You can see why this species is often called the Californian lilac . Many Ceanothusspecies and cultivars make excellent garden shrubs particularly for sunny and sheltered positions.
Arctostaphylos is described in The Flora of North America as ‘a richly diverse and taxonomicallychallenging genus of trees and shrubs.’ Whatever its name, this species with grey-green leaves andwhite flowers would make a decorative shrub.
The majority of species are often known as ‘manzanitas,’ derived from the Spanish for ‘littleapples’. Three of the arctic species are referred to as ‘bearberries’, with Arctostaphylosmeaning ‘bear’ and ‘bunch of grapes’.
.Another example of an attractive Arctostaphylos species. I would also mention that many speciesare able to resprout after fire, which is just as well because scenes…
...such as this are not uncommon in California. Fierce wild fires often occur in this region; in factperiodic burning is essential for the survival of some of these shrub communities.
Fire has destroyed the canopy giving sun lovers more light; after rain dormant bulbs will sprout,seeds will germinate and flowers will bloom. Many of the shrubs will subsequently sprout again, thecanopy will gradually return, and the cycle will be repeated time after time through the millennia.
These plants of Calochortus clavatus that had not seen direct sunlight for many years can nowgrow and bloom again. Unfortunately with no shrubs for support they are prostrate, but they canflower, set seed and reproduce. Here is an illustration of bulbs encouraged into growth after fire …
….and now an annual, Papaver californicum. The seeds have lain dormant since the previous firethen, following this conflagration and taking advantage of favourable moisture and ash-enrichedsoil, they have exploded into this covering of vegetation.Photo – Jeanette Sainz
Papaver californicum is called the Fire Poppy, and these annuals that spring into life after fire aresometimes referred to as ‘fire followers.’Photo – Jeanette Sainz
In most years, the plants that follow would beflowering in late June and through July.After lilies in north-western California, we shallselect more plants from the northern border area,firstly from the west and then the east.
It is now mid-summer when the northern Californian coast can be enveloped in fog, sometimes for days.Cool, moisture-laden oceanic air meets the warm dry air from the land, resulting in this coastal fog belt.Fog-drip from the trees is calculated to be equivalent to about 10 inches of rain per annum.
This is lily country and after the sun had burnt off the fog it was possible to photographLilium Columbianum.
Lilium columbianum is relatively common and widespread in coastal scrub, meadows and forestclearings from northern California to British Columbia.
The rare, fragrant Lilium kelloggii is found on the foggiest parts of this coast and is restricted to fourcoastal counties spanning the border. It flourishes on the verges of small roads running through theRedwoods in this very restricted range. The flowers as you can see are pendant, whereas…
...those of Lilium rubescens are ascending to erect. This Californian endemic, often referredto as the redwood lily, is restricted to some ten counties in the north of the state. The flowersopen white, aging to pink-purple.
A third rare lily of this border area Lilium bolanderi, is a plant of chaparral and evergreenforests, often on serpentine soils in the Siskiyou Mountains.
This pink-flowered form of the deciduous Western Azalea is native along the coast of northern California.The next fog bank may be seen on the horizon poised to roll in and envelope the coast once more.
This colour fourmThis colour form is sometimes labelled as Rhododendron occidentalis var. paludosum, aname that does not seem to be recognised. I have seen it suggested that ‘there is considerablegenetic diversity within the species, probably reaching its highest level along this coast in thevicinity of the border between Oregon and California. This is therefore simply a colour form of…
...Rhododendron occidentalis var. occidentale which has a much wider distribution in bothCalifornia and Oregon.
This broadleaf evergreen Rhododendron macrophyllum has an even wider range, extendingfrom Monterey County in California northwards along the coast to southern British Columbia.
Lewisia cotyledon is another of these plants restricted to a small area spanning this border, anarea of outstanding botanical diversity, mainly in the Siskiyou Mountains. Flowering plants can justbe seen below the shrubs (top right) and extend down the slope to bottom left.
The colours of these wild plants are a far cry fromthose of the plants cultivated today.
Apart from the more or less distinct var. heckneri, which this is not, there are a number of ratherindistinct varieties growing in this area.
This habitat was once well forested; the Phlox that you see in the clearing is usually found in atleast partial shade.
It is Phlox adsurgens which has a restricted range similar to the previous species. It can berecognised by its ascending flower stems and bright green elliptical leaves, so characteristic ofthis species.
From the hills and mountains of high precipitation, a very brief visit to the Modoc Plateau of north-eastCalifornia. This ‘mile-high’ area of lava flows and cinder cones is in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mts.,and is therefore much drier. Growing amongst the dwarf sagebrush was…
Fritillaria atropurpurea, the most widespread of the North American fritillaries. Four to six weeksearlier, shortly after the snow had melted, we would have seen hundreds of flowering plants of…
…the far more attractive Fritillaria pudica, which were in seed at the time of our visit.
Although not visible from this distance, this volcanic slope supported very many flowering plants of…
….Allium platycaule. With its bright pink flowers and strongly exserted stamens it is consideredto be among the most beautiful of California onions.
We leave the northern California border for thelast time to visit the White Mountains that lieon the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada andthe upper Owens Valley. (No.1 on the map).In conclusion, a single species from MountLassen, the most southerly ‘active’ volcano inthe Cascade Range (No.2), followed by fourspecies from Winnemucca Lake, which isclose to Carson Pass in the northern SierraNevada (No.3).123
Astragalus coccineus, just below Westgard Pass situated at the southern end of the WhiteMountains. This picture was taken looking westwards across Owens Valley to the Sierra Nevada.
The White Mountains are therefore to the east of, and in the shadow of, the Sierra Nevada.Consequently, the Pacific westerlies will have lost most of their moisture. The summers are hot anddry, the winters are also dry but very cold.
Astragalus coccineus is one of the showiest plants of the Californian desert areas.the winters are also dry but very cold.
The silvery-grey foliage of the scarlet milk vetch sets off the large brilliant red flowers perfectly.
From Westgard Pass, White Mountain Road runs to the north giving wonderful panoramic views ofthe Sierra Nevada to the west. Both the Schulman and Patriarch Groves of the Ancient BristleconePine Forest are accessible, as are numerous interesting plants near the road.
.We are now climbing towards the groves of Bristlecone Pines; at about 8,000ft, growing in thiscontinental climate of extremes of temperature was one of the mat-forming North American WildBuckwheats - Eriogonum ovalifolium.
A highly diverse and variable species with many named varieties. This and other species are worthgrowing for their foliage alone, making decorative ground cover.
The same might be said for Eriogonum caespitosum, but in this picture the flowers haveobscured most of the foliage. These brilliant mat-forming plants would look fine in any rock gardenbut this natural setting is impossible to better.
The leaves, which are just visible, are much smaller than those of the last species.
The last two habitats also supported many plants of what is probably Phlox stansburyi, a specieswith long flower tubes. Although the flower colour was lighter than many, this picture was worthincluding for the setting.
Rather more colour here, with the flowers growing through theleaves of dwarf sagebrush.
Plants of Eriogonum caespitosum again, but the small white flowers of…
…the white form of Lewisia rediviva are the intended objective. We can now see the shape and size ofthe leaves that belong to Eriogonum caespitosum (not the Lewisia). Apologies, they are not in focus.
Here in the sub-alpine zone, at the bottom of the habitat is Penstemon rostriflorus. A typicalhummingbird flower, it has scarlet tubular flowers ideal for those delightful little creatures.
There are very many species of Penstemon in North America; it is therefore remiss of us not tohave included plants before. Here are two species photographed on the White Mt. Road.Penstemon floridus P. speciosus
The Patriarch Grove of the Ancient Western Bristlecone Pine Forest lies in the alpine zone between 11-12,000ft. These Western Bristlecone Pines – Pinus longaeva – are considered to be the oldest livingthings on earth. Some are over four thousand five hundred years old.
In winter they are lashed by blizzards and winds laden with ice crystals, and then scorched by theburning summer sun through this rarefied atmosphere.
Sometimes described as living driftwood. We understand that the cones of some of the older treesstill produce viable seeds. We now leave the White Mountains for…
…Mt. Lassen, the southernmost ‘active’ volcano in the Cascade Range which last erupted during1915-17. This is Lake Helen with Lassen Peak in the background…
…and here on the southern flank, Erythronium purpurascens grows amongst the ground cover.
Erythronium purpurascens is one of the smaller species of the genus, often found growing nearthe snow line of the southern Cascades and northern Sierra Nevada. The flowers are white withyellow centres, ageing to pink or purple – hence the species name meaning “becoming purple.”
The northern Sierra Nevada and Round Top (10,381ft.) as seen from the Carson Pass trail to WinnemuccaLake. Scattered amongst the shrubs in the foreground are plants of Frasera speciosa.
This member of the gentian family is known as the Monument Plant for an obvious reason – itcan grow up to five feet, possibly more. Frasera speciosa is monocarpic, taking several years– some say 20 or 30 years – before flowering and then dying.
This is Winnemucca Lake which is immediately below Round Top, with Cassiope mertensiana, adwarf decumbent alpine shrub often found creeping around and over rocks.
Cassiope mertensiana is common from Alaska to the Rockies.
Whereas Phyllodoce breweri, another ericaceous shrub, is a Californian endemic.
It differs from the common and widespread Phyllodoce empetriformis by its open campanulateflowers and exserted stamens.
On an extremely wet ledge that channelled snow melt to the lake below wasDodecatheon alpinum, which can be found as high as 11,500ft.
On the scree of Round Top was the plant of our quest…
…the spreading, mat-forming Californian endemic Primula suffrutescens. These plants need snowmelt for moisture during their growing season. Broad mats of the Primula, still in bud, can be seencovering most of this slope.
Primula suffrutescens, sometimes referred to as theSierra Primrose, is the only Californian native Primula.
Summit of Mount Shasta from Panther Meadows. Whilstwe have demonstrated that California certainly has a contrasting flora, we have not and did notintend to present a balanced picture. We have selected plants that are colourful and of interestas well as a number of species that are now becoming rare due to the actions of man.