Spring Flowers, Early and Petite

February, 2017





Beginners and experts, non-members and members are all welcome at our programs and on our outings.  Almost all of our events are free.  All of our events are made possible by volunteer effort.

Evening Programs

Evening Programs are held at the Six Rivers Masonic Lodge, 251 Bayside Rd., near 7th and Union, Arcata. Refreshments at 7:00 p.m.; program at 7:30 p.m.

February 8, Wednesday—Places and Plants of the Middle Klamath River.  Bringing familiar majesty to those who have been there, and enticing previews to those who haven’t, Tanya Chapple of the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC) in Orleans will lead a virtual, botanical exploration into the Klamath-Siskiyou region.  Since 2001 the MKWC has been working to restore the threatened Klamath River in California and the upslope habitats upon which the river depends.  In their work to restore a watershed, they visit beautiful places and special plants.  The evening will be a photographic tour of the wonderful places and plants of the Klamath-Siskiyou region.

March 8, Wednesday—Tall Tree Physiology: Downsides to Being Tall and How Trees Compensate with Dr. Lucy Kerhoulas of the Forestry Department at Humboldt State University.  North Coast residents are well aware that trees can grow to be really tall.  They might be less aware of the complications involved with being a tall tree.  Lucy will explain some basics of tall tree physiology and explore some of the adaptations local trees use to take advantage of water sources in their crowns.  A number of tree species in the redwood forest produce aboveground roots and support a variety of epiphytes (plants growing on other plants without extracting nutrients from them).  Examples include Bigleaf Maple, Vine Maple, Red Alder, Black Cottonwood, Sitka Spruce, and Redwood.  As epiphyte mats are one potential local water source in tall tree crowns, this talk will introduce you to the rich community of liverworts, mosses, lichens, and ferns that live on tree branches high above the forest floor. 

Field Trips

February 25, Saturday—Freshwater Lagoon Day Hike. Freshwater Lagoon flanks Highway 101 on one side of a dramatic, straight stretch with the ocean on the other.  The  Old State Highway still traverses the slope east (inland) of the lagoon for roughly 3 miles, accessing a few weekend houses.  We will do a car shuttle and walk this very lightly traveled road, through Red Alder forest, watching for Red-flowering Currant blooming, and hoping for the red-flowered trillium that likes this habitat, Giant Purple Wakerobin (Trillium kurabayashii).  We might have time to walk along the lagoon, looking at wetland plants, or the beach, looking at sand plants.  Meet at 9:00 a.m. at Pacific Union School (3001 Janes Rd., Arcata) or arrange another place.  Dress for the weather; bring lunch and water.  Return late afternoon.  It helps to know you are coming:  Carol 707-822-2015.

March 26, Sunday—Redwood Creek Day Hike.  Masses of Giant Purple Wakerobin (Trilliumkurabayashii ) should be waiting for us about `1.5 miles up the Redwood Creek Trail in Redwood National Park. (Trailhead at the bottom of Bald Hills Rd. just north of Orick.)  The yellow variant of this deep red trillium occurs here, providing fodder for speculation on trillium taxonomy. The riparian and forest edge vegetation will provide early spring fun:  Hazelnut in full bloom, several gooseberries, Skunk Cabbage, and possibly early clues of the rare Seaside Bittercress (Cardamine angulata).  Meet at 8:30 a.m. at Pacific Union School (3001 Janes Rd., Arcata) or arrange another place.  Dress for the weather; bring lunch and water.  Return late afternoon.  It helps to know you are coming:  Carol 707-822-2015.

Spring Flowers, Early and Petite

The calendar doesn’t say February is spring, but some of our native plants do.  In our coastal dunes a sunny day can warm the sand surface, encouraging plant growth there. Some small, annual species live entirely within a few inches of that surface.  Here are three of these tiny species that were blooming in February, 2016, at Lanphere Dunes.

Little Spring Beauty (Claytonia exigua), related to Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), can self-pollinate if no insect is out and about to do the job.  It is in a hurry to produce seeds before sand moisture is gone.  Its glaucous, gray foliage is distinctive.

Red-stemmed Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia rubra)can grow along with the Little Spring Beauty.  Plants with leaf shape and color intermediate between these two are easily found.  Familiar Miner’s Lettuce, with individuals tiny to large depending on the soil fertility or moisture, grows in the dunes too.  I enjoy these ephemeral, cute plants even though they shake my taxonomic confidence every spring.

Red Maids (Calandrinia menziesii) is a widespread, common species which grows much larger in other soils. We learned this plant as Calandrinia ciliata, but a conscientious botanist has used genetic tools to discover that “our” Red Maids in western North America is actually distinct from the one in Central and South America, which kept the name C. ciliata.  Gratefully, we still call it Red Maids.  Annuals such as the Claytonia and Red Maids have nutritious seeds that the Native Americans gathered and ate.

Subject categories: