Wildflower hunting at Pinnacles

Yes, I really should have followed Town Mouse's example and worked on my deadline yesterday. But instead, I threw caution in the wind and decided to go wildflower hunting at Pinnacles National Monument with a friend. The drive was about 2 hours, through San Jose, Hollister, and then through  strawberry fields. When we arrived, only a few cars were there and the weather was perfect for a hike.

As we set off, I was sorry I did not have a small recorder. The birds were singing so loudly, and it might have been fun to include their happy voices on the blog. But we really did want to get going, having picked the Condor Trail - Bear Gulch Trail in the High Peaks area. Of course I had to stop immediately for a photo of these Collinsia heterophylla (chinese houses). They were completely purple, a pretty variety of the usual purple and white plants.

Then a thistle, easily 5 feet tall, with 2 inch flower heads, stopped us in our tracks. It is Cirsium occidentale var. venustum (venus thistle).

Beautiful big salvia bushes covered the slopes. They were Salvia mellifera (black sage), beloved by insects and wonderfully fragrant.

And then we had to stop and gaze at the views again, beautiful against a cloudy sky.

We believe that the color came in part from lychen, and actually saw many different colors of lychen on the rocks everywhere.

And more flowers. Not as showy as the field of lupine at Russian Ridge. A little more subtle, especially at the higher altitudes, where we saw this Calochortus venustus (butterfly mariposa lily). BTW, I hope that's what it is. I found only one Calochortus in the plant list on the Pinnacles Web site, so I'm assuming it's the one. Not quite the scientific process.

I'm always especially excited to see Delphinium (larkspur), and we saw at least 2 different kinds.

The second one with a Mimulus, quite abundant at Pinnacles this time of year.

As was Castilleja (Indian paintbrush).

And then the vines. I could not believe my eyes when I saw several large manzanita covered with the beautiful blossoms of Clematis lasiantha (chaparral clematis).

I had been so excited about 2 blossoms on my clematis, and here was an abundance of them.

An intermingled with the clematis, the large beautiful leaves and weird spiky fruit of Marah fabaceus (wild cucumber). I wondered whether the vines might strangle the manzanita below, but both are summer deciduous, so I expect it will all work out.

The way back was through a valley, along a stream where we saw California poppies, Penstemon eatonii, and some beautiful grasses along the small stream (yes, and little fish as well).

We were especially delighted to see a large lizard -- almost a foot long -- on our path, who even stopped for a photo before skimpering off into the bushes. I believe it's an alligator lizard, at that size, it certainly was not a western fence lizard.

Ah, I could go on and on... but I won't. Instead, I'll work extra hard today to meet my deadline, inspired by Town Mouse's example, and refreshed by such a wonderful outing.


Christine said…
What a breathless show! You're inspiring me to play hooky!
There, don't you feel better for taking a break? You were well rewarded for it! I've never seen Chinese Houses just growing wild. That thistle is a stunning color, and the Calochortus...well, it's official, I'm a definite fan of Calochortus now. Especially as we now have a species blooming wild here (more on that next week). I hope your break doesn't delay your deadline, but I'm so glad you went. Thanks for sharing it with us!
That mariposa lily left me in awe. How beautiful. What a lovely hike you had.
Randy Emmitt said…
We saw mariposa lilies last year when we came to California, loved them. Anyway enjoyed the tour of plants. I think Alligator Lizard is correct as well.
Beautiful photographs.

I keep meaning to head down to Pinnacles to look for California Condors...The brutal heat always scares me off.
noel said…

i miss this time of the year in california especially where i lived in sonoma and the coastal areas, but this also spectacular.

there's quite a few flowers here that you don't typically see in wine country, thanks for posting this...beautiful
Gail said…
That was just so lovely...and I think Calochortus venustus is beautiful...I wish we could grow Indian Paintbrush~~isn't it beautiful! gail
eric said…
What a beautiful walk! So many of these plants are completely new to my eyes (although I recognised a couple that have cousins sold in nurseries here in Aus). I was very taken with your local thistle - such a fantastic colour!
Anonymous said…
Oops - I just realised I'd somehow logged in as my partner in the above post!
forest said…
I think that calochortus may be my favorite California wildflower. Gorgeous! ...as all your photos are.