Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sierra Nevada Wildflowers: Best of the Rest

Epilobium angustifolium (Fireweed)
I could wax eloquently for two more posts about the wildflowers of my recent trip to the Molukumne wilderness in the Sierra Nevada. But I see a few other posts on the horizon, so I've decided to show of the best of the other flowers we saw. Above Epilobium angustifolium, bright pink and almost 5 feet tall (and yes, a relative of California fuchsia, Epilobium canum).

While fireweed was rare, this flower was everywhere, except for very dry and very hot locations.

We saw carpets of flowers that made you think of Heidi and burst into song (click the picture below to get the carpet idea).


"Must be an aster," I thought, thinking of the time of year. But now I'm no longer sure. The leaves were mostly at the base, which points to a daisy. Furthermore, we did see a plant that strongly resembles the plant formerly known as Aster occidentalis (western mountain aster) in dryer regions. Those flowers were purple and shaped differently.


My plant identification skills were similarly challenged with Monardella. We saw two different kinds. One purple, and more frequent in the granite areas.


Here's a close-up. Is this Monardella oderatissima (mountain pennyroyal)? It's certainly fragrant.


But in the darker, more vulcanic soil, we saw a very similar plant with white flowers. Is it the same plant? A slight variation? A different species?


Clearly I need to learn more about plant identification - and I need to carry Jepson's with me. Calflora does not even list Monardella odoratissima - though many other sites do - so this, too, shall forever remain a mystery.

A few plants were fairly rare, but I'm pretty sure of the identification. Here's Penstemon davidsonii (Alpine penstemon) a diminutive but beautiful perennial that was thriving in dry sunny spots.


And I think this is Penstemon newberryi (mountain pride) which I admired in cracks in the rock and other sharp drainage spots.

I initially had identification problems with this plant, which I thought might be a clarkia. 

But the arrangement of multiple flowers on one stem made it pretty clear this had to be Sidalcea glaucens (checkerbloom).


I almost missed this plant, which we found in the moist meadows.


I was delighted to discover later that we'd seem Mertensia ciliata (mountain bluebells).

I also agonized over a lily-like plant with smallish orange flowers that we saw only in two spots on one hike. Is it really a lily or a fritilaria?


I think I'll go with Lilium parvum (alpine lily) because of the upright flowers, though clear identification is not possible.

So many questions still to answer, so many reasons to go back! My photos, all taken with a small point and shoot camera while not trying to slow down my fellow hikers, don't always help. And really, you need the smells and the sounds, you need the exhilarating walking in the fresh mountain air for the full enjoyment and appreciation of the plants and critters that live there. When can I go back?

Spirea densiflora (mountain spirea)

2 comments:

PamelaTrounstine said...

Any chance what you thought was mondardella was actually wild or "swamp" onion? I'd expect that to have a fragrance. And it does appear to come in both purple and white. I found another aster that occurs in the sierras (Erigeron foliosus, or leafy fleabane) in my search to name one I photographed... but so far no luck w/o an identification book. The aster-looking flowers were on very long stems- there was occasionally one split and 2 flowers, but no leaves, and flowers were about 14-16" high. It'd be weird if it was rare since it was all over the campsite.

ryan said...

I saw a lot of those same plants in Yosemite a couple of weeks ago, though I didn't see the Mertensia. That's a nice find. I I'm pretty sure you're right that it's Small Tiger Lily, L. parvum. I think you're right on the monardella too. I remember a species and sub-species, one purple, the other whiteish ( I don't remember which ), while I was doing trail-crew on the east side. I couldn't remember what the clarkia-looking plant was. Glad to know it's a sidalcea.

I don't know what the aster is, though I saw tons of them. It might be an Erigeron or an Aster, but either way I think it's an all aster to me. I can't keep track of them; the plants look alike and it seems like the latin names often change. Maybe call them SKA? Some Kind of Aster?