February Week 4: Point Reyes & Annadel

2-24-10 Creamery Creek in San Geronimo after a massive storm overnight

Our first outdoor day of the week began with a rainy but successful Calypso orchid hunt in San Geronimo Valley (see our post on the orchids). Afterward, we headed west, watching the weather open more and more; by the time we reached Outer Point Reyes we were reveling in a splendid mid-60s spring day.

2-24-10 Massed Wallflowers show off at Chimney Rock above Drakes Bay

After that, our week got busy. Our next flowerblogging didn’t happen till Sunday, when we headed for Sonoma County to welcome a dear friend back from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro; it was a perfect excuse to get gloriously muddy for a few hours beforehand, slipping and sliding on steep rocky trails in the 5000-acre Annadel State Park in the Valley of the Moon.

2-28-10 Native California: Garry Oak & California Fescue woodland on the Cobblestone Trail, Annadel State Park, Sonoma County

Annadel was one of many state parks threatened with closure this year, but ultimately rescued at the last minute–its peril another consequence of California’s paralyzed political system and the pernicious, 30-year-old Tax Revolt. As the professionally cynical HL Mencken said, Democracy will end when the common people discover they can vote themselves money.

Here, in some sort of order, are some pictures from our week’s explorations.

2-24-10 Its candied root made a favorite Victorian sweet, but its scientific name implies something far grander: Meet what sober botanists call Angelica archangelica, just beginning its yearly cycle

2-24-10 Like many flowers of our foggy coasts, Coastal California Poppies are pale, but keep their brilliant golden center. Outer Point Reyes

2-24-10 Inky Cap mushrooms stand like diminutive penguin ghosts in the grass at Chimney Rock. As soon as their spores mature, the caps will auto-digest themselves into runny, inky-black ectoplasm

2-24-10 My first Red Maids of the season on Outer Point Reyes

2-24-10 Beach Strawberry, Outer Point Reyes

A plant with an odd distribution and some considerable importance to us humans, Beach Strawberry has a ‘disjunct’ range: They’re found along our coast and thousands of miles away in the cool Mediterranean climate of southern Chile. In fact, their scientific name, Fragaria chiloensis, tells us they were first discovered on Chiloe Island off the Chilean coast.

Interesting, you say, but why are you telling me this? Beach Strawberry and the Virginia Strawberry were planted together in the 1700s in an English hobbyist’s garden. Quite on their own (helped by some promiscuous pollinators), they hybridized, producing large, vigorous volunteer progeny with huge fruit — and thus the modern cultivated strawberry come unintentionally into existence.

The California Coast is under huge development pressure. Many of the hundreds of small, local Beach Strawberry populations whose genes are the  irreplaceable source of disease resistance and future crop improvements are threatened or have already vanished.

2-24-10 First-of-the-season Seaside Daisy at Chimney Rock

2-24-10 Kneel and nuzzle your nose in to experience the intense fragrance of Coast Wallflower , blooming here at Chimney Rock

Notice the absence of iris pictures? I’m hoarding them until I have enough for our promised coastal iris special in a few weeks.

And now, Annadel. In the Valley of the Moon, it’s the centerpiece of Sonoma County’s saved, accessible public lands. Sunday we hiked a circle of colorfully named trails: The Channel, the rocky, stream-bordered North Burma, the Rough Go (I like that name a lot), the Orchard and the Cobblestone. Flowers were a bit of a disappointment — we were two weeks too early for this inland site. But we did find a few beauties, and lots of other treasures provided more than adequate solace.

2-28-10 A delectable Chanterelle begging to be cooked, emerging beside the Channel Trail. But, alas, only one!

2-28-10 An ancient Manzanita trunk along the Channel Trail at Annadel

Throughout the first half of our hike we encountered a scatter of hulking, venerable manzanitas, one of which, with ‘birds-eye’ or ‘honeycomb’ growth, was unique in my experience.

2-28-10 An old Manzanita that arches over the North Burma Trail. Note the lovely snow its fallen blossoms have made overlying a carpet of deciduous, winter-sodden Garry Oak leaves.

2-28-10 Birds-eye Manzanita beside the North Burma Trail at Annadel.

And before we go on to some of the few but lovely flowers of the day . . .

Could you really expect me not to include something called JELLY EARS? 2-28-10 Jelly Ear Fungus, Cobblestone Trail, Annadel

“Jelly Ears” is the perfect but inelegant name for what Asian cooks treasure as “Black Fungus” or “Black Mushroom.” It’s valued mostly for its ineradicable slight crunchiness rather than spectacular taste. Try it the next time you dine Chinese.

2-28-10 Garry Oak bloom

2-28-10 Poison Oak in bud on the Cobblestone Trail

2-28-10 Hounds Tongue actually being bumbled by a bumblebee, Cobblestone Trail, Annadel


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